Don't want a big, ugly, boxy laser printer on your desk? The $199.95 Samsung ML-1630 lets you add monochrome laser printing to your work area with style. This low-profile device looks more like a cross between a scanner and the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey than a typical printer. Best of all, the designers didn't put all their efforts into its appearance: The ML-1630 offers excellent print quality, fast startup, and reasonably good print speeds.
Setup is a snap. Attach the power cord, connect a USB 2.0 cable (not included), and drop in the toner cartridge. The toughest part is trying to remove the annoying sticker affixed to the top of the otherwise-stylish, shiny piano-black plastic casing.
The ML-1630 takes up about as much desktop space as a typical laser printer, at 13 inches wide by 14.7 inches deep, but it's only 4.8 inches tall. Powering on the printer reveals a slick blue LED readout that shows the current page count and any error info. The body sports just two touch-sensitive controls: power and cancel.
Print quality is above-average for a consumer laser printer. Text at both 600 dots per inch (dpi) and 1,200dpi is crisp and readable, even at small font sizes and in gray-scale output. Graphics look very good, and although dithering is evident in photos (which is typical of most monochrome lasers), we noted almost no banding in any of our image tests.
True to Samsung's rated engine speed, printing was consistent at 17 pages per minute, whether we were printing plain text or elaborate full-page graphics. Unlike some printers that take 20 seconds or more to warm up before they begin printing, the ML-1630 spits out its first page within 8 seconds. Though it's not truly “silent” as claimed, it's noticeably quieter than other personal lasers we've tested.
The ML-1630 ships with a 1,000-page starter cartridge. Replacement cartridges cost $69.95 and are rated to last 2,000 pages, which works out to an affordable 3.5 cents per page. The paper tray holds just 100 sheets, so you'll need to reload paper fairly frequently. The tray will accommodate paper as small as 4.1x5.8 inches and as large as A4, but the ML-1630 doesn't support printing on envelopes.
Given the printer's emphasis on design and style, it's no wonder that Apple and Samsung worked out a deal to offer the ML-1630 exclusively in Apple stores through the end of December. Many of Apple's hardware devices share another quality with the printer: The ML-1630 also costs more than similar devices in its performance class. For the same price, you can find monochrome lasers that offer faster printing, larger paper capacity, or networking ports. But none of those will look half as good on your desktop.