Color Laser Printer Review: Samsung CLP-660ND - Page 2

By Aaron Weiss
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In considering a printer's performance, both speed and quality count. When it comes to speed, it is best to consider manufacturer claims as generous estimates. The 660ND has a warm up cycle before it is ready to print the first page after power up or return from sleep. You can configure how long the printer will stay warmed up before returning to sleep, anywhere from five minutes to 2 hours.

Because of this warm up cycle, the first page coming out of sleep or power on can take some time. A full-color page with 100 percent coverage printed in 70 seconds, but the first minute of that was warm up time. Subsequent copies of this page printed in less than ten seconds each.

Printing the 111-page user's manual in PDF format came close to Samsung's rated speed of 25 pages per minute. But applying transformations to the print driver, such as scaling pages and using duplex to save paper, slows the page rate considerably.

You can upgrade the printer's memory to increase the print speed for complex, graphics-heavy documents. The 660ND comes standard with 128MB of DDR1 RAM, which can be expanded to a maximum total of 640MB.

Like other laser printers, the 660 lets you set print quality to draft, normal, or best. In default "normal" mode, black text is crisp and easy to read even at small point sizes.

Of course, the beauty of a color laser printer is, well, color. Here the 660ND does not disappoint. Colors are vibrant and pop on high-quality copy paper. Graphics, charts and illustrations really do look better in color.

Unlike an inkjet printer, the color laser does not print in "bands" and therefore does not suffer from visual banding in large blocks of color. A full-page print in a single color is even in tone across the page. But if you look closely, you will see mild pixilation of solid color blocks. This gives a slightly mottled look to large areas of a single color, but the pixels disappear at a normal viewing distance.

All this really means is that the 660ND, as a color laser, is not a thermal dye printer. Although digital photographs printed on cardstock are more than passable, this kind of printer is designed for office, not studio work.

Unfortunately, laser toner does not grow on trees. The 660ND includes four "standard capacity" toner cartridges, rated at 2,500 pages each and using the vendor's standard estimate of five percent coverage. Of course, with a color laser, yield will vary even more widely depending on which colors you use most often.

Unlike a monochrome laser, though, replacing toner on a color laser like the 660ND means replacing four cartridges. The standard capacity cartridges sell for about $85 apiece, while "high yield" cartridges rated for 5,500 pages can be found for about $130, making them a better buy on a cost-per-page basis.

With a rated duty cycle of 80,000 pages per month, the 660ND could—if pushed to its limits—churn through several complete sets of cartridges a month, easily exceeding the cost of the printer itself.

You also need to replace the printer's paper transfer belts, part of the feed mechanism, after 50,000 pages. There are two, one for black, and one for color, and they cost about $175 apiece.

Considering Color
The Samsung 660ND delivers on producing crisp color output in a well-built machine at a small-business friendly price. But the economics of color lasers don't end there, and that's where the pennies can add up. Printing in color is still a luxury for most office needs -- and a potentially expensive one at that.

If your business needs color printing for a lot of jobs, the 660ND delivers business-class functionality with vibrant color.

Aaron Weiss a technology writer, screenwriter and Web development consultant who spends his free time stacking wood for the winter in Upstate New York. His Web site is: bordella.com

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This article was originally published on March 27, 2008
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