- Review Price: £112.46
How much would you expect to pay for a laser-based multifunction printer? Most come in at £150-£200, but there are a few undercutting that starting point. OKI’s MB260 costs just over £110 at Internet prices and yet still offers some interesting extra features you wouldn’t expect in an entry-level device.
The MB260 is designed simply, but with a certain austere grace, and has its scanner section lifted quite high above the mono laser engine which forms the base of the machine. Even so, the paper stop is quite awkward to flip up and is needed to keep A4 pages under control. The 600ppi flatbed scanner has a 36-bit colour depth and in front of this is the control panel, complete with LCD display and paper-clip tray.
There are a couple of interesting features on the control panel. For a start, it incorporates a number pad, even though there are no fax facilities on the machine. The number pad is used for both menu option entry – just about every option has a shorthand code number – and for security.
You can lock the whole machine, or just its USB drive reader, so access is only available via keycode, something very rarely available in a machine at this level. It could be useful in preventing a mass of copies being run off by your children or a wasteful co-worker.
The LCD display has two lines of 16 characters, but also a third line of purpose-designed icons for parameters such as print quality. It’s useful to have these custom-made extras and another interesting, though perhaps frivolous, feature is the ability to print out Sudoku grids. There are 400 available, 100 in each of four difficulty levels, and thoughtfully, OKI has also incorporated the solutions.
Below the controls is a fairly standard mono laser engine, with a main tray which can take up to 200 sheets of 80gsm paper, so the 250 sheet capacity quoted on the spec sheet must be for a thinner grade. The front panel USB socket is complemented by the main USB connection at the rear and there’s no network or wireless provision, though the manual details wireless setup with a third-party adapter.
Physical set up is as easy as pulling down the front panel and inserting the combined drum and toner cartridge. Annoyingly, if you open either the main paper tray or the front panel to change the cartridge, a continuous warning beep goes off until you close them again. A 20 second warning would be more than enough.
Software installation includes setup of OKI’s Companion Pro applet, which is effectively a front-end for its own supplies monitor and the bundled copy of PaperPort LE. This is quite a sophisticated document management and OCR application for a machine at this price and makes everyday jobs, such as scanning to Word or printing from file, very straightforward.
We really could believe OKI’s speed rating of 20ppm, if it wasn’t for the long processing time evident before the first page starts to feed. Because the MB260 is a GDI printer, not using PCL or PostScript, the overall speed is dependent on the processing power of the host PC it’s connected to. On our Athlon 64 X2 4200+ it took 18 seconds to process the five-page test document and 22 seconds for the 20-page one.
The actual paper feed is quite quick, compensating for these slow off-the-mark times and giving real-world speeds of 8.57ppm and 14.81ppm for the two documents. The five-page text and graphics job gave exactly 10ppm.
A single page copy took 21 seconds and a 15 x 10cm photo print on A4 paper took 27 seconds. Interestingly, the same size print taken from a USB drive was much slower, at 53 seconds.
The quality of prints from the machine varies with the source material. Black text is clean and light, with a good mix of dense black where it’s needed and more delicate characters in body copy.
Greyscale graphics show good levels of variation between tones, but some striations in areas of solid fill. Photographic reproduction also shows these bands, but is otherwise pretty good, given the 600dpi resolution of the machine. Photocopies of text are fine, but copying greyscale originals produces blotchy results.
The drum and toner cartridge is available in two capacities, 3,000 and 5,500 pages and using the higher capacity version gives a cost per page of 2.95p, including 0.7p for paper. This is broadly on a par with other laser multifunctions at a similar price, though a little high compared with equivalently priced inkjets.
This is a really nice machine for personal use as a printer, copier and scanner. If you don’t need colour, it’s really cost-effective as a SOHO device, even though its GDI processing slows it up on older computers. Print quality is adequate, better on text than greyscale graphics. At the price, you’ll find it hard to improve on the MB2600 as a whole.
Score in detail
Print Speed 7
Print Quality 7