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Because of its functional similarity, my >3 years old HP 4050N network laser printer was used as a reference for comparison. This HP is long discontinued, had a retail price about 3 times that of the Samsung, and has similar specifications. The biggest functional differences between the two printers are the HP's built-in network connectivity and the Samsung's duplex function.
The automatic duplex function is a very useful feature you may have noticed on the control panel photo. The ML-2150 prints on both sides of a paper sheet with absolutely no fuss or bother. One side is printed first, the sheet ejected to about half way, then pulled back through and printed on the other side before being ejected with the first page face down.
This feature was a real pleasure to use. I have never before had access to a duplex printer of this caliber in my home office. In fact, there are many full office network printers that I recall being more cumbersome to use for duplex printing.
Printing speed was affected by duplexing; it takes somewhat longer to print in duplex mode than in standard mode. In duplex mode, a 38-page mixed text and line drawings document was printed in about 3 and a half minutes, or almost 11 pages per minute, which is actually a bit better than the 10 ppm claimed for duplex mode. This is plenty fast when compared to the time you'd have to spend to get double-sided copies if you were using a non-duplex printer.
In normal print quality mode at 600 dpi, a 25 page document was printed to single sided sheets in 82 seconds. That's a bit over 18 pages per minute, slightly slower than the 21 maximum claimed but because the exact mode in which this speed is reached is not specified, it is possible that in another mode (such as toner save) the speed could reach 21 ppm.
The HP 4050N managed the same job at the same settings in 98 seconds or just over 15 ppm. (It is rated for 17 ppm.)
The quality of the output was judged to be excellent on both text and graphics. Comparisons were made against the output of the HP-4050N. We could nitpick on fine details because they are not identical, but it is safe to say that the overall quality of the Samsung's output is on par with that of the HP. Both are very good.
The printer was used on a steel office desk in the SPCR test room, a converted kitchen measuring 10' x 10' with an 8' ceiling and very lively acoustics. Environmental conditions during testing were 24 degrees C. temperature and 28~32 dBA background noise.
The noise measurements were made using a highly accurate calibrated B&K model 1613 sound level meter on temporary loan from the University of BC's acoustics lab.
This professional caliber SLM dates back to 1978, weighs over 10 pounds, and is completely analog in design. It has a dynamic range that spans over 140 dB. The microphone used has a 1" diaphragm that's very responsive to low sound levels and low frequencies. The unit's absolute sensitivity reaches below 0 dBA -- at one point in the midband (1kHz) I was seeing -4 dBA for background noise in the UBC anechoic chamber.
Upon turn-on, the Samsung ML-2150 goes through a self-diagnostic check and warm-up that takes about half a minute to complete. During this time, the maximum noise level measured 56 dBA at 1 meter. Overall, it was fairly loud.
In idle, a fan on the left side can be heard running. The exhaust vent of this fan is visible on the right side of the photo below (taken from behind the printer).
The fan turns out to be a 80mm Adda, rated at 24V and 0.1A. It appears to run at full speed whenever it is on. In other words, its speed is not varied in accordance with need or temperature. The fan does turn off in sleep mode. The idle time before sleep mode occurs can be adjusted manually in the printer driver software.
In idle with only this 80mm fan running, the noise was measured at ~36 dBA @ 1 meter. It is not high pitched noise, but more of a whirring, not too annoying in quality.
One wonders whether the Samsung's fan needs to be on all the time. The setup and layout invites inveterate fan tinkerers and noise fanatics (like me and many readers of SPCR!) to mod this printer for quieter operation. It does not seem an unduly difficult challenge, but please note that any such tinkering will void the 1-year warranty. A thermistor-controlled speed fan may be the safest bet. The tricky thing is to find one for 24VDC operation. Failing that, a voltage reduction device like a simple resistor would work.
The maximum noise level of the Samsung ML-2150 during printing was measured at about 56 dBA @ 1 meter. It averaged 52-54 dBA during most printing functions.
In contrast, the HP 4050N laser printer makes no noise at all when idle, its fan turns on and runs only when actually printing -- or for a couple of minutes after a big print job, presumably till the internals have cooled down. The maximum noise reached by the HP is also in the mid-50s dBA @ 1 meter.
The Samsung ML-2150 is a high quality laser printer that provides fast, efficient output and a host of useful features. The duplex printing function works flawlessly and the 1200 dpi laser engine provides a high level of sharpness and resolution. This printer and its accompanying software shows good user-friendly, ergonomic design.
From the point of view of noise, during printing, it was as expected -- noisy, like most machines, including the reference HP-4050N. The complete silence during sleep was also expected. The 36 dBA @ 1 meter noise of the whirring fan in idle was a bit annoying compared to the complete silence of the HP, whose fan comes only only during printing. In a normal office environment it is unlikely to be an issue. Still, silence fanatics can probably find a way to reduce the noise safely.
With its high 100,000 per month maximum recommended print output volume and options such as 10/100 or wireless networking, expandable memory, 136 PS fonts on a DIMM chip, and a second paper tray, the Samsung ML-2150 can easily play the role of the printing workhorse in a busy home office and small or not-so-small offices. If the idle noise level was lower, I would be sorely tempted to replace my HP with the ML-2150. (That auto-duplexing feature is so attractive!)
Our thanks to Samsung Canada for the review sample and for their kind support.
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