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Samsung is turning on the style with colour laser printers and AiOs, also pushing further into corporate hard copy

Issue #0808/1 – Following on from the launch of its stylish gloss black, mono laser printer and AiO products in the Autumn of 2007 (ML-1630 and SCX-4500), Samsung has announced a range of new products, including new colour laser printer and AiO family at CeBIT 2008 (CLP-310 and CLX-3170 series), that continues the theme of miniaturising colour laser printing while introducing the choice of black styling to fit any environment on certain product lines. Cost comparisons cannot be made at this time, so we review the new products briefly on the basis of technology and capability.

CLP-310 and CLX-3170 series

Extraordinarily small and attractive, the new devices are small enough to be squeezed into locations that previously would have demanded a small, and probably low-end, inkjet device. The CLX-3170 All-in-One in particular is only about the size of a small mono laser AiO and as compact as many inkjet AiOs (e.g. smaller than the Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro L range), with a smaller footprint.

For instance, the footprint of the CLX-3170 is only 39cm by 40cm (1,560 sq cm). This compares to 43.7×50.8 (2,220 sq cm) for the Hewlett-Packard Colour LaserJet CM1015, 36.3×43.7 (1,586 sq cm) for the LaserJet M1005MFP, 40.2×53.1 (2,135 sq cm) for the Officejet Pro L business inkjet AiO series and 44.6×44.3 (1,976 sq cm) for the Photosmart C6280 AiO – and remember that Hewlett-Packard printers are generally smaller than those from other manufacturers!

CLX-3170 AiOSamsung CLX-3170 AiO

In fact, at first site, it is unbelievable that the CLX-3170 is really a colour laser AiO. At first site, I though it was a mono AiO!

Especially in its black outfit, the CLX-3170 is the sort of device that home and small office users are liable to look at and think, “so what if the cost of toner is a bit higher, I want that device on my desk”.

Samsung refers to members of this series as ‘Black Premium’, design centric products. The original pair of products were supposed to be available only through premium channels but, although not the intention of Samsung, they can also be found at certain online stores.

Samsung CLX-3170 open

Clearly continuing its goal of becoming the number one printer manufacturer, Samsung has redesigned this 4ppm colour / 16ppm mono print engine from the ground up. The only part that has not changed dramatically is the casing for the standalone printer version, which does not look so very different from the CLP-300.

Still following the semi single-pass configuration used in the CLP-300, Samsung has dispensed with the ‘jam jar’ toner cartridges in favour of an amazingly slimline cartridge that incorporates the developer roller into the cartridge.

This means that only the OPC drum is now held separately from the toner cartridge. Taking this approach has both advantages and disadvantages.

An advantage to Samsung is that the cartridges will be much more difficult to refill or clone than the previous generation cartridges. However, the cost of manufacture will be much higher, because of the technology and increased number of expensive moving parts they contain, potentially meaning either less profit per cartridge to Samsung or higher Cost of Printing to the user.

In reality, there will probably be a little of each but this we will have to wait and see. Cost of Printing on the CLP-300 was already at the top end of its class and Samsung has hopefully decided that it cannot push the cost any higher. The upside for Samsung is that the company will capture all toner sales for the product, especially in the early part of the product’s life cycle, rather than losing some sales to refills, because the remanufacturing process for the cartridge by third parties will take time to develop. This means that all revenue and profit is kept in-house.

Countering this cost implication is that the imaging unit, although needing to be replaced periodically, will contain less technology (no developer rollers) and so should cost less to the user – although this could be one area where Samsung attempts to recover a little of the potential lost profit on the toner cartridges by keeping the price close to the level of current units.

Regarding usability, there is absolutely no doubt that the user interface on Samsung’s All-in-One products is certainly amongst the best in the industry, if not actually the best. Network installation is easy and rapid, at worst only needing the IP address to be set manually, and operation is fast, intuitive and versatile. In practice, this means that it is often possible to undertake a simple task on the Samsung device that either cannot be achieved on a competing device or takes much longer, often leaving the user feeling confused and frustrated.

As indicated, these new printer/AiO products are built on a 16ppm mono and 4ppm colour laser engine and, as such, are designed with home users and small office users in mind. The AiOs are network-ready as standard (with a wireless model due a month or so after the initial launch, while the printers models come in USB only and network-ready versions, again with a wireless model due one month after initial launch.

Paper handling is 150 sheets in the main paper feed with a single page manual feed. Although not large, this is adequate for many environments – even one replenishment per week is 600 pages per month.

Also not high is the toner yield and this is where the concern lies with regard to probable high Cost of Printing compared to some competitors and to business inkjet devices. The black cartridge is rated at 1,500 pages and the colour cartridges at 1,000 pages.

Models are available in traditional two-tone grey for business environments and in black for the style-conscious business or for home installations.

Prices are expected to start at €249 for the printer versions and €499 for the AiO versions, which puts the printer at about the same price point as the current CLP-300 but the AiO potentially some 25-30% lower than the existing CLX-3160FN.

CLP-310Samsung CLP-310
While the CLP-310 replaces the CLP-300 at the printer level, the AiOs are handled slightly differently in that the new CLX-3170 series is currently an FN range, thus replacing the CLX-3160FN. However, the CLX-3160N is also being discontinued but the CLX-2160 models will continue in the range for the time being. The difference between the two is the presence of the Automatic Document Feeder on the 31xx models where the 21xx models are flatbed only.

NoNois is one of Samsung’s big claims to fame with its low-end colour laser devices – a thoroughly well-deserved claim that has great benefits in the home or small office. Samsung claims only 47dB maximum noise level while printing and that this is quieter than competing inkjet printers.

