GCN LAB REVIEW
Print, copy, fax -- and chat
Panasonic adds phone to standard multi-function printer
The GCN Lab has been reviewing multifunction printers for about as long as they have existed, going back to the days when some companies began to cobble fax machines onto the tops or sides of printers.
MFP development surged based on their overwhelming popularity in business offices. No longer did you need several huge devices to perform slightly different tasks. People could use a single MFP to accomplish most of what they needed. And some MFPs were tiny compared with the space taken up by multiple devices — and less expensive to boot.
PROS: Adds a cordless phone to standard MFP configuration; fast graphical and text printing.
CONS: Graphics printing is sub-par; text is a bit light.
Ease of use: B
Graphical printing: C-
Text quality: B
30-page black-and-white text print time: 1:27
30-page graphical print time: 1:27
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An ad hoc standard emerged in the MFP world that called for devices to combine a printer, fax machine and scanner. A few devices added extra features such as electronic mailboxes, but for the most part the printer/fax/scanner model was sine qua non. The multifunction universe was shaken only once in the last 10 years, when color was added into the mix, though this didn’t change the trio of devices that made up most MFPs.
So it was with great interest that we received Panasonic's new KX-mB2061 MFP to review. Besides the typical components, this model added something new to the mix. The KX-mB2061 includes a cordless phone as part of the setup. There is a standard phone with a cord that mounts beside the unit, but also a cordless phone that sits in a base station so it can charge when not in use.
The cordless phone is one of the thin stick-like models that are popular now. It’s indistinguishable from a regular cordless phone that doesn’t attach to an MFP. Calls sounds fine when using the headset, and it can be used while the MFP is busy doing other tasks such as printing, though it won’t work when the line is tied up with a fax.
Given that most main offices will give employees phones as their standard loadout, the KX-mB2061 is likely designed with the telecommuting employee in mind. It has a fairly tiny 17-inch by 18-inch footprint, so it will fit onto almost any desk or work table. The cordless phone has a range of about a hundred feet, which should work for most people’s home offices.
It’s pretty cool that you can be printing out that big report while telling your boss over the MFP cordless phone that yes, it is in fact finished.
However, how the KX-mB2061 performs as a straight MFP was a little disappointing. The biggest flaw is that graphics look really bad when printed. Photos had noticeable lines drawn across them, and any fine details were washed out. Although it’s true that the KX-mB2061 can only print in black and white, we’ve seen high-quality printing without the need for color. If you don’t print many, or any, graphics, then this might not be much of a problem for you. But if you ever need a photograph to be shown in high quality, the KX-mB2061 won’t be able to do that for you. This reduces its effectiveness as a copy machine, because you won’t be able to get a high-quality print of, say, your driver’s license. Sure it might work, but won’t look too great.
In the same respect, text on the KX-mB2061 comes out a little gray instead of a nice black, which makes it harder to read than it needs to be. This might be done to save toner, but we think most people would choose readability over toner savings. Here again, the KX-mB2061 is functional, butit is bested in terms of quality by about every other printer or MFP we’ve looked at during the past five years.
One area where this MFP does shine is speed. It crunched our 30-page graphical document it 1 minute, 27 seconds, the same time it got for our all-text 30-page test print. That’s in the top 10 quickest times ever recorded for an MFP, especially for graphical print speeds and considering the low $249 price tag. Given that this unit would likely sit on a telecommuter’s desk, the speed is less necessary than with a shared MFP. But fast is always better than slow for printers.
The KX-mB2061 would make a fine unit for home users who want to add basic printing, scanning and faxing capabilities to their home offices for not much money. The print quality of graphics is a concern but might not come into play. The cordless phone is a great idea, and it’s nice to find a company thinking outside the box.
Panasonic System Networks Company of America www.panasoinc.com