Small Business Multifunction Printer Review: The Oki MC361

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If you’ve got a small office or mini workgroup and you need a networkable (Ethernet) workhorse that can meet the color and monochrome printing, copying, scanning and faxing needs of all but the most demanding small businesses, check out Oki Data Americas‘ MC361. With its 45,000-page monthly duty cycle, this $549 multifunction printer resembles the Oki C330dn small business printer we reviewed in November with a 1,200 by 1,200 dpi scanner layered on top.

Like the C330dn, the MC361 is a duplex printer that uses LED technology. The latter works like a color laser but with fewer moving parts; Oki’s warranty guarantees the LED print heads for five years and the printer as a whole for one. Compatible with Windows 2000 and Mac OS X 10.3.9 and higher environments, the printer offers PCL and PostScript 3 emulation, 256MB of RAM (upgradeable to 768MB) and 1,200 by 600 dpi output at speeds of 25 pages per minute for monochrome and 23 ppm for color printing.

If you’re looking for something a little sturdier, the MC361’s sister device, called the MC516 ($749 list), runs at 31 and 27 ppm, respectively. It also bumps the monthly duty cycle up to 60,000 pages.

The MC361 handles paper with aplomb, be it in printer, fax, copier or scanner mode. It sports the same 350-sheet standard paper capacity as the C330dn, and you can upgrade it to 880 sheets with the addition of an optional ($210) 530-sheet tray that snaps easily to the bottom of the unit, just below the main 250-sheet legal/letter-sized drawer.

A 100-sheet multipurpose tray rests right above the main tray. All you have to do is pull open the front of the printer to print to media such as envelopes, labels and even banners up to 52 inches in length. While paper generally exits from the top of the printer, which is located right below the fax/copy unit, lowering a rear door permits straight-through printing to prevent bending alternative media types.

There are several reasons to go with a multifunction device rather than separate printer, scanner, copier and fax machines. Chief among them is to centralize all those disparate functions; to save space; and — last but not least — to keep costs down. The MC361 delivers on all counts, but at varying levels of success.

For instance, while it is certainly a space-saver compared to separate devices, at 16.8 by 20 by 17.5 inches and 63 pounds the Oki is too large and heavy for most home offices. It is, however, small enough so that it won’t prove too obtrusive in most office and department-level environments.

Simple Business Printer Setup

As with other Oki printers we’ve tested, configuring the MC361 is a cinch thanks to the company’s topnotch, clear and comprehensive documentation. A nicely organized spiral-style manual contains all the information required for installation. We can’t emphasize enough how welcome that is over just PDF forms on a CD.

What’s not welcome, or unique among printer manufacturers for that matter, is the lack of bundled Ethernet or USB cables. If you plan to use the Oki, you’ll need to pick up a cable first.

Once you remove the packaging material, simply plug the unit in, attach it to your PC or network and run the setup disk. It walks you through driver and software installation. For network use, you set an administrative password and give the unit an IP address (if it hasn’t been assigned one automatically) from the control panel.

To access the preinstalled cyan, magenta, yellow and black toner cartridges and single drum, pop up the scanner/fax section of the multifunction and press a button on the printer cover. Once you remove more packaging material and you slide plastic collars from the right to the left of each cartridge, the MC361 is ready to go.

The Oki MC361 Color MFP; color multifunction printers
The Oki MC361 Color MFP relies on LED technology. It works like a color laser printer, but with fewer moving parts.
(Click for larger image)

Oki rates all color cartridges for 3,000 pages, with replacements listing for $146.30 apiece. Black lasts for 3,500 pages and costs $97.60 to replace, and the $166 drum is rated for 20,000 pages. The company’s website lists a lifetime cost per page of 14.3 cents for color and 3.3 cents for black and white.

Capable Small Business Printer Performance

No surprise, really, but the MC361 performed much like the C330dn during testing, hitting first-page-out times of 9.5 seconds for monochrome and 10.25 seconds for color. It took about 18 seconds to print a full-color page with photos and 27 seconds to output our standard, complex five-page color/text document. A simple 40-page text file took about 2 minutes to print.

Those aren’t bad numbers for the MC361, which delivered good-quality printouts as well: consistently clear and readable text and color images, including photos, that were bright, sharp and accurate.

As a fax and copy machine, the MC361 performed as well — and as quickly as any we’ve used. Its 4MB of fax memory holds up to 200 documents. We particularly like the reversible 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), which lets you see the contents of the documents as they make their way through the scanner.

The TWAIN-driven scanner lets you effortlessly scan files to a PC or to email. When the Oki’s connected via Ethernet, you can configure the unit to receive scans and faxes to an assigned directory or folder anywhere on the network. You can also scan directly to, and print directly from, a flash drive you plug into a front-mounted USB 2.0 port, which means PC or network connectivity isn’t always necessary to use the MC361 for those functions. This feature that makes the MC361 more versatile.

The Oki’s 3.5-inch control-panel LCD may be a humble monochrome instead of color screen, but we like it just fine. The interface features an intuitive system of nested menus, and you can tilt the LCD up and down for optimal viewing. Additional buttons include an array of clearly delineated navigation and preset buttons, plus a numeric keypad for sending faxes, as well as start, stop and power keys.

Oki includes a pair of applications from Nuance to handle scanning, image and document management: OmniPage for optical character recognition and PaperPort to convert paper and photos into PDFs and JPEGs. Oki’s Desktop Capture Solution, which works in conjunction with PaperPort’s Active Directory Authentication, lets you transfer scanned files into a SharePoint or DocuWare directory.

The Energy Star-compliant multifunction printer operates at 500 watts during normal use but drops to 100 watts when idle and only 20 when in power-save mode. To wake the machine up, press the button marked Power Save on the control panel. While we like how Oki placed the regular power button on the front-right side for easy access, the location could also make it easy for people to accidentally turn off the unit — not the best situation for a machine that needs to be alert at all times for incoming faxes.

For its target demographic (small businesses and workgroups), the MC361 is an easy-to-use, solid print/scan/fax/copy alternative to traditional laser products. There are heavier-duty multifunction printers on the market, but they’ll cost you more in dollars and space.

James Allan Miller is a contributing writer at Small Business Computing.

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