Colour laser printers have traditionally been huge, expensive items that are seldom found in the home. The CLP-300 is Samsung's attempt to bring these devices to the bedroom. It's touted as the smallest colour laser in the world, but equally important is its £179 price tag, which makes it affordable enough for most home users to contemplate owning.
The CLP-300 is approximately the same size as a standard mono laser printer, and half the size of a traditional colour laser. This is a fantastic achievement given the fact that its peers are about the same size as large outdoor dustbins -- and are just as ugly. The heavily stickered front end boasts a red dot design award winner badge, but let's not get excited -- barring its commendable size the CLP-300's looks are not much to write home about.
The top of the unit is disappointingly barren. There's a paper exit tray with a flap that lets you access common paper jams, and a single status light that glows green if everything's okay, or red if there's a problem. Next to this is an orange 'Stop' button to interrupt print jobs. On either side of the printer are two recessed sections that act as carry handles, while at the front you'll find the 150-sheet input tray, which slides all the way out of the printer for easy loading.
The overall design is functional, if nothing else. There's no fancy LCD screen, no memory card readers, nothing -- just a grey printer. In terms of fancy extras you really do get what you pay for.
The CLP-300's specs aren't very impressive on paper: it uses a 300MHz Samsung CPU and a rather scarce 32MB of memory -- an instant warning sign that it isn't designed for large print jobs with complex images. The printer also lacks compatibility with HP's almost de-facto PCL printer language, which has been adopted by just about every printer manufacturer for use in high-end printers. Unlike PCL, the proprietary SPL-C language used by this printer relies heavily on your computer's processing power to complete print jobs. As a result, the speed of the CLP-300 will depend on the speed of your computer.
The CLP-300 is aimed primarily at home users, so it isn't designed to handle large volumes of paper. The input tray can hold 150 sheets, while the output tray can handle 100 sheets -- you'll have to keep an eye on things when printing any more than 100 sheets or face a potential paper jam. Samsung says it can handle paper sizes ranging from 76x127mm to 216x356mm, which covers plain paper, envelopes, transparencies, labels and cardstock. Don't expect any duplex, (double-sided) printing though -- you'll need to flip pages over manually if you want print on both sides of your media.
Connectivity is achieved via a standard USB cable, which isn't included in the package. Expect to pay around £3 for one of these. We'd like to have seen a network connectivity option via a LAN port -- this would have allowed us to print from any number of network PCs without the host PC being switched on permanently -- but alas the CLP-300's budget status means there's no chance of this.
The CLP-300 has fairly low running costs, though not as low as some rival lasers. At the time of writing, a standard capacity (2,000 pages) black toner cartridge costs £40.92, while the three colour cartridges cost £32.58 each and last for 1,000 pages each at 5 per cent paper coverage. That's 2.1p per page for black prints and 3.2p per page for colour prints.
We weren't overly impressed with the CLP-300's print quality. Black text was fairly average -- text didn't look as deep and rich as that produced by the Dell CLP-3110, or even some high-end inkjets. What's more, the fonts reproduced on the CLP-300 didn't quite match those on the screen. The printer driver seemed to be re-rendering the fonts slightly differently. Despite this, it's important to note the final output will almost certainly be fine for the average user.
Colour output wasn't particularly strong either. Make no mistake, the CLP-300, like most lasers, is not meant for photo reproduction, so you'll see significant dithering as the printer struggles to reproduce the full spectrum of colours. Having said that, the CLP-300 will serve you well for adding the occasional splash of colour to PDF documents or your child's homework.
Print speeds are as Samsung advertises. The first page pops out after 14 seconds, and you'll get around 14 pages per minute for black and 4 pages per minute for colour documents.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield