It's Cheap, It's Small, It's a Laser Printer

By Eric Grevstad | Posted June 09, 2004
When it comes to running a small business, saving money is a full-time job. Samsung's made that job easier by significantly cutting the price on its entry-level laser printer. The ML-1740 costs a thrifty $150 compared to last year's ML-1710's $199 price tag. That means, to the best of our knowledge, the ML-1740 has dethroned Konica Minolta's $180 PagePro 1350W to become the least expensive laser you can buy. If you're still using a slower inkjet printer with costly consumables for big, black-and-white text jobs, you have only yourself to blame.

For the record, Samsung doesn't just skip lunches and go without HBO in order to come in $30 under its rival's price; the PagePro offers higher resolution — 1,200 by 600 dpi — than the Samsung's 600 by 600 dpi engine. On the other hand, the ML-1740's single-sheet or envelope-feeding slot and flip-down rear panel give it a straight-through path for special media.

And while Konica Minolta's printer advertises a speed of 22 pages per minute, the Samsung — rated at a more modest 17 ppm — equaled or narrowly beat it in our stopwatch tests, printing the same files from the same Windows 2000 desktop. A 20-page Microsoft Word document, for example, took 1 minute and 22 seconds, two seconds faster than the PagePro.

Paper Trail
At eight inches tall and with a footprint roughly 15 inches square, the Windows- and Linux- (but not Mac-) compatible ML-1740 takes little more desk space than a few reams of copier paper. A big-printer- or copier-style pull-out paper drawer makes for easy loading and smooth feeding. The drawer holds 250 sheets of letter- or legal-sized paper (for the latter, you must push a latch and pull out a plastic guide that leaves the extra three inches actually sticking out of the back of the printer).

In a nice detail, a plastic pin at lower right sinks in its slot to indicate at a glance when the drawer is getting empty. Like the printer's 8MB of memory, however, its paper capacity can't be expanded — Samsung doesn't offer a no second drawer.

Unless you're using the special-feed slot, paper travels upward and over to arrive face down on top of the printer where, despite a folding plastic prop, sheets slide off the stack a little before you get to the advertised output capacity of 50 pages.

Control Issues


Samsung ML-1740
Samsung's ML-1740 packs a lot of capability into an inexpensive package.
Aside from the power switch at the right rear, the only other control button sits on top and serves to cancel a print job, continue a manual-feed job, or toggle the toner-saver mode that promises to stretch cartridge life by up to 40 percent by printing in gray instead of black. You'll find USB and parallel ports at the left rear, but Samsung doesn't include USB or parallel cables. And while the ML-1740 isn't available in a network model although the printer's monthly duty cycle is rated at 15,000 pages — enough for network sharing if you buy an external print server.

Setup is as simple as taking the printer out of the box, removing the inevitable few pieces of tape and flipping down the front panel for five seconds to slide in the toner cartridge. The various plastic doors and drawers feel a little on the light side, not enough to be called flimsy but enough to make you take a bit of care in opening and closing. The ML-1740 weighs 18 pounds overall.

The supplied cartridge, unfortunately, earns the usual jeers for being a skimpy, 1,000-page starter unit; replacement cartridges are rated for 3,000 pages and priced around $80, which divides out to something like 2.7 cents per page — higher than bigger, heavy-duty laser printers, but much more economical than personal inkjets.

Along with a detailed manual in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, the software CD installs a status monitor with pop-up help messages and a driver with a fair variety of booklet and watermark printing options. While you can work around it with print-odd-or-even-page functions, we wish the driver had an option to guide users through manual duplexing (two-sided printing).

Power, Speed, Quality
Reasonably quiet, apart from some whirring and clicking, the ML-1740 warms up in perhaps half a minute (Samsung says the printer shifts from an average of 330 watts while working to 10 watts in sleep mode), then produces the first page of a print job in a prompt 12 seconds — the time it took to print our one-page Word business letter with company-logo letterhead.

Longer jobs are similarly quick, with six full-page, white-background PowerPoint slides printing in 35 seconds (but six dark-background slides taking 44 seconds). Our 55-page Acrobat manual appeared in 3 minutes and 42 seconds, although that task brought out the worst in the Samsung's economy-model, host-based (Windows GDI rather than PCL or PostScript) design, not to mention our slow old Pentium III desktop: It took a minute and 40 seconds for Acrobat's "Printing" dialog box to plod through the pages and disappear from the screen.

Text quality earns a B+, with smooth and sharp letters even in small font sizes; text at the default setting was a tiny bit lighter or less richly black than we like, but unmistakably laser quality and suited for any business correspondence.

Graphics output isn't the ML-1740's strong suit: Charts and graphs are fine by monochrome laser standards, but show some banding, and digital-camera images, though fast — our 8 by 10 prints averaged just 20 seconds — are banded, dark and grainy, more reminiscent of a morning newspaper than an inkjet or color laser.

But again, we're talking about just any monochrome laser printer, we're talking about a $150 one: The ML-1740 is an easy-to-buy, easy-to-use, easy-to-like little laser that's a first-class choice for any home office or small business that needs to produce a medium-high amount of text on a tight budget.

Pros:
A real laser printer, real simple design, and real text quality, for a really low price

Cons:
Not the best graphics quality; not expandable; host-based architecture makes slow PCs slower

Product Information

  • Samsung ML-1740
  • Price: $150

Adapted from hardwarecentral.com.

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