- Review Price: £75.84
The idea of the one-per-desk mono laser printer goes back a good 15 years and in that time they’ve got smaller, faster, better quality and considerably cheaper. The latest generation from Canon includes the i-SENSYS LBP3100, which is a neat, ice-white unit, about the size of two large white loaves set side-by-side. Thankfully, the printer is a lot smarter than two loaves, but also less suitable for making Marmite toast.
Canon has worked hard to make it easy to use and neat to fold away. Its high-gloss lid folds up and forward and becomes the output tray, while the front panel folds down to become the input tray. This can take up to 150 sheets of plain paper and there’s a separate, single-sheet multi-purpose slot for media up to 163gsm.
When you open the paper tray, a cleverly-designed, hinged cover folds down from behind to protect loaded paper for those who prefer to leave the printer set up for printing. Other manufacturers have supplied covers for their pull-down paper trays, of course, but building it into the machine, so you don’t risk losing the cover, is an ingenious piece of lateral thinking.
There’s a single green power and print LED and a small resume button set into its left-hand side and, apart from a power button set into the front panel, these are the only controls on the printer. High up on the back panel is a small fold-out cover, which reveals a single USB socket. Once connected, closing the cover hides the cable plug, but this would be more discreet if the cable plugged in at the bottom, so it didn’t drape across the desk.
Software installation is dead simple, as Canon supplies a printer driver and little else. This includes support for collation and multiple pages per sheet, but not watermarks or overlays.
Hardware installation is only a little more difficult, as you simply lift the top hatch and slot in the cartridge. There’s very little priming and the LBP3100 is then ready to print.
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.
Print Speeds & Running Costs
Score in detail
Print Speed 10
Print Quality 8