The Samsung ML-1740 black-and-white laser printer is an easy and affordable basic business printer for a home office. For a mere $149--as little as half the price of the average monochrome laser--the ML-1740 prints sharp black text at a reasonable clip. But like any low-cost product, the 1740 makes a few compromises that its pricier peers avoid. For example, the Dell 1700m, at $196, has an up-to-date USB 2.0 port instead of Samsung's older USB 1.1, plus an optional 550-sheet paper tray. And for $499, the Lexmark E332n includes an Ethernet interface and provides higher performance.
The ML-1740 takes up a tiny 14-inch square on your desk, standing only 7.5 inches high and weighing 16 pounds when loaded. Its glossy white-plastic shell uncannily resembles that of an Apple notebook, but ironically, the 1740 won't work with a Mac. The 250-sheet main paper tray is supplemented by a hand-feed bypass tray for single sheets and a rear exit door to direct card stock, labels, and other delicate media away from the tight bend into the main output tray. As on most low-cost laser printers, the 1740's toner cartridge and imaging drum form one integrated unit that glides easily into place, reducing maintenance but hiking refill costs. The clearly labeled lights on the 1740's control panel leave little room for confusion, though the panel's single button will either cancel a job or suck in hand-fed media, depending on the work in progress.
We found installing the 1740 a snap. Samsung's driver is easy to navigate but lacks a duplex feature, so printing on both sides of a page demands flipping and hand feeding each sheet.
CNET recorded modest performance scores for the ML-1740. Though Samsung claims a 17-pages-per-minute (ppm) engine speed, the 1740 prints ordinary text at 13.0ppm--fine for a home office--and grayscale graphics at 13.3ppm. We like the printer's crisp black text, which is free of choppy-edged curves and diagonals; however, the letters break up a bit on small fonts. Grayscale graphics suffer from a somewhat dotty texture and mild banding, but neither defect seriously detracts from print quality.
Among its drawbacks, the ML-1740 ships with a starter 1,000-page cartridge, so you'll soon have to replenish the toner. The standard 3,000-page cartridge costs about $80, or 2.7 cents per page--a little more than the toner-and-imaging drum for most monochrome printers.
Although the printer comes with a parallel port and a slow USB 1.1 port, it doesn't offer networking or paper-handling options, so you can't print from more than one computer, zip through double-sided documents, or print long documents without refilling the paper tray. Perhaps worse, the ML-1740's modest 8MB of memory can't be expanded, though that's fine for a single user. What's the ML-1740's most flexible feature? Although it doesn't support Macs, the printer will work with several flavors of Linux. The compact ML-1740 is also easy to pop into a car if you need to travel with it.