Review: Samsung SCX-4500 Multifunction Printer

We’ve all seen photo shoots and sales brochures that show PCs and products in stylish settings — judging by most magazine ads, the average home office has panoramic penthouse views and $1,300 ergonomic chairs. But Samsung‘s brochure for the SCX-4500 takes the cake: Not only is the monochrome laser printer/copier/scanner shown in one of those sterile white and glass living rooms that’s half Ikea and half art gallery, but it’s alone on the coffee table, with no computer, USB cable, or other gear in sight. Unless there’s a PC hidden under the throw pillows.

In short, the SCX-4500’s main attraction is how it looks — or, if you prefer, how it doesn’t look, for without close inspection you’d never guess it was a printer. The $300 three-in-one is styled like two black slabs placed atop one another, with a glossy black finish on top highlighted by flush-fitting, blue-LED-backlit touch controls in place of humble buttons. (The effect is partly spoiled by the snap-on clear plastic tray to catch printed sheets.)

The Samsung stands just 6.5 inches tall, with a compact 13 by 15.5-inch footprint, and runs quietly enough to sit next to your desk phone. It’s also, assuming you can live with grayscale instead of color graphics, a solid printing performer that delivers sharp text documents at close to its rated speed of 17 pages per minute, with the first page arriving in about 15 seconds even if the laser’s been resting to conserve power.

On the other hand, glamour has its costs. You can use the SCX for heavy-duty productivity work. You can also run a 10K in stiletto heels.

See the Light Show

As with most printers, a little shopping around can find the SCX-4500 for less than its $300 list; TigerDirect, for instance, is offering a $70 mail-in rebate through the end of this month. For even tighter budgets, the all-in-one has an equally sleek stablemate in the 5-inch-high ML-1630, which is the same monochrome laser printer with no scanning or copying capabilities, priced at $200 (and widely available for $150).

Setup is simple, with a combined drum and toner cartridge that falls into place under the unit’s hood. Samsung follows the shameful practice of other printer vendors in slipping a half-empty starter cartridge into the box; full-capacity replacement cartridges are rated for 2,000 pages and cost $70. The SCX’s monthly duty cycle is an inkjet-caliber 5,000 pages.

Samsung SCX-4500 Multifunction Printer’s main attraction is its good looks.

Connection choices are simple, too: The device has a USB port. To be sure, we weren’t counting on an Ethernet adapter in this price range, but the lack of one disqualifies the Samsung for small-office sharing.

Turn the printer on — the backlit power-button circle requires a disconcertingly hard push — and the Samsung greets you with a brief scrolling animation from a small blue LED marquee above the control panel, which also provides page counts for printing and copying jobs and percentages (adjusted by up and down buttons) for reduce/enlarge and copy-darkness settings. A scrolling arrow pointing toward the paper tray indicates that the latter needs refilling, while faint musical chirps signal events such as the end of a print job.

Speaking of the paper tray, Samsung’s Web site refers to it as a “semi auto sliding cassette tray,” which means that instead of pulling it out manually you press an eject button that pops it out an inch before you pull it out manually. (The site also says, “Imagine the excitement and sense of pride that this sleek jewel of a printer will bring to your life….welcome a trendy laser that will sparkle on your desk and light up your printouts.”)

The phrase we prefer for the tray is “shallow” — it holds a skimpy 100 sheets, making the SCX’s ability to make up to 999 copies of a document look daunting indeed. The snap-on flap that catches finished pages after their tight backflip or U-turn through the printer accommodates 30 sheets.

(Continue to Page 2 for More on Performance and Pricing)

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