In our experience as a test laboratory, typical middle-of-the-road inkjet AiOs have measured in with maximum sound pressure readings between 46dBA and 51dBA while printing but can then produce about 67dBA when feeding paper. In principle, the better the inkjet AiO, and the more expensive the inkjet AiO, the less noise is produced – some of the top-end devices have tested as low as 41dBA while printing, while the cheapest have tested at 56dBA.

Samsung’s CLX-3160FN recorded a maximum sound level of 58.9dBA in our tests compared to 64.8dBA produced by one competitor (nearly twice the noise) – and these figures include paper feed noise.

As Samsung’s specification claims a sound-booth level of 49dbA for the CLX-3160 and the competitor in question claims 52dBA, we can expect a comparative reading for the CLX-3170 in our simulated office environment to be about the same as those recorded for the worst inkjet AiOs tested (paper feed noise not included on the inkjet).

While not actually beating the sounds level (while printing) of many inkjet devices found on the market, it is absolutely undeniable that Samsung’s laser engines are exceptionally quiet by comparison to competing laser engines and do compare favourably with noise produced by inkjet engines. As such, the engines are well-positioned for un-intrusive use in even the home environment – especially when we consider that paper feed noise is more significant than mere printing noise, so we should compare to 67dBA rather than 56dBA.

Note: noise readings taken one meter in front of the device in a completely quite office environment where the ambient noise level from lighting and PC is less than 33dBA.

Altogether, the only aspect of the CLX-3170 that might let it down is the potential for high Cost of Printing. When suitable pricing is available for this model, we will run a cost comparison to complete the picture. Otherwise, this looks to be a superb device.

SCX-4500Samsung SCX-4500

ML-1630W and SCX-4500W

Mono laser printer/AiO design has never looked – well, like this! Indeed, the printer version (ML-1630) could even be used as a monitor stand in environments where space really is at a premium. The gloss black finish is certainly appropriate to the style-conscious home.

New versions here only introduce wireless networking. Bearing in mind the size and shape of these devices, they can be considered to be highly portable and wireless networking should prove to be a valuable asset.

ML-1630Samsung ML-1630
Street prices should be €249 for the printer and €349 for the AiO, representing just a small premium for the wireless interface.
ML-1640Samsung ML-1640

ML-1640 and ML-2240

These devices are traditional mono laser printers, performing at 16ppm and 22ppm respectively. Both together replace the ML-2010, providing faster print speeds than price competitors.

As with the colour laser engine, Samsung claims a 2dBA advantage against one competitor on sound pressure.

Street pricing is just €99 for the 16ppm ML-1640 and €129 for the 22ppm ML-2240.

SCX-4824Samsung SCX-4824

SCX-4824FN and SCX-4828FN

Moving up to corporate products, the SCX-4824FN and SCX-4828FN mono multifunction devices offer print, scan, copy and fax functionality at 24ppm and 28ppm respectively.

Not just a speed difference though, the SCX-4824 offers both auto-duplex printing and auto-duplex scanning along with PostScript 3 emulation in addition to PCL6 emulation.

Street pricing is targeted at €349 for the SCX-4824FN and €479 for the SCX-4828FN.

SCX-6555NSamsung SCX-6555N

MultiXpress 6555N

At the top end of the corporate office hard copy range, Samsung is targeting a much higher profile in the market. Having launched the SCX-55xx and SC-63xx series MFPs last year, the MultiXpress (SCX-)6555N extends the range upwards with what Samsung claims to be the “World’s fastest A4 Mono Laser Copier (MFP)” at 53ppm.

Although A4 printers exist that are faster than 53ppm, the maximum speed of the current copier/MFP offerings is 48ppm (Lexmark X646/X644 series). Faster machines are A3 format, making them much more expensive.

Samsung is targeting not only fast copy/print speeds with the new machines but also a low Cost of Printing. Toner yield is 25,000-pages and drum yield 80,000-pages.

Offering duplex printing and duplex scanning, the ADF capacity is 100 sheets and the paper input capacity is 2,720 from three sources. Page Description Language emulations supplied are PCL5, PCL6 and PS3, with direct PDF printing capability and the machine is network-ready, capable of colour network scanning and is fax-ready.

MultiXpress 8380ND

On the colour MFP side, the MultiXpress 8380ND again extends the range to incorporate 38ppm printing and copying – also claimed to be a world speed record. Otherwise it is built on the same basic platform as the MultiXpress 6555N with the same paper feed, ADF, PDL and interface characteristics.

With these new devices in the family, Samsung will be able to claim as wide a range of A4 laser devices as most manufacturers, and more than several, with target markets to match. Samsung has declared its intentions to take its laser family to 65ppm in mono, 45ppm in colour and to introduce A3 laser devices.

Having achieved a compound annual growth rate of 30% since launching into the printer market at the beginning of the century, Samsung’s printer division is currently the fastest growing laser printer company, having achieved a number two position in the colour laser printer and colour laser MFP markets, together with the number three position in the mono laser printer and mono laser MFP markets. The company’s overall position in the laser hard copy market is a firm number two.

Market shares in these categories currently range between 11% and 21% but Samsung’s stated goal is to reach a turnover of $3bn by 2012 and to be in the leading market position with a 33% share of the colour laser market.

Enjoying several OEM arrangements for engine sales, Samsung expects that as it pushes up the market segments, the company will find some of the high-end players wanting to push down-market, thus opening up further opportunities for additional OEM arrangements.

With this news, Samsung has placed itself very firmly in the position as the ‘one to watch’ over the next few years, taking over from Xerox following its miraculous recovery. All the major laser manufacturers are under threat.