Currently, the SCX-4500 is being offered exclusively by the Apple Store through January 2008 (though the printer is compatible with both Windows PCs and Macs). You can go online or walk into a store, but don't bother looking for it elsewhere until the exclusive distribution agreement is up.
The Samsung SCX-4500 truly breaks the mold for printers in terms of design. The multifunction unit doesn't even look like a printer. The sleek, glossy black body consists of a rectangular scanning unit and control panel sitting atop a same-size printing unit. The whole device measures 13 inches wide, 15.5 inches deep, and just 6.5 inches tall, and weighs 19 pounds.
The control panel consists of several touch-sensitive buttons and blue LEDs on the top surface (next to the scanner lid). Although the buttons are touch-sensitive, they require a firm touch. The buttons include Start, Stop/Clear, Scan to PC, and three option buttons: Copies, Reduce/Enlarge, and Darkness. Pressing any of the latter three causes up and down arrows to appear and lights up a small display area that reads out the number of copies or shows how much you're reducing or enlarging a copy. Although the design is undeniably attractive, the lack of a graphical or text LCD means you can't check on toner levels or check on and perform other maintenance tasks. It also means you'll have to turn to your PC for advanced scanning tasks.
The paper input consists of a 100-page cassette that ejects from the bottom-front with the push of an actual button. The prints and copies issue forth from a gap between the scanner unit and the print unit. You'll need to attach the provided clear-plastic panel to the front of the printer to catch the prints as the output area is very short; the panel is necessary, but it mars the all-black aesthetic.
The SCX-4500 is mono only and uses a single toner cartridge. The entire scan head lifts up for easy access to the cartridge. The multifunction ships with a starter cartridge calibrated for approximately 1,000 prints. The replacement cartridge for this model is good for about 2,000 pages. The replacement cartridge for this model is good for about 2,000 pages and costs about $70 from the Apple Store, for a per-page cost of approximately 3.5 cents--a bit high for a mono laser.
The SCX-4500 offers the basic features we expect from a laser multifunction and none of the extras. It's not network-ready, so it's better suited for home or home office use. Samsung offers this design only as a mono laser printer so far, because adding color would require the printer to be much larger to accommodate three additional toner cartridges.
When copying, you can make as many as 99 copies at once and reduce or enlarge in 1 percent increments from 50 percent to 200 percent. You can't reduce or enlarge according to preset values (letter to legal, for example). You can also tweak the darkness of the output copies using the control panel. Features you won't find on this printer include the ability to make N-up, 2-on-1 or 4-on-1, or image repeat copies.
Because the SCX-4500 lacks an LCD, all scan tasks are referred to the PC. Pressing the Scan to PC button on the control panel will launch a scan that, by default, is saved as a bitmap file to a folder called Samsung within your PC's My Pictures folder. One nifty feature we noticed is the progress marker--a pretty blue light that courses alongside the scanner lid to let you know the progress of the scan. It's similar to seeing the actual scan light progress along the miniscule gap under the scan lid on other scanners, only prettier and with less potential blindness. If you want to do any other scan tasks, you'll have to launch the SmarThru 4 software that was installed when you installed the printer (from CD). SmarThru 4 lets you scan to PC, to e-mail, into an application, or using optical character recognition software. You can choose the file format (bitmap, JPEG, PDF, TIFF) and the destination of the resulting file.
As we said, the feature set of the SCX-4500 is on the basic side. We haven't reviewed any other $250-to-$350 mono laser multifunctions, so we can only make comparisons to slightly more expensive units, but $400 can get you a lot more, if aesthetics aren't your first priority. For example, the $400 Canon ImageClass MF4690 comes with an automatic document feeder, a manual feed tray, fax capability, a front-mounted USB port that you can print from and scan to, an Ethernet port for easy networking, and a built-in duplexer--far more than $100 worth of features. While the SCX-4500 is certainly alluring, you should know what you're not getting.
In CNET Labs' speed tests, the Samsung SCX-4500 was a bit slower than the competition--not surprising, considering it's about $100 cheaper (though see the previous paragraph to see the difference $100 makes). It printed black text at 13.05 pages per minute (ppm), about 1ppm slower than the Canon MF4690 and far slower than the Lexmark X342n and the Dell 1815dn. It was similarly slower with black graphics prints, producing them at a rate of 12.68ppm. For both color and grayscale scans, it was roughly at the middle of the pack: 4.80ppm for color and 6.20ppm with grayscale.
Out of curiosity, we also compared the SCX-4500 to its sibling, the Samsung SCX-4200. The SCX-4200 is much cheaper at $180, but interestingly enough, its task speeds were on par with those of the SCX-4500. We also compared it to a $300 office-oriented inkjet multifunction, the HP OfficeJet Pro L7680, because the $300 price point tends to be occupied mostly by inkjets. The SCX-4500 was the faster of the two, though the HP offers more features.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Grayscale scan||Color scan||Black graphics||Black text|
Thankfully, the Samsung SCX-4500 made up for slower speeds with better task quality. The black text prints were everything they should be: crisp, clean, and nicely dark. The grayscale graphics print was quite good, too. It had some minor cross-hatching that's fairly common to low-cost laser printers, but otherwise, photo elements were nicely detailed. The color scan was very good, as well, with excellent details and smooth color gradients. Our only major complaint is that the colors were a bit soft and washed out. The SCX-4500 had the most problems with grayscale scans. The image was overly dark, due to severe compression in the dark end of the grayscale. It also had problems handling some of the test patterns. Overall, the task quality was definitely good enough for general office tasks.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Grayscale scan||Color scan||Graphics||Text|
Service and support
Samsung backs the SCX-4500 multifunction printer with a standard one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available 24-7. Samsung's site also has downloadable software and drivers, manuals, and FAQs, though currently there are no FAQs specific to this model.