The Samsung CLP-300 is the smallest and least expensive color laser printer we've seen. The CLP-300 version (nonnetworked) costs only $250, while the networked version (CLP-300N) will set you back an additional $100. Unfortunately, you sometimes get what you pay for, and what you get here is a basic printer that produces neither the fast nor the high-quality prints you'd expect from a laser printer. If you need speedy, top-notch prints, spend an additional $50 (over the price of the CLP-300N) for the Lexmark C500n. But if you're short on space and you have a tight budget and only basic printing needs, the Samsung CLP-300 is a decent bet.
The Samsung CLP-300 is remarkably small for a color laser printer, owing to a unique toner configuration, which we'll get to later. The printer sits 15.4 inches wide, 13.5 inches tall, and 10.4 inches deep, and it weighs a mere 30 pounds. The input tray does jut out a bit from the front, but overall, the printer's footprint is about as compact as you'll find among laser printers.
Paper handling is rudimentary on this small- and home-office-oriented printer. A single 150-sheet paper tray pulls out from the front and can hold a variety of paper sizes, from small 3x5 cards to legal-size sheets (the tray expands to hold the longer sheets). If you want to manually feed single sheets, you can flip open the translucent plastic cover at the front of the tray and insert pages one at a time (you'll have to unload any paper in the tray first). The well in the top of the printer serves as the output tray, and a flap folds out to corral long sheets. You can't expand the paper handling, but the setup should suffice for small offices.
The control panel on this printer is basically nonexistent, limited to just a cancel button and four color LEDs that let you know when toner levels are getting low. Any changes to the printer setup can be made through your PC, using the Samsung Smart Panel that's installed when you set up the printer.
Both the Samsung CLP-300 and the CLP-300N ship with a 300MHz processor, but the CLP-300 features only 32MB of memory to the CLP-300N's 64MB. Neither is upgradable. The CLP-300 offers only a USB 2.0 connection, while the CLP-300N also throws in a 10/100 Ethernet connector for networked printing.
One of the reasons the Samsung CLP-300 is so small is its unique toner cartridge setup. Most color laser printers use toner cartridges that include the image drum. Samsung separates the drum from the toner, resulting in small toner "canisters" that measure about 3.5 inches long and 2.25 inches in diameter (the black canister is slightly larger). The four toner canisters--cyan, magenta, yellow, and black--plug into the front of the single drum, behind the cover panel, saving both space and money, as the drum will outlast the toner canisters. We like this setup because it makes changing toner a simpler task and produces less physical waste.
Given the low price point of the Samsung CLP-300, we weren't terribly surprised by its slow print speeds. It printed black text at a respectable 13.49ppm, but it was slow at black graphics, pushing out just 3.68ppm. Color text and color graphics prints were slow, too: 3.77ppm and 3.71ppm, respectively. The models closest in price that we've reviewed are the Lexmark C500n and the Oki C3400n (both are $400, as compared to the CLP-300N model, which costs $350) and both posted much faster numbers across the board.