There's nothing particularly exciting about the appearance of Kyoceraâ€™s FS-1020D laser printer, a few of its edges have been curved off, but it's still basically a cuboid with quite a large desktop footprint.
Paper feeds from an base-mounted, 250-sheet tray, following a Z-shaped path to exit from the back onto the printers deeply sculpted top surface. Like the HP, you need to raise the paper stop to prevent sheets sliding off the front, as each one rides over the next.
The front part of the top cover hinges up to reveal space for the toner cartridge, which is the only consumable. A cover at the front hinges forward to reveal a multi-purpose tray and a final one at the back opens if you need to release jammed paper.
There are two control buttons, to switch the printer on and off line and to cancel a running job. There are also four indicators, for ready, data, attention and low toner. At the rear there are separate sockets for parallel and USB 2.0 connections and you can fit an optional network card for a variety of different network configurations, not just Ethernet.
The library CD supplied contains drivers and user guides for most of the Kyocera range. Installing the correct driver is still simple enough, as long as you know how the printer needs to be configured.
There's a lot of scope for running the machine as a network printer, available from any station on a network. You can use it with Linux and Mac OS, as well as with most flavours of Windows back to Windows 98. The FS-1020D comes as standard with PCL6 and PostScript 3 emulation, as well as with Kyoceraâ€™s own page description language, called PRESCRIBE.
The 20 page text print completed in one minute 15 seconds, which is up with the leaders in this group and the mixed text and graphics print took 25 seconds, again very similar to the pack. The five by three inch photo took 15 seconds, a touch faster than both the Epson and HP.
Since the Kyocera has a built-in duplexer, we also ran our 20 page document as a 10 page, double-sided job. This took two minutes 42 seconds, quite a bit longer than the Brother and on the second run there was a paper jam. Paper jams are a fact of life and we've yet to see a printer that has never suffered one, though they don't all show up during a review benchmark.
We were impressed by how the FS-1020D handled the problem, showing the appropriate error light, performing its standard diagnostic once the errant sheet was removed and continuing the print job from before the sheet that jammed, so that the complete job was still printed.
Print quality was good throughout, with well formed text characters, smooth greyscale fills and very little banding on the photo print. The noise level was quite high, but as with the LaserJet, the type of noise was subjectively less intrusive than from some other printers.
One of Kyoceraâ€™s main claims for all its laser printers is their very low running costs. These are a result of the machine's design with a lifetime photo-conductor drum. You only need to factor in the cost of toner as a consumable and with the 7,200 sheet cartridge costing Â£58, you get a cost per page of just 1.4p. This is over 40 per cent cheaper than the next best printer in this group, so although the FS-1020D is one of the more expensive devices to buy, its overall cost of ownership, depending on duty cycle, is likely to be the lowest.
The Kyocera is a feature packed printer that performs well in both the quality and speed stakes. But itâ€™s the running costs that make the FS-1020D rise above the competition and ultimately grab the Editorâ€™s Choice award.