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I've had two PC printers for several years now. One, a monochrome laser which is our workhorse for basic printing, since this is far and away the cheapest way to print high quality text, and a colour printer (now an 'all-in-one') for when it simply 'has to be colour'. This way, the cheapest man for the job can be selected. Up till recently, I'd been soldiering on with an 8-year old Samsung laser printer connected by parallel lead to my main PC. That'll show you how old it is; when was the last time they sold printers without a USB connection? Just recently this stalwart has started giving me paper-feed problems which don't seem to be curable with a quick wipe of the rollers. Pity really, as I'd got quite a nice line in re-filling the toner via a funnel through a corked-up hole in the toner cartridge! Since the Samsung had served me so well, it seemed logical to at least give them first refusal on my buying something of theirs, and so that, in part is how I came to decide on the Samsung ML-1630W. The other side to the argument rests with that 'W' in its name. My other printer, an HP all-in-one is 'network-able'- OK, not by wi-fi, but network-able nonetheless. Having seen the delights of having to only leave the router switched on for every PC in the house (all 3 of them!) to be able to access the printer without any one of them needing to be the 'master' that shares printers, I was hooked. The W in the Samsung's name stands for Wireless - yes this one goes one stage further, and does away with cables (except for the mains, duhhhh!) completely. FIRST IMPRESSIONS Out of the box, it does indeed seem to be rather well endowed. Yes, they've even supplied a network cable although not a USB cable, two different power cords (UK and Europe), a cloth to clean it with, a quick-start guide for those who will only be making a one-off USB connection, a dauntingly thick but mercifully multilingual manual for those daring the tricky bits, like wireless networking and a CD-ROM, containing not only the set-up routines but a 100-page FULL manual. Like nearly everything made by Samsung these days, it sports a very high-gloss black case, the sobriety of which is only broken by blue operating LEDs and a clear acrylic output tray. Despite yelling 'dust magnet' at you, it does however look rather smart, and has an off-beat appearance, being low to the ground but with a rather larger footprint than its predecessor. According to the stickers which adorned it for all of two minutes before my frenzy of ripping and recycling started, it's "Wireless", yeah OK, "Silent (Max 45dBA)", whatever that is, and "Slim & Sleek", being only 4.8 inches high. By the way, the quick install guide is printed on the back of a large sheet of paper that looks like packaging so be careful not to throw it away as it's the only pictorial guide to adding the toner cartridge (until you have need to read the 'real McCoy' manual). SETTING UP - THE GOOD NEWS Connecting by USB to specific PC is easiest. Connect it all up, wait for your plug'n'pray routine to kick in and follow the prompts. Wireless networking is the hardest, so guess who went straight for the jugular even though wired-networking would have done? It later transpired that this wasn't such a bad idea after all. To say this printer can work totally independent of wires is being a trifle economical with the truth. Without the network cable attached both to the printer and the router, there's no way to install it for wireless use, since most people have some kind of password encryption on their wi-fi, (if they don't they're nuts), and the printer has no way to key in this information, so you do therefore need a spare Ethernet connection on your router, however briefly. So whichever kind of networking you embark upon, hard wired is the place you start. In my case, I needed to know what IP address had been allocated to my printer once cabled. This is done by running a rather grandiosely titled Network Configuration Report. If that sounds daunting, just hold down the printer's reset button until the blue LEDs indicate RNC, and let go. Out comes a report, which is probably the first word 'spoken' by the printer, well in advance of any test prints. This told me that my printer could be found at IP address 192.168.1.103 initially. Then you enter these details (e.g. 192.168.1.103) into any browser instead of a URL, and up comes a kind of web-page called "SyncThru TM Web Service" from within the bowels of the printer. It's from here that you confirm which wi-fi network you want to connect to and insert any WEP/WPA passwords needed to join in the fun. * (* This 'web-page' can later be used to show you machine usage, prompting you maybe to trigger off your next order of toner, and can even be set to e-mail you warning you of this fact!) At this point, you can at least in theory unplug the printer (just don't lose that damned lead - it's especially cross-wired so normal patch cables will not do). The rest of the set-up should involve running the CD-ROM and point it in the direction of searching for networked printer from the Samsung family. Apart from it creating merry hell with my firewall which obviously regards Samsung as being as safe as Osama Bin Laden, it all went well on all three PCs. Test prints were sent from each and they were fine. Well.....that's what's supposed to happen but as you'll see in my next section, all was not well, despite what appeared to be an easy install. SETTING UP - THE BAD NEWS Yes, all did NOT go well with the initial install. It SEEMED to work first time as a wireless printer attached to my home network, but then odd things started to happen, like every time my router allocated a different IP address, e.g. on re-boot, the printer could no longer be found by the Samsung printer utility without a full re-install, which is clearly not acceptable. I knew enough about routers/networking etc to realise I either had to find a way of making the IP address 'stick' so it could be detected by the initial install every time, or find another way of doing it. To be fair, the networking manual does give details of how to use a utility called SetIP, but really, I didn't want to go down this avenue of non-standardisation by fixing the IP address. After all, nearly ALL routers use a protocol called DHCP, which dynamically hands out IP addresses on every re-boot to any devices it can find. It was at this point that I chose to investigate the on-line manual on the CD-ROM, all 