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The $349 KX-P7100 is easy to set up and install. In addition to the 22-pound printer, the box contains the power cord, the toner, the drum, a driver CD, and an illustrated Setup Guide. The printer works with Windows 95, 98, Me, XP, NT 4.0, and 2000, but it's not Mac compatible. It connects via USB or parallel port (cables not included), but if you want to network the printer, you'll need to buy a separate print server. The driver CD also contains an electronic user guide, which covers basic operation, troubleshooting, and maintenance in more depth.
The boxy KX-P7100 is much like a standard desktop laser except for a couple of notable exceptions. The media tray can hold 250 sheets of plain paper (letter, legal, executive, and A4), 30 envelopes, or 20 transparencies. For thicker media, such as labels, the printer offers a straight-through manual-feed slot. The KX-P7100's most significant feature is its integrated duplexing unit, which lets you print on both sides of the page; it's a rarity in this class of printer.
In addition to the usual settings for paper size and media type, the print driver also offers some extras. For example, you can save your company's letterhead or logo as an overlay file and have it automatically print on any document you choose. You can also reduce or enlarge documents from 25 to 400 percent of the original size, print up to four reduced pages on a single sheet, and save your current driver settings for later use with the Profiles tab.
In CNET Labs' speed and image-quality tests, the KX-P7100 was something of a letdown. Rated by the vendor at 15ppm (pages per minute), it delivered text at a rate of only 7.6ppm, measurably slower than the HP LaserJet 1200's 10.5ppm and far below the Lexmark E320's 12.1ppm. Text looked good overall, but letters lacked saturation and crispness. The KX-P7100 also produced text-and-graphics pages at a respectable 9.9ppm, but images looked faded and lacked detail and contrast.
When it comes to consumables, the KX-P7100 is fairly economical. According to Panasonic, a 4,000-page toner cartridge costs around $55, or about 1.4 cents per page. Like most low-cost lasers, the KX-P7100 also features a toner-save mode, which can save you money over the long run.
Panasonic's service and support policies are minimally adequate. The one-year exchange warranty is typical for the category but too short for our tastes. Free telephone support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET but only for the length of the warranty--and it's a toll call. And while the company's Web site offers updated drivers and FAQs, it lacks other useful resources such as manuals or a searchable knowledge base.
With its automatic duplexing, the KX-P7100 might have been a strong contender for use in home offices or on individual corporate desktops. However, its slow print speeds and merely fair graphics output make it less appealing than the competition.
|Laser printer speed|
Pages per minute; longer bars indicate better performance
|Laser printer quality|
The KX-P7100 delivered text at a rate considerably slower than that of competing models from Lexmark, Brother, and HP. The Panasonic was faster in graphics speed tests, but output quality suffered.