Price: $399 estimated street price for the ML-1650 (non-networked), $499 for the ML-1651N (networked, as tested)
Specifications: 16 ppm printer can handle 8.5 x 11 or A4 paper in 500-sheet tray, legal paper on manual tray; 166MHz RISC processor with 16 MB RAM base, up to 144 MB RAM optional; PCL 6 emulation standard, PostScript 3 optional; 10/100 Ethernet card. 14 x 16-inch footprint, 24 pounds.
Pros: Can talk to Linux using PostScript or PCL 6 emulation; small, quiet, and very fast for a workgroup printer; Web-based administration; handles a full 500 sheets of paper
Cons: No Web-based paper or toner status; can be jammed if spooling workstation dies; slow when printing in 1200 dpi mode
It’s fast, small, quiet, holds a lot of paper, and prints crisp images. It’s Samsung’s ML-1651N monochrome laser printer. Add a built-in Ethernet network adapter and Web-based printer administration, and you’ve got a perfect unit.
The ML-1651N has all of the basics that you’d want in a small workgroup printer. At the default print resolution of 600 x 600 dpi, it can crank out standard letter sized pages at an honest 16 pages per minute (ppm). Normally, the ML-1651N speaks HP’s PCL 6 printer language; for an additional $179 you can add a PostScript level 3 interpreter card, which Samsung preinstalled in the Linux Magazine review unit.
Our favorite feature? The printer’s paper tray can hold a full 500 pages of standard 20-pound stock at sizes as large as 8.5 x 11 or the European A4 size (8.3 x 11.7 inches). That feature might sound trivial, but many of these small desktop printers hold few pages.
Connectivity is a snap. If you intend to connect the printer directly to a workstation or a Linux print server, there’s both Centronics parallel and USB connectors. Our interest, however, was in direct network connectivity, so Samsung sent the ML-1651N version, which includes a 10/100 Ethernet card.
Getting the printer up and running was easy. The trickiest task was setting the initial IP address of the printer. Unfortunately, the “SyncThru” setup utility provided by Samsung only runs on Windows, and if your LAN uses static IP addresses, that’s what you’ll have to run. However, if you use DHCP, you should be able to query your DHCP server, discover the IP address of the printer, and then browse to the printer using Mozilla to change its settings to static IP. Once the printer has a static IP address, other machines can be configured to use it from across the network.
You can also use the Web-based interface to adjust any of the other printer settings, such as customizing the paper sizes in the paper trays, configuring SNMP, and configuring the AppleTalk and Netware print protocols. Unfortunately, you can’t use the Web interface to check the toner level or paper level — some HP printers let you do that.
The printer included two CD-ROMs with drivers. Be sure to use the driver on the “SyncThru” disc, which is newer and offers PCL 6 connectivity. Installing and using the Linux driver under Red Hat 7.3 was a snap.
If you’re using the network driver, you can choose whether you want to print to the printer’s IP address directly, or configure a Linux server to act as a printer server. The latter approach lets your jobs spool from a workstation more quickly, and is recommended.
If you have a mixed workgroup, you’ll find that the network printing works very nicely. In our lab configuration, Linux and Windows XP workstations printed jobs using PCL 6 emulation, while an iMac printed using PostScript over AppleTalk.
There are only a couple of nitpicks with the printer. First, when set to print in 1200 dpi mode (which looked much better than 600 dpi, especially on graphics), the printer is very slow.
Another nitpick: there were a few times where the printer electronically jammed or crashed when a workstation was killed in the midst of spooling a job directly to the printer’s Ethernet port. Granted, that’s not going to happen very often, but when it did, the only solution was to power-cycle the printer. That’s another reason, by the way, to use a Linux print server as an intermediary; that way, if the printer does need to be power-cycled, jobs won’t get lost.
Bottom Line: Buy
Beyond some very small problems, the ML-1651N is a great little printer. It’s small and light (only about 24 pounds), speedy, and very, very quiet. At under $700 for the networked model with PostScript, it’s a good value, and is recommended.
Alan Zeichick is principal analyst at Camden Associates. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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