100 pages of it, and during a brief period of co-operation from the printer that I was even able to print it, and jolly nice it looks too! So! They lied! Well, by omission at least. There, on the page relating to networking were the fatefully significant words:- "If your IP assignment is DHCP (probably about 95% of routers I'd guess!) and IP addresses can be changed whenever the machine is turned on, we recommend you use the BONJOUR Printer Setup Wizard program (INSTEAD - my brackets)". This is a free distribution from Apple and can be used as a set-up wizard for just about any networked printer and if it can't find drivers from within its own repertoire, then it prompts you to guide it to the location of said drivers, usually in a 'drivers' sub directory of the installation disc. Personally, I'd go for the 'Have disk' option as my first attempt letting Bonjour choose led to no test print being done. It was only when I got the exact drivers for this model installed that it worked. So in other words, "Don't use our software, it's only 5% likely to work for you - get something from Apple which does". Call me radical, but maybe they could enter into talks with Apple to include it on the CD, or how about this for a suggestion? Put that vital piece of information in your basic set up guide along the lines of a flow chart - something like a) DHCP? Use Apple Bonjour (link supplied) combined with drivers on our disk. b) Static IP? Use our set up disk for all your installation needs. It's little wonder that some owners, when reviewing the machine, have whinged about not being able to set it up. I nearly couldn't, and it was only a dive into the full-blown manual that pointed me in the right direction. PRINT QUALITY It's difficult to wax lyrical about something that just gets on and does its job. The first bits of paper to emerge did seem a bit wrinkled with the heat, but on second inspection, they flattened out again. Unlike many ink-jet printers, the black really is black, being made from a fine plastic dust that fuses under the application of heat, and you'd have to look at the type with a magnifier to see any graininess. Technically, the definition is 1200x600 dots per inch, with a print speed of 16 pages of A4 per minutes. However, it defaults to a lower 600x600 dpi which looks absolutely fine and 'fit for purpose', pompous letters to the bank etc.! A typical toner cartridge should be good for 2000 pages, but would cost up to £60, or 3p a page, to replace with an 'official' brand new one. Typically as for all printer makers, this one comes with a half-filled job, although the arithmetic still looks OK, since this means that £30 of the machine's initial cost is toner. Having printed all 100 pages of the manual, I'm showing 90% full. Even so, this is a damned sight cheaper than the black ink-jet variety, some of which don't even 'do' black, preferring to use a composite of the 3 colours they do have. Cheaper rebuilt cartridges can be had on e-bay for "firty-free smackers guv". Perhaps AFTER the warranty expires eh? NOTE: If you ever get toner on your clothes, either from a laser or a photocopier (basically the same stuff), for crying out loud don't wash it in HOT water - it'll set like concrete into the fibres of the garment. Cold water can be used to gently flush it away. It is stated as being suitable for 5,000 pages per month, but that would mean in an office and I can't help feeling that an office would use something a little 'beefier' and especially something that won't be on its third toner refill by the end of the month. ANYTHING ELSE The paper tray can only take about 100 sheets of paper, and whilst it is not designed to print double-sided and had no automatic mechanism for it (at these prices, are you crazy?), I have found that if for example you print 'odd' sheets first, leave the paper time to cool off, and maybe re-absorb a bit of room humidity, the 'even' pages can be printed shortly afterwards but experiment first to make sure you understand the orientation of what you're embarking on. It's OK saving paper, but not if you get 80 sheets with their reverses upside down or worse still, overprinted on the same side, it isn't! Having read a few reviews, both here and elsewhere, the curious phrase "Only use the common pages" kept cropping up. I can't help feeling that this is a 'Googled' translation of "only uses common paper sizes", as if this is some kind of criticism. It does in fact take A4, Letter, A5, B5 and EXEC, all at a portrait alignment, which is about three more than I was expecting, so I don't feel that "Only use the common pages" has devalued my life in any way. It certainly couldn't take anything bigger like A3 without increasing its footprint. Do I give a toss? "Only use the frequency of blue moon" is more like it in my case, which is why I only spent 120 quid on it! Incidentally, the installation software will only work on Windows XP or newer, and recent Mac OS systems. Linux users will have to find their own salvation, but then they're used to that! At least the disc carries drivers for major Linux 'distros'. I do have one minor caveat in regard to security. If you choose to use Ethernet (wired) networking (or indeed none at all via the USB connection) there's no way to turn off the wireless facility within the printer, since it can also be used to set up a peer-to-peer link for those that merely want a cordless printer 'connected' to one or more machines that aren't networked. This means that a wireless SSID (Service Set Identifier - station name to you) of "airportthru" is broadcast to all and sundry, and it's not encrypted either. However, what anyone could do with the link is limited to setting up a Samsung printer on their own PC and sending prints (which they'll never see) to your house, using your paper and toner as they go. Better to set the thing up as wi-fi networking, which takes "airportthru" off the air. How scary is that - poison pen letters sent to your printer? That would give CSI something to think about when it comes to identifying the source of the text. If you don't want a network-able version, its identical twin only costs about £60. P.S. I'd have given it all 5-star ratings if it wasn't for the hassle getting it to work.
Imagine the excitement and sense of pride that this sleek jewel of a printer will bring to your life. Banish unattractive technology and welcome a trendy laser that will sparkle on your desk and light up your printouts. With Samsung ML-1630W it's not that hard to imagine.