The ML-2152W is compact and cleanly designed, as lasers go. Its off-white plastic shell measures 15 by 17 by 12 inches (W, D, H). The printer is lighter than usual at 32 pounds, and deep indents in the sides near the bottom make lifting it easier. The power switch, recessed on the right side near the front, is protected from accidental bumps. The control panel sits on top by the output tray.
The ML-2152W has parallel and USB 2.0 ports and a 10/100 Ethernet port. The 802.11b (Wi-Fi) antenna sticks up from the back like a kitten's tail, but it looks somewhat fragile and exposed.
The toner cartridge/imaging drum unit drops vertically down into a wide slot, and it has a handle for lifting. Samsung deserves praise for this idiot-proof design, as well as for the simple USB installation: we just plugged in the cable, turned on the printer, and popped in the driver CD when Windows asked for it. To install Ethernet or Wi-Fi, of course, you'll have to consult the brief, clearly written, printed manuals for Samsung's PortThru and AirPortThru network interface cards and SyncThru network management utilities.
The ML-2152W is equipped well for small offices. An internal duplexer (for two-sided printing) comes standard. The main paper tray in the printer's base holds 500 sheets. A sturdy 100-sheet auxiliary tray (for letterhead, envelopes, and such) pops open in the front. The ML-2152W lacks a wide array of paper-handling add-ons, such as an automatic document feeder or stacking trays; all you can add is a 500-sheet, external paper tray ($149). A rear-exit, straight path handles stiffer media; it also has a sturdy output tray--rare even on pricier printers. This rear door exposes most of the paper path for clearing jams.
The control panel looks confusing at first; the buttons lack the typical hierarchical structure. Fortunately, the LCD provides prompts that walk you safely through the menus.
The ML-2152W has drivers for all versions of Windows back to 95, Mac OS since 8.6, seven flavors of Linux, and several common Unix versions as well. The Windows XP driver that we tested provided controls for useful features such as the duplexer, along with various page formats such as posters and booklets. You can also create watermarks and import background images, such as form templates, to print behind your data.
We compared the 21-page-per-minute (ppm) ML-2152W's performance to that of recent business lasers we've tested, whose engine speeds range from 25ppm to 35ppm. The ML-2152W performed capably, posting nearly the same speed when printing both text (14.9ppm) and graphics (14.5ppm). Although the other printers in this group printed text faster, they were all slower at printing graphics. Busy workgroups will still gravitate toward the faster Xerox Phaser 4400N or the Dell M5200n, at 19ppm and 19.3ppm, respectively. Both printers offer more options but also cost more.
The ML-2152W wowed longtime CNET editors with its clean, deep-black, extrasharp letter forms. Even 2-point type looked impeccable. Grayscale printing was more of a challenge, but this printer proved itself by rendering subtle differences between shades of gray and producing clear detail, though the overall look was still a little scratchy or dotty.
The integrated toner cartridge/imaging drum costs $149 and is specified to yield 8,000 pages, which comes out to less than 2 cents per page. That's a very modest hit on consumables; unfortunately, the printer ships with a 4,000-page starter cartridge, so if your printer sees any traffic, you'll have to buy a replacement cartridge soon after deployment.
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(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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Samsung's service and support is insufficient for most businesses, sadly. The warranty lasts just one year--there are no extensions nor is there onsite service, and return shipping for repairs is on your dime. Toll-free tech support lasts the warranty period and is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.
The printed and CD-based documentation are commendably thorough. Samsung's Web site offers no support information on the ML-2152W, and what we found on other models was limited compared to that found on HP's, Xerox's, and other vendors' sites. Samsung should also revisit the site's roughly translated text and confusing navigation.