Color you can bank on

Samsung turns a new page with economical color laser printer

GCN

Last year, we started to see low prices creeping into the black-and-white laser printer market. The latest crop of
black-and-white printers offer few features but excellent text quality at a moderately good speed. That combination puts inkjet
printers on notice that once color laser printers start to match their black-and-white counterparts in value, inkjet's days
might be numbered.

The Samsung CLP-660ND color printer could be an opening salvo in the war on color printer pricing. Although the printer is a little heavy and has a slightly higher price than we would like to have seen, it offers a convincing example of where the printer world is heading.


The CLP-660ND is fairly traditional in terms of design and layout, looking a bit like a miniature version of a full-size color
network printer. It stands 17-inches high and is just about the same width and depth, making it an almost perfect cube. It weighs
56.4 pounds fully loaded with toner cartridges.

Nothing deviated from the standard setup procedure for a color laser printer, with each of the four-toner cartridges 'black, cyan, yellow and magenta ' installed horizontally into the unit. We were disappointed that, other than the color guide
bars on the inside of the unit, there was nothing to prevent us from putting the cartridges in the wrong slot.

We put magenta into cyan as a test ' had we continued to fire up the printer, we might have been in for some wacky images, though the internal software might have detected the error using the information chips on the side of the toner cartridges. We did not want to mess up our image testing so we did not fully test this theory. Users should be advised to be cautious when installing the toner, and color-blind people might want to seek help because there are no letters for guidance, just the color bars. In any case, the setup took less than five minutes, and then the CLP-660ND was up and running.

When you first activate the CLP-660ND, it takes a few minutes to calibrate and adjust its registration. Unfortunately, this
registration adjustment also happened fairly often during our testing, even if the printer had been running a while. For example,
in the middle of our second speed test, the process started between the sixth and seventh pages of a 30-page document. This caused the 1-minute, 30- second print job to extend to 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Then we were able to print 100 pages without it happening again.
After that, it printed 50 more pages until the next adjustment.

There seemed to be no way to tell when or why this was happening. All of our official tests times were recorded without the CLP- 660ND having to stop and think about things, but if you happen to hit one of these calibration processes in the middle of a job, your time waiting at the printer is going to be increased and perhaps even doubled.

When the CLP-660ND was not thinking about other things or adjusting itself, it turned in good times. Our 30-page text
document was printed in 1 minute, 30 seconds. Even more impressive, our punishing 30-page graphics-laden test document of doom took
only one more second to push out, at 1 minute, 31 seconds.

The CLP-660ND's quality was also good, especially considering the low price. Color photos looked good, printing without any of the lines going across the images that we have witnessed with other inexpensive color printers. The colors were accurate, with various hues displayed correctly most of the time, except when the differences in the test images were extremely close.

Text quality made it obvious that Samsung chose to accentuate the positive with the CLP-660ND, which is color accuracy. The text is light by default and examining it closely with a photo loupe reveals tiny flaws. You probably won't notice them with the
naked eye, but the CLP-660ND is not a precision text printer. It gets the job done, but if you need a pristine text document, there are specialist printers that will make your text stand out on the page.

Because this is an economical printer, it's no surprise that it's fairly stripped down in terms of features. One feature we thought could have used more attention was the catcher for the paper output tray. It's just a thin plastic bar that you need to flip up. We did not notice it at first, and if it's not in position, all the paper will fly off the top of the printer and behind the unit. After we cleaned up the mess, we set the plastic bar in place. But even then, the papers collected in a bit of a haphazard manner, though at least they stayed within the output tray.

With a government price of $688 and retail price of $929, the CLP-660ND is economical. It does not beat our challenge of producing a fast, accurate and quality color laser printer for a price less than $500, but it comes close. It would be perfect for an office that needs to move toward color printing but can't spend thousands of dollars on a high-end color network printer. If you have a black-andwhite network printer already, the CLP- 660ND is a good, inexpensive way to add color printing when needed.

Samsung Electronics, 800-726-4249,  www.samsung.com/printer


About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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