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Samsung CLP-500 review: Samsung CLP-500

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The Good Inexpensive; includes duplexer and Ethernet interface; fast text printing.

The Bad Mediocre text quality; control panel and design are confusing.

The Bottom Line Despite its less-than-perfect text quality, we consider this to be one of the best all-around deals for an affordable color laser.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

Samsung CLP-510N

The affordable Samsung CLP-510N prints text quickly and handles graphics fast enough for ordinary office work. Yet while it produces good color prints, its text is less sharp than we'd hope. The network-ready N model tested by CNET Labs costs only $500 and includes Samsung's mature network-printer-management software--a steal compared to printers such as the $800 Okidata Oki C5200n and the $550 Brother HL-2700CN. Plus, Samsung includes a duplexer for double-sided printing--an extra cost on most color machines. You can also pay to equip the CLP-510 with extra paper capacity and a wireless interface. Overall, this printer makes a fine match for small workgroups where good-enough, not excellent, output quality will suffice. An individual seeking a personal color laser can't do better than this, whether deploying it in a home office or at work. The Samsung CLP-510N owes its tower shape to its vertical print engine, an increasingly common design also found in the HP Color LaserJet 3550. It shares the rounded, two-toned gray-and-silver, strictly business looks of its predecessor, the Samsung CLP-500. The CLP-510N sits in a box 20 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and 16 inches high. This printer weighs 70 pounds with consumables and offers two handgrips along the bottom edge so that one person with strong biceps can move it. The main, bottom 250-sheet paper tray feels sturdy, as does the 100-sheet auxiliary feed that opens on the right side--a welcome surprise in this low-cost machine. Completed print jobs drop into a slot on the printer's top face.

We found the CLP-510N's control panel puzzling, and we think it may baffle some users. The two-line, unlit text LCD is hard to read in a room without bright lighting, much like the displays of the Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL and the HP 3550. Worse, though, the buttons for navigating the menus don't seem hierarchical, because the menus appear on the LCD as one long strip of items. We got frustrated after repeatedly configuring settings such as the sleep time, only to find that they had reverted to defaults because we hadn't figured out how to lock in our changes. And we had trouble simply drilling down to some menu items, such as the IP address setting. You can print a menu map, but it doesn't show all the layers or explain how to move through the hierarchy.

The toner cartridges are easy to change, thankfully, as they slide smoothly into the printer's left side. But we found the CLP-510N's mechanical design confusing at times. For example, to open the top of the machine and clear paper jams or expose the drum and the transfer belt, you have to first open the left side of the printer. The belt and drum have green handles to signal that you can pull them, but the latches that hold those components in place are green and purple, which is odd.

For a small, simple color laser printer, the Samsung CLP-510N provides respectable paper handling. Both CLP-510 models include a duplexer for double-sided printing, making it easy to print booklets and save paper. If you must have a duplexer, consider that the CLP-510 comes with one for an already-low price, whereas duplexers on competing color laser printers can sometimes double the printer's price: $320 for the Okidata Oki C5200n, $400 for the Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL, and a whopping $1,000 for the Brother HL-2700CN. A 500-sheet optional paper tray costs $300, which is low compared to the $450 demanded by Okidata and the $550 by Brother.

The Samsung CLP-510N's driver offers useful capabilities. To start, it can reduce and print several pages on one sheet to create booklets or blow up one page onto several sheets to make a poster. You can pick separate paper sources for the first page and subsequent pages to create reports with distinct covers. You can also control brightness, saturation, contrast, and color tones individually; another driver window lets you tweak contrast and brightness separately for light and dark tones. However, the watermark feature can put the watermark only dead center on the page and in only a few basic colors.

Installing the CLP-510N was a simple matter of connecting the printer's USB cable to our Windows XP machine, canceling the Add Printer wizard, and popping in the driver CD. Equipping the CLP-510 with 802.11 wireless support takes some planning. The model CNET tested, the CLP-510N, includes an Ethernet NIC, but for Wi-Fi, you'll have to buy the nonnetworked CLP-510, then add a $250 combination Ethernet and Wi-Fi networking card. You can't retrofit the 510N with Wi-Fi or get Wi-Fi without Ethernet. Both models include 64MB of memory and one empty slot to expand up to 192MB, but Samsung charges a steep $500 for the maximum RAM; you'd do better to add your own 100-pin standard DIMM from another supplier.

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