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.
The CLP-510's toner cartridges come in two sizes, and you'll have to buy them soon after setting up the printer, which ships with the smaller-size cartridge. The larger-size toner cartridge prices out affordably, especially for color: about 2 cents per page of black text and about 11 cents per page of color, including the belt and drum. To compare, the Okidata Oki C5200n runs 2.5 cents for black and 14.1 cents for color; the Konica Minolta 2430DL averages 2.2 cents black and 11.8 cents color; and the HP Color LaserJet 3550 costs 2.4 cents black and 12.2 cents color, according to vendor estimates.
|Color graphics||Color text||Grayscale graphics||Black text|
Black text quality proved to be our principal disappointment with the Samsung CLP-510N. Its text came out looking respectably black but noticeably fuzzy or spattery--nowhere as bad as an inkjet but still not as crisp as we expect from a color laser these days. With grayscale graphics, it captured subtle variations in shades surprisingly well and displayed good detail. Too much red permeated our color test photos, making blue look purple and pale pink skin look wind-burned, but a diligent user could probably correct that tone problem through the printer driver. In other ways, the color graphics looked mostly good, with clean details, despite jagged edges in shaded areas.
|Color graphics||Color text||Black graphics||Black text|
Fortunately, the 250-page PDF manual on CD is informative, because the printed documentation packed in the box is atrocious. You get a setup poster with sparse detail repeated in many languages, and a postcard-size accordion-fold document, designed to live inside a pouch attached to the printer, that provides a few confusing end-user instructions in tiny type.
Samsung's Web site offers a support section with manual and driver downloads, and a "Dr. Printer" page to debug your printer setup and update your drivers; it requires letting Samsung download and run an application on your PC, however. The Web site's FAQs page had no CLP-510-specific information when we searched it, and the Parts And Accessories button links to a third-party vendor that wasn't carrying parts for the CLP-510. Between e-mail to Samsung's tech support and e-mail to Samsung's public relations agency, we got two different stories on how to equip the printer with an extra paper tray. We hope Samsung will have ironed out those wrinkles before you read this.