The Samsung ML-3051N straddles the gap between an über-expensive office laser printer and a personal laser printer, both in terms of features and price. For $250, you get a network-ready mono printer with versatile paper-handling options, expandable memory, and high-quality prints. (For an additional $100, you can upgrade to the ML-3051ND model, which includes a built-in duplexer.) The ML-3051N (or the ML-3051ND) is an excellent choice for a small office with high-volume printing needs that doesn't need color prints. The Samsung ML-3051N's boxy, gray exterior epitomizes the cube-farm aesthetic: it's nothing to look twice at, but it gets the job done. The printer sits 15 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and nearly 10.5 inches tall. Hand grips at the base of either side make it easy to move the printer around, though as a networked printer, you probably won't move it frequently.
The simple control panel underscores the printer's basic functionality. Five buttons help you navigate the intuitive menu: menu, OK, back, and two direction keys. The remaining buttons include a toner save button, a demo button, and a job cancel button.
The ML-3051N has an impressive array of paper-handling features for such a low price. A 250-sheet paper cassette pulls out from the bottom and can handle up to legal-size paper. (When using legal-size sheets, the paper cassette will stick out a bit from the rear of the printer.) A second 250-sheet paper cassette is available as an option. Folding down a flap on the front of the printer reveals the multipurpose tray, which can hold up to 50 sheets of plain paper. Likewise, you have two options for output: a deep well in the top of the printer serves as the main output, while a door in the rear of the printer covers the straight pass-through output, handy for thicker media such as card stock. The ML-3051N's features are on a par with its price. Both the ML-3051N and the ML-3051ND models come standard with three connection options: USB, Ethernet, and a parallel connector, and support both Windows and Mac OSs. Wireless networking is available as an add-on option. The printer houses a 400MHz processor and comes with 64MB of RAM standard, which you can expand up to 320MB. On the ML-3051N, duplexing is a manual operation, but a built-in duplexer comes with the more expensive ML-3051ND. The Lexmark C500n is priced on a par with the ML-3051ND but lacks a duplexer, and its memory is not expandable; on the other hand, it does print color.
The entire front panel of the printer swings down to reveal the single black toner cartridge. Replacing it is simply a matter of pulling out the used cartridge by its handle and inserting a new one. The toner save button on the control panel allows you to reduce the amount of toner used on each page, saving you money; obviously, less toner also means lower print quality. The standard toner cartridge prints about 4,000 pages, while the high-yield cartridge prints twice that. Samsung estimates that it costs a mere 1.5 cents to print a page of black text. Using the toner-save feature, the per-page cost drops to an impressively low 1.07 cents per page. The Samsung ML-3051N fell short of Samsung's claim of 30 pages per minute (ppm), but its speed still impressed us. It printed black text at a rate of 19.22ppm and grayscale graphics at 18.16ppm, outpacing the more expensive Oki C3400n and about equal with the more expensive Lexmark C500n.