- Review Price: £299.10
Samsung trumpets its CLX-2160N colour, laser-based, all-in-one machine as the world’s smallest colour laser MFP. We certainly haven’t seen anything to challenge that, as the complete machine is smaller than several colour laser printers we’ve looked at this year. The price is also good, coming in at just under £300, where most colour laser MFPs are nearer £500.
Styled like a typical office photocopier, but not much larger than the A4 paper it uses, the CLX-2160N is a very neatly designed piece of equipment. Its front edge is rounded off and then sliced through to form a flat control panel, which incorporates a two-line, 16-character LCD display and a series of 11 buttons, including large ones to start and stop print jobs.
There are three extra buttons in this set, not normally seen on an all-in-one. Two of them work with the USB socket in the front panel to scan to a file on a memory drive and to print a file from one. The third button, called ID Copy, takes an identity tag, business card or other small document and asks you to place it first one way up and then the other, before printing both images on a single sheet of paper.
The scanner itself appears to use a contact sensor, which makes the scanner nice and shallow, but doesn’t provide the scanning quality of a CCD sensor. It has a resolution of 1,200ppi, which the print engine can only match through software enhancement – its native resolution is 600dpi. At the back are sockets for USB 2.0 and Ethernet, both of which are provided as standard.
A low-capacity, 150-sheet paper tray slots in at the front of the machine and protrudes from its front by about 10cm. This has a single-sheet multi-purpose feed built into the tray top. Paper ejects from the printer section of the all-in-one and finished pages stick out by about the same amount as the input tray, which is handy when picking up a finished print job.
The machine uses the same print engine as Samsung’s CLP-300, reviewed back in November last year, which has probably the easiest consumables access of any colour laser. You pull down the front panel and facing you are four cylindrical holes, into which you slide the four toner cartridges, each about the size of a small tube of Pringles. Apart from the imaging unit, which only needs replacing every 20,000 pages, these cartridges and a waste bottle are the only consumables.
Samsung provides its strangely named SmarThru control panel for handling scanning and printing from a PC, as well as ReadIris Pro 10 OCR software, so you can scan in text documents. Other than that, the driver is reasonably well-endowed and includes instructions for manual duplexing, which from our tests the device handles well.
The four-pass colour engine is rated at 4ppm for colour and 16ppm for black print. Under test we saw our five-page text document complete in 31 seconds giving it a real-world print speed of just under 10ppm, while the colour text and graphics document took one minute 26 seconds, equivalent to around 3.5ppm. Samsungs speed claims are therefore less hyped than many and while this is no sprinter, it’s reasonably quick for its price.
The quality of prints from the CLX-2160N is poor. It’s reasonable on text, which is readable, although it’s over-thick. Colour graphics are bright and the colours are dense, but they all look fuzzy, with little sharp detail. Black text over coloured backgrounds almost look as if the text has run, though of course with solid toner, that’s not possible.
The colour copy we produced from the machine was substantially worse than the original, with blotchy solid colours and considerably lighter tones. Our photographic test picture suffers from a comparatively small colour gamut, so colours look too bright and cartoony, but there was no noticeable banding and surprisingly good detail in shadows.
The ID Copy function suffers from the colour copy problems, and also manages to slice of the edges of the card if you, quite reasonably, line the card up with the positioning arrow in the top left-hand corner of the scanner glass.
The consumables for this machine are the four toner drums, an imaging unit and the waste toner bottle. Running through the page cost calculations produces a 5 per cent black text page cost of 2.77p and a 20 per cent colour page cost of 11.03p. This sits it towards the lower end of pricings in the colour category but rather high in the cost of its black print.
The CLX-2160N is small, easy to maintain and reasonably cheap to run and it costs less than most other laser-based, all-in-one devices. Unfortunately, it’s let down by its print quality, particularly in colour. Since this is the main reason for buying a printing device, we can’t really recommend this Samsung MFP, particularly if you want reasonable copies from it.
Score in detail
Print Speed 7
Print Quality 6