- Review Price: £881.81
It can be very useful to have a printer in your office that produces pages larger than A4. The most obvious use is if you’re producing an A4 newsletter, where you can print page spreads in one job and fold them down. If the printer can duplex pages, it makes it even simpler. Kyocera Mita’s FS-6970DN can do both.
The company has styled this A4 mono laser printer to fit in with the rest of its new range and it has the same simple, but functional, looks. Coloured in black and cream, a deep indentation in the top cover takes the printed pages and you only need to flip forward the extra paper support when printing A3. A4 pages print in landscape mode, anyway.
The control panel uses a 2-line by 16-character, backlit LCD display with the usual collection of control buttons; a four-way ring encompassing an OK button, and others for Menu, Start Print and to Stop a current job. Behind the display, Ready, Data and Attention lights are raised up on a small ridge, so they can be more easily seen from a distance.
Navigating the printer’s menus takes a little concentration, as Kyocera Mita has chosen to select options with the right arrow key in the navigation ring and to flip through them with the up and down arrows, which is the opposite way round to most other printers.
At the bottom of the front panel is a 250-sheet paper tray and a 100-sheet multi-purpose tray folds down from above this. 250-sheets is too low a capacity for a machine intended for workgroups and, although you can add up to five more 250-sheet trays, it should be able to take more by default.
Below the control panel is a USB drive socket and you can print PDF files directly from a stick, as a walk-up function. At the back are sockets for USB, 10/100 Ethernet and a legacy parallel connection.
The ceramic drum, a Kyocera Mita hallmark, is rated at 300,000 pages, so even in a busy office, it probably won’t need replacing over the life of the machine. The only consumable is therefore toner and a 7,500-sheet cartridge is provided with the machine. This plugs-in very conveniently under its top cover and the machine then goes through a 10 minute charging cycle, before it’s ready to start printing.
There are drivers available for all versions of Windows since 95, for OS X and for certain varieties of Linux and these are comprehensive, covering all the features of the printer.
One of the main reasons printer makers think they can keep prices high is if they offer high-speed. The FS-6970DN is rated at 37ppm single-sided and 17ppm in duplex mode. These speeds exclude processing time, which always seems a bit of a cheat to us, as you have to wait for processing and printing before you can walk away with your finished document.
Timing the complete cycle for a five-page text document gives a real-world print speed of 13.6ppm, but this rises to 21.8ppm when printing a 20-page job, where the processing time is a smaller proportion of the overall cycle. Even so, it’s some way off 37ppm. Our five-page text and graphics document took 29 seconds, which is 10.34ppm and this is very close to the speed of a 20-page, A3 document, too.
Printing in duplex mode, which the printer handles very neatly, produced speeds of 15.38spm for A4 and 6.82spm for A3. Finally a 15 x 10cm photo print on A4 takes 23 seconds. Overall, while this printer is certainly quick, it’s not as quick as it’s made out to be.
The main thing the FS-6970DN will be required to print is text and it does this reasonably cleanly, though there’s a little more fuzz around characters than we expected. This may be because the printer prints A4 pages sideways and you’re more likely to notice a dispersal of toner along the long sides of characters, as opposed to their shorter tops and bottoms. This theory is supported by the portrait A3 pages we printed, which showed cleaner characters.
Greyscale graphics are printed lighter than from some other machines and fills in particular are quite spare. On the other hand, our photo test picture shows quite a bit of mottling in an area of sky and most shadow detail is lost.
As toner is the only consumable on this machine and with the TK-450 cartridge offering 15,000 pages for just under £80, page costs come out commendably low. Even including 0.7p for paper, which is our norm, the machine is only costing 1.15p per A4 page. This is a very good figure and may be the most important purchase factor.
We’ve been in the business of testing printers long enough to know the way the world works. You pay extra for speed and you pay extra for printing larger pages. On this basis, just under £900 for this A3, mono laser compares well with A3 models from other suppliers. It’s cheap to run, too and easy to maintain. Print quality is only average, though, and paper tray capacity is decidedly meagre.
Score in detail
Print Speed 8
Print Quality 7