Advantages Fast, quiet, reliable, cheap to run
Disadvantages Costs more to purchase than inkjet printers, not so good for photos
|Ease of use|
|Range of extra features / functions|
I hate printers. Which is somewhat churlish of me because without printers I would have to write everything out by hand, and my handwriting is terrible. So I’m all in favour of printers, but why do they never work properly? From network problems to paper jams to funny lines appearing on printouts, I’ve never had much luck with printers.Of course there are many different printers on the market and there are many different things that people look for in printers. For me reliability is the most important thing, although running costs (i.e. ink/toner costs) are important too. I prefer a decent speed but I’m passably patient and so I’d take reliability over speed any day – the tortoise beat the hare, right? As for print quality, so long as it doesn’t have funny lines all over the place then I’m not too bothered. If you’re a pro photographer then I can understand why this would be of concern but I’ve always used printers for office functions (either at home or in the office) and if I want something printed professionally then I send it to an external printshop with proper equipment.
In terms of home or office printers, there are to my knowledge two distinct types of printer: laser and inkjet. With inkjet printers, which are more common, the ink is sprayed onto the page in little jets – hence the back and forward motion of the print heads across the page. With laser printers it’s a little more complicated, with a laser firing the image onto a cylinder, which is thereby electrically charged and so attracts the toner (which is a dry powder), while the paper is then oppositely electrically charged and so attracts the toner in turn. The paper then passes through a roller that melts the toner and so creates the finished product. Or something like that. I have to confess I didn’t have a Scooby-doo until google saved me from my ignorance.What this means in practical terms is that laser printed images are sharper, but that colours are often better on inkjet printers, so the latter can be better for photos. Laser printers are much quicker (and quieter) once they get going, as there’s no need for the endless back and forth of inkjet print heads, but they take a while to start up initially as the roller needs to heat up to temperature.
In the grand scheme of things these differences are pretty small. There are two reasons why I think most people end up buying inkjet printers. One is the purchase price – inkjet printers can be purchased from around twenty quid, whereas the cheapest laser printers will set you back three of four times that. However, once purchased, laser printers are cheaper to run, since the cost of toner per printed page is lower than the cost of ink per printed page for an inkjet printer.The second reason why people often buy inkjet printers is that they often come as ‘all in one’ modules with a scanner, copier and possibly even fax machine. I hate this. Printers are devious and unreliable beasts at the best of times, to add equally quirky creatures such as scanners and copiers is to invite disaster. Kind of like buying a puppy and a kitten and a rabbit all at the same time. One is plenty of effort, all three together is chaos.
So when my previous cheap all-in-one printer/copier/scanner, which had frustrated me for months (these things never last for more than a few months in my experience), decided to start printing all its pages wonky due to a problem with a spring, I was determined to upgrade to a more reliable and cheaper to run laser printer. Which brings me to the Samsung-CLP25w.
The Samsung CLP-325w will set you back around £130 from various online retailers (see current cheapest prices below this review), so considerably more than a cheap inkjet job. Thereafter toners cost around £38 each, which does around 1000 printed pages, so 3.8p per page, which compares with cartridges for a cheap HP inkjet printer which cost around £10 for 200 printed pages, so 5p per page. Not a huge difference – you’d have to print almost 10,000 pages to recoup the difference in the initial purchase price. The great thing about this printer though is that will last long enough for you to print 10,000 pages, but more on this later.Now I’m one of those people that likes a device to do what it says on the tin, and I’m not so bothered about extra and unusual features. A phone should make calls and send text messages. A printer should print things. Nevertheless there are certain features that you really do need to know about, which are:
Colour :The Samsung CLP 325w is a full colour printer, with cyan, magenta and yellow toners. You can get many black only laser printers cheaper, but this is among the cheapest colour versions.
Wireless networking:The Samsung CLP 325w has full wireless networking capability, so you don’t need to wire it up to your computer(s), except during installation. I think the ‘w’ bit stands for wireless so if you purchase a CLP 325 without the ‘w’ then expect to have lots of fun with cables.
