The printer industry is driven almost entirely by substance, not style. Some designs have tried to associate themselves with famous fashion designers, but no matter how hard manufacturers try, printers almost always end up looking like dustbins. If you're lucky, they'll look like bread bins. Either way, they're not the sort of thing you want to show off.
The Samsung ML-1630 is the first real attempt to make printers look sexy -- and how! It's boxy, sure, but the sleek piano-black finish and gorgeous blue lights make it by far the most attractive printer ever conceived. It's available from £139.
The ML-1630's most obvious strength is that it looks ten times better than any printer that's come before it. The glossy black finish can more typically be found on laptops and televisions, so to see it on a printer is a breath of fresh air. We also have to give Samsung props for using blue LEDs, plus an OLED status screen that's only visible when the printer wants to tell you something.
The ML-1630 has a split-level design. The bottom section houses the main mechanics, while the top acts as a lid and houses the control panel -- if you can call it that. The only buttons are the power button and a function button that you tap to cancel print jobs. Both are touch- sensitive.
A touch-sensitive paper tray eject button would have been nice, but we'll make do with the semi-automatic eject mechanism. This ejects the paper tray when you push a button at the front, making it extremely easy to load. The tray accepts various paper sizes up to A4, and has manually-adjustable guides that grip the media snugly before it's fed through the printing mechanism.
Print speed was as advertised: 17 pages per minute for A4 and 18ppm for 'Letter'. The time taken to print the first page was 15 seconds from sleep, which isn't bad, and the overall print quality was very good. Text was crisp, even as small as 3pt, and it coped well with PDF graphics.
Happily, ML-1630 is virtually silent when not in use and only emits up to 45db of noise while printing. It comes with a 1,000-sheet starter toner cartridge so you can print straight out of the box. Standard cartridges can print up to 2,000 sheets.
The ML-1630 is such a basic printer, there's plenty one could moan about. Firstly, the paper capacity isn't particularly high. The input tray supports just 100 sheets and the output tray accepts only 30. Put simply: you can't venture too far from the printer if you're doing large print jobs.
Our next complaint is that the ML-1630 is mono only. Samsung says it's not currently possible to include a colour facility without increasing the size of the machine. This is fair enough, but it's still a disappointment, seeing as relatively petite colour lasers like the Samsung CLP-300 are available for little more than £100.
Paper jams are something you'll have to put up with when using any printer, but to us, they seemed slightly more prevalent when using the ML-1630. We're not sure why this was, but it's something readers should be aware of. The upside is that these jams are very easy to fix. One thing worth noting is that the printer doesn't accept certain media types, including envelopes or postcards.
The ML-1630 uses a 150MHz CPU and 8MB of RAM, which is considerably lower than the 400MHz and 32MB components used by its compatriots in the same price range. It's also not possible to upgrade with more memory.
More bizarrely, it lacks support for wireless connectivity -- your only option is USB (cable not included). This is a shame, since Wi-Fi connectivity would have allowed users to install the printer just about anywhere -- particularly in places that really show off the design.
Although it's very basic, we can't help but like the ML-1630. It's more expensive than some mono-only printers, lacks Wi-Fi and it's not all that fast, but it does just enough to merit its price. Samsung really has to be commended for making it look so gorgeous.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday