Manufacturers come at multifunction machines from one of two directions: with expertise in printers and in fax machines. Panasonic could have done either, but the name and style of the KX-FLP851 suggests faxing was foremost in its mind.
This is a substantial device, looking more like an office photocopier than the laser printer on which it's based. From its auto-document feeder on top, to the three paper out bins at its right-hand end, it says business.
One particular strength of the machine is its control panel. Despite dealing with all four multi-functions, it manages to remain fairly simple and obvious to use. The main panel includes a two-line by 16-character LCD display, though with no backlight, under which is a set of four dual-function buttons and a small four-way wheel for navigating its menu system.
In front of this are three selector buttons marked Fax, Copy and Scan. A number panel to the right is used for keying in fax numbers and to the left are quick dial buttons for commonly used fax destinations. Finally, at the right-hand end are start and stop buttons for the copy function and a sort button, which automatically produces collated copies or prints in the machine’s three-way sort trays.
These bins can also be set up to receive print, copy and fax output, separating each so you don’t have to search through a stack of documents when you’re sharing the machine in an office.
The whole of the top section of the machine hinges up to the left to enable access to the drum and toner cartridge. You can use two 5,000 page toner cartridges for each drum unit and these are the only consumables apart from a maintenance kit, which is only needed every 60,000 pages.
A USB 2.0 cable plugs in at the back and this is also where you connect a telephone cable for the fax function. There's no Ethernet link as standard, though one is available as an option.
The bundled software includes an OCR application for use with the scanner as well as fax software if you need to send faxes from your PC and, of course, the printer driver. Software installs without problem, via the supplied setup routine.
The KX-FLP851 is very easy to use; to copy you place an original in the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) or on the flatbed and press Copy. For printing, you use the machine exactly like a desktop laser printer and for faxing you can send from the flatbed or ADF. If the machine receives two instructions at once, for example being sent a print job at the same time as a copy job is started from the control panel, the KX-FLP851 intelligently queues whichever arrives last.