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We're used to manufacturers heavily overstating the speeds at which their printers can run, so when we read that this personal laser was capable of 16ppm, we were as sceptical as ever. Our five-page text print completed in 26 seconds, though, with very little warm-up time before the first page started to print. This is one of Canon's claims for the machine and it resulted in a speed for this test of 11.54ppm.
On the 20 page text test, the speed went up to 15.19ppm, so on longer print runs you do get very close to the claimed speed - impressive for a laser printer costing under £75. Indeed, there are lasers costing double this that don't approach this speed in the real world.
To complete the speed tests, we printed our 15 x 10cm photo on an A4 sheet and the Canon machine completed this in just 15 seconds. All in all, a very impressive set of results.
Canon rates the printer at 50dBA when printing, but there's a loud clunk every time a new sheet of paper is picked, which we measured as a peak of 63dBA. This is annoyingly loud and a shame, since the rest of the print mechanism is commendably quiet.
The quality of the black print from the LBP3100 sometimes suffers when the speed is high, but not so here. Text is dense and without signs of any spatter. Greyscale performance is fair, with little sign of banding, but some ‘levelling out' of different tones. Our colour, business graphic, which displays in orange, green and blue on a colour printer, came out in three very similar shades of mid-grey, making it difficult to differentiate between them.
The photo print, using the setting Canon recommends for photos, showed obvious dot patterns in large areas of sky, even though the 600dpi print resolution is supposedly enhanced up to 2400 x 600dpi in software. The detail level is still reasonable, though shadow detail tends to meld to black.
There's only one consumable in the LBP3100, a drum and toner cartridge rated at 1,500 pages. Even that comparatively modest capacity is over twice what you get from the cartridge in the box, which is rated at just 700 pages. At the risk of sounding like a locked groove in a vinyl LP, the practice of putting half-filled cartridges into printers is a cynical move with only one motive - to force customers to start buying consumables sooner.
In fact, the cost of Canon's consumables is generally fair and we calculate a cost per page of 3.13p, including 0.7p for paper, about the same as Brother's HL-2035 and the LaserJet P1006 from HP, both entry-level mono lasers.
This is a very worthwhile, inexpensive personal laser printer, with several clever design features improving its ease-of-use. The fold-out paper cover and especially the laser engine which needs very little warm up, mean it may well hit its rated speed of 16ppm. For a machine costing just over £70, that's impressive.