Hands on: World’s smallest colour laser printer

Visitors to CeBIT have had their first look at Samsung’s two new printers, the CLP-310 colour laser and the CLX-3170 multifunction device. The two devices are based on the same print engine, with the CLX adding scan and photocopy facilities.

Hands on: World's smallest colour laser printer

Their major selling point is their size: Samsung claims the CLP-310 is the world’s smallest colour laser, and the CLX-3170 is one of the smallest MFDs on the market.

They’re also distinctive for their quietness – the company promises an ultra-low noise level of 46dB(A) – and their colouring. In a departure from Samsung’s previous printer designs, they will be available in both traditional grey and stylish black, a new option aimed at sexing up the image of Samsung’s printers and positioning them more comfortably alongside the company’s range of laptops.

Despite emphasising the importance of B2B sales in its pre-CeBIT press conference, it seems the company wants to make its laser printers more attractive to consumers.

“We have emphasised the style of these devices, and we intend for them to take a proportion of the consumer inkjet market,” Joosang Eun, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing for digital printing, told PC Pro. “We believe laser technology is better for the consumer. Laser quality is better, durability is better, TCO is lower, and on our new laser printers you can even print glossy photographs. For us this is the inkjet killer.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether consumers will bite. Though prices are yet to be fixed, it was estimated that a standard CLP-310 will cost around £200 inc VAT, with networked and wireless options costing extra and multifunction versions costing even more. With our A-Listed inkjet, the Canon Pixma ip4500, selling for less than £80, it’s going to be a tough sell.

Traditionally, lasers repay their higher purchase price with cheaper consumables, but few home users will print enough pages to make the CLP-310 economical. What’s more, while the CLP-310 may be the “world’s smallest colour laser”, it’s no smaller than a standard colour inkjet, and at only four colour pages per minute it’s not far ahead on speed either.

Missing screen

The lack of an LCD display is also disappointing for a device at this price, though thankfully the multifunction version does provide one.

A few test prints on the sample units at Samsung’s CeBIT stand indicated that print quality is fine for everyday use. There was, unfortunately, no glossy paper on hand to test out Mr Eun’s promises of photo-quality prints, but plain paper output was more than satisfactory, with rich, bright colours and crisp, solid blacks. And while the hubbub of the expo is no place to measure sound levels, the mechanism was certainly on the quiet side.

Photocopying on the multifunction version, however, was marred by an inability to deal with dithered or half-toned colours, which introduced distracting interference patterns into our colour copies.

Yet a representative at the company’s CeBIT stand took the view that weaknesses such as this were beside the point. “At the end of the day,” he explained, “these are printers for the MacBook generation. It’s about style, rather than function. People will buy them simply because they’re cool.”

Click here for our CeBIT 2008 special.

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