Size:The Samsung CLP 325w is slightly larger than an equivalent inkjet printer, but pretty small for a laser printer. It doesn’t take up too much space on the shelf. 388mm x 313mm x 243mm apparently.
Operating System Compatibility:The Samsung CLP 325w claims that it is compatible with Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and 7; with Mac OS X 10.3-10.6 and with various Linux OS. I can only vouch for the compatibility with Windows 7, which works fine.
Other:360MHz processor; 256MB memory; USB 2.0, Ethernet 10/100 base-TX, and IEEE 802.11b/g/n (wireless) interfaces; 2400 x 600 dpi print resolution; PCL5C, PLC6, SPL-C print emulation (whatever that is).
What it doesn’t do:It doesn’t scan things or copy things or make phone calls and you can’t plug a USB stick into it. And it doesn’t have a touch screen control panel like so many printers have these days, you control it entirely through your computer. It also lacks an automatic duplex print function.
Installation was swift and seamless. You do need to plug a cable in during installation, but afterwards everything is wireless. You also need to run a supplied CD with the drivers and software. The supplied manual guides you through with extremely detailed step-by-step instructions.And then printing. Much like any printer, just open the document that you want to print and click “print”. You can amend the properties: greyscale or colour; draft or best quality; etc, all of which is much as you would expect.
The printer does take a little while to get going, about 30 seconds, which can seem like an age when I’ve got a customer waiting for a printout (I use this printer in the small hotel that I run). Once up and running however it chucks out pages at great speed, which is a real boon when printing lengthy documents or multiple copies. The printed pages sit comfortably on the out tray, thus avoiding a major irritation of mine with some printers when pages start flying all over the floor. The printer is quiet too, which helps to emphasise the trauma free nature of using it. Life is stressful enough without printers adding in extra trauma.The print quality is fine. As I’ve said I use it for office type functions rather than printing photos or complex pictures, but I do use it to print drafts of marketing materials and it’s fine for that sort of thing. Another advantage of laser printers is that the ink doesn’t smudge. I forgot to mention that one earlier. The only slight gripe that I do have in respect of the print quality is that the pages often end up slightly curled at the sides (i.e. not flat), which I think must be something to do with the heating process. Again fine for office type functions, not so great for printing your wedding photos.
This is where the Samsung CLP-325w really wins out over other printers that I’ve owned or worked with in the past. Page after page of easy, stress-free printing. The importance of this cannot be emphasised enough for me – there’s nothing more frustrating than a non-functioning printer when you have a customer or colleague waiting for a printout of an important document.Has it ever lost connectivity? Not that I recall. Admittedly it’s only about a metre away from my computer and less than two metres away from my router, so hardly the most rigorous of tests. However that small distance has proved intermittently insurmountable to some printers I’ve owned in the past. The software/drivers that control the printer seem to be reliable and straightforward. No problems with a loss of functionality when they or other programmes update – again an issue that I’ve had with other printers.
As for paper jams, it does have the odd moment. It is a printer after all. A printer that doesn’t ever jam would be like a teenager who never breaks the rules, sort of nice but also not quite right. Luckily, fixing the jams is always straightforward, the back panel pulls open and it’s always straightforward to pull out the offending piece of tree pulp, none of the heaving and cursing that I’ve experienced with some others in the past.There’s also no need to align and clean the print heads, as being a laser printer there aren’t any. So no issues with strange lines or weird colours on the printouts. In fact the only maintenance that needs doing is changing the toner from time to time, which is as simple as pulling the old one out and putting a new one in. Even I can manage that. More importantly, even my colleagues can manage that, so I don’t always have to. Another minor stress reduced.
And best of all, one year after I purchased it, it’s still going strong without any issues whatsoever. I hope to be able to update this review in years to come to say that it’s still going strong after 2, 3 or 4 years. I have every expectation that it will be.
If you only print a handful of pages a year – airline tickets and such like – then you may be better off with a cheap inkjet printer. And if printing photos in high quality is important to you then a more expensive inkjet version may be just the thing.But if you’ve wasted too much of your life jumping up and down in frustration when your printer screws things up *again*, if you leave photograph printing to others, and if you want a simple, fast, quiet and reliable printer, then invest in a Samsung CLP-325w.
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