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A few general facts can be derived from the results of our today’s tests. First, the real (as opposed to declared) characteristics of the tested printers that affect printing quality are very similar. Second, the result depends greatly on the software, i.e. the printer driver. It is the driver setup flexibility that limits the area of application of a printer – whether it is good for printing just text or for black-and-white images, too. The latter is especially important for home use since you usually have only one printer at home and use it to print everything from simple text documents to web pages and even photographs. If the driver allows manual setup of the dither parameters, fill density and contrast, you may achieve excellent results at outputting images, comparable to photographs in black-and-white newspapers. And third, the performance of the printing mechanisms may vary greatly and a more expensive device is not necessarily faster than a cheaper one.

I’m going to give you a brief summary on each tested printer.

The Brother HL-2040 model features superb speed characteristics in the first place. It is the leader at sequential printing. The driver gives you flexible control over the half-toning parameters. The device itself is ergonomic and user-friendly. I can’t find any serious faults with this one.

The Canon LBP-2900 is cute-looking, small and sufficiently fast. Its driver offers flexible saturation and contrast adjustment. This printer is going to be a good choice for home, and rather infrequent, use. When closed, it will fit well into any room interior. The main disadvantages are the lack of a fan to cool the heater and the combined low-capacity cartridge.

The Epson EPL-6200L boasts a very high printing speed. The moving components of the case are properly fastened. The cartridge is sectional, with a high-capacity toner container. Toner fill density adjustment is the only fine-tuning option offered by the driver. This printer lacks a per-sheet manual feed slot as well as a Cancel button on the case.

The HP LaserJet 1020 is a mediocre device. It is no record-breaker in speed, has no obvious defects or winning advantages. It has a combined, small-capacity cartridge and is meant for low monthly loads.

The Konica Minolta PagePro 1350W is a well-made machine with a reliable mechanism and simple controls. I don’t have any particular comments on the design and usability of this printer. This is the only device among the reviewed that can do diffusion fill to give that special softness to halftone images.

The Lexmark E-230 is the single printer in this list to support PCL for interaction with image and text-editing software as well as desktop publishing programs. So, the printer’s functionality and control flexibility are high. Note also the long service life of the photo-drum which is detachable from the toner container. The basic disadvantages are that the printer case is too big for a personal device and the fill density is too high at the default settings.

The OKI B4100 is the single printer in this review to feature the LED-based printing technology. It has a straight paper path so you can print on thick cardboard or special polymer materials. Moreover, the driver offers very flexible setup options. The quality of the printouts is probably the best among the tested printers. I couldn’t find any serious flaws in this machine.

I did not like the Samsung ML-1615 at all. I may be a bit subjective and wrong about its exterior design, but the low speed and the obvious design flaws (no cooling of the heater, no manual feed slot, the swallowing of two sheets at a time) and the clumsy cartridge replacement procedure are quite objective drawbacks. So I can’t say anything good about this printer and do not recommend it for purchase.

The Xerox Phaser 3121 is a close relative of the Samsung ML-1516, but is somewhat redesigned. It has a normal input tray (rather than a flip-down panel), a per-sheet feed port, a fan on the heater, and a normally placed cartridge. So this is not an exceptional machine, but it meets its purpose well enough.

If you still can’t make your choice, consider these alternatives:

  • If you are going to buy a printer to output text (without any graphics) and you don’t care much about printing speed, but do care about price, consider the Xerox Phaser 3121
  • If you need a fast and universal machine for home and office use and don’t hesitate to pay some $20 extra, then consider the Brother HL-2040 or the OKI B4100 (the latter is the perfect choice when you need a straight paper path)
  • If you need PCL for better communication with desktop publishing software, the Lexmark E230 supports it.

I hope this review will be useful for you and help you make the right choice of your printer.

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