Print quality is good, with clean, ultra-black text, showing no signs of toner spatter. When it comes to printing our text and graphics page, however, it had trouble with the multicolour banner at the top of the sheet. Instead of printing a variety of greys as its competitors produce – and indeed which it produces when doing a photo copy of the same page – it prints the graphic in black and white only, with a white band in the centre. We put this down to a software glitch in the driver, since tints in a second graphic on the same page are reproduced correctly.
All of which is rather a shame, as the photographic output from this mono laser engine, even though only 600dpi, is good. There is very little visible banding in sky areas and foreground detail is sharp. There's too much black in shadowed areas though, which detracts from the rest of the print.
Print speeds are very good: both our text and text and graphics documents completed in around 30 seconds, giving a true print speed of 10ppm, and our photo test only took 17 seconds too. Copies from the flatbed and the ADF took 19 seconds and a full A4 scan completed in 24 seconds. Although the machine is based on a monochrome engine, the scanner uses a full colour head.
As mentioned, there are three consumables: a toner cartridge, a drum unit and a maintenance kit. Factoring in these three part costs at their different page yields, and assuming you conduct your own maintenance, gives a cost per print of 2.76p. This is a bit on the high side, but not out of order for a machine in this category. With a toner capacity of 5,000 pages the KX-FLP851 should run for several months without needing attention, even in a busy office.
This is a robust multi-function machine which would suit a small office or workgroup of half a dozen people. It won't need servicing that frequently, so running costs should stay low, though the asking price for the original machine is comparatively high. Devices with the same feature set are available for considerably less than half the asking price, so you have to decide if the Panasonic name and reputation for reliability is worth the extra money.