Kyocera FS-820 review

£130
Price when reviewed

Standing next to Brother’s compact HL-2040, Kyocera’s FS-820 looks quite a bit bigger, although the difference is mostly in height. With an unusual shape – narrower at the base than at the top – it has a top-heavy and rather utilitarian appearance.

Kyocera FS-820 review

The front section lifts up for access to the toner cartridge, which requires a good shove to click it into place. Below it, the large paper tray looks like it will swallow a whole ream of paper, but it takes the same as the Brother HL-2040: 250 sheets. Round the back you’ll find USB 2 and parallel data connectors. The power switch is also here, so you’ll have to grope around if you want to switch it off when not in use.

The printer has no trouble producing good results with standard documents, such as a mix of text and charts in a Word document. But if you look closely, straight lines aren’t quite as crisp as the Brother. However, the real problems surfaced with our Excel spreadsheet test of black text on a coloured background. The mono approximation of the background was heavily dithered, becoming a pattern of individual dots. This made it hard to read small or coloured text (a dark red in the original spreadsheet). As it progressed through other shades, the background became finer, and the anomalies reduced to a minor dithering effect.

Printed images lacked immediate impact because the contrast range isn’t as broad as the Brother, and they can look grubby and dull. But there’s much more detail in dark and shadowy areas and bright highlights, which the Brother blacks or flares out. This subtlety is particularly noticeable when comparing complex imagery, such as clouds and skintones, where transitions of colour and saturation are better represented. The Kyocera is better than the Brother should you wish to print photographic imagery, even though the muted overall tone lacks instant appeal. Banding is occasionally pronounced though.

Printouts suffer from the same problem of paper curling as with the Brother. Using the manual feed slot overcomes this, although you’ll have to feed sheets in one at a time.

Kyocera backs up the FS-820 with a two-year warranty. There’s a separate three-year or 100,000-page (whichever comes first) warranty on the drum and developer units; unlike the Brother, they’re not regarded as consumables.

Standard memory is 16MB but you can add up to 256MB. You can also install a CompactFlash card for local storage of fonts and forms. Rated at 16ppm, we achieved just over 14ppm with plain text and spreadsheet documents in our tests, dropping to just under 5ppm when text was mixed with images. But it’s the cost per print that’s the FS-820’s strength. A 6,000-page toner unit costs £52, giving just 0.87p per page.

Kyocera’s FS-820 didn’t perform as well as we were hoping. At £39 more than the Brother HL-2040, we expected the FS-820 to beat it for standard document quality, but the Brother was superior and easier to use. Nevertheless, if your priority is an economical cost per page, the FS-820 is remarkably cheap to run over the long-term.

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