Samsung employs a number of people who are exceptionally clever with rulers, pencils, CAD and the tensile strengths of plastics and metals to produce some very nice looking electronic equipment, from televisions to mobile phones and a whole lot more besides.
And then there's the CLP-310.
It's a colour laser printer that looks exactly like you'd imagine the early mockups for anyone's colour laser printer might look like, only a bit smaller. This might seem like idle complaining, but then Samsung is the company that gave us the very attractive ML-1630 Laser Printer. Presumably those design folks have moved on, and what we get is grey and ultimately very dull.
It might seem like an odd feature to kick things off with, but Samsung lists the small size of the CLP-310 as a selling point, and who are we to argue?
At 388 x 313 x 243mm it's certainly on the small side for a colour laser, although the claim that it's small enough to fit "comfortably on a corner of your home office desk or bookcase" is perhaps a touch optimistic. Unless you've got quite big bookshelves, presumably.
If there's a feature that most people associate with laser printers, it's speed. It's curious, then, that Samsung only rates the CLP-310 at a relatively sedate 16ppm for black prints and 4pmm for colour. It's quite possibly a lot more honest than many vendors — especially inkjet vendors, who seem to rate the ppm count at around the rate the printer can spit out blank paper — but it's also not a vote of confidence in what's meant to be one of laser's key selling points.
The CLP-310 connects via USB 2.0 only — there's no network port built in, although a tab of plastic on the back points to the potential for this particular chassis to accomodate one — and is a printer only. Those after a multifunction device will have to look elsewhere.
Somebody needs to sell Samsung a vowel, quickly. In an effort to appeal to consumers, Samsung touts the CLP-310's low operating volume under the frankly nauseating marketing-speak term of NO NOIS print engine technology. Unless, of course, the printer has no nose, and it's a simple typo. All we could spot was a rather pretzel-like "ColorXpression" logo on the front.
The initial setup phase of the CLP-310 was suitably efficient and easy, right down to the simple installation of the toner cartridges. We were somewhat worried about the whole NO NOIS business when the CLP-310 first sprang to life, as it was quite noisy, at least at first. Once we'd made our way through installation, however, things were suitably quieter.
A sample text document printing in draft quality took around 22 seconds to spit out its initial page, but additional pages thereafter came out around every five seconds or so, giving it a real world speed rating of just over nine pages per minute. Print quality in draft was surprisingly good, but at these speeds, it would want to be.
Given the sedate monochrome speeds, we weren't expecting the colour pages to fly out of the CLP-310. Samsung rates the CLP-310 for four pages per minute in colour; we managed half that with a fairly heavy colour coverage page, and similar with photo-style printing — although we wouldn't strictly suggest that consumers use a laser printer like this for dedicated photo work.
On the noise front, the CLP-310 managed moderately well. It's still a long shot from being a truly silent printer, but it's equally a bit quieter than most competing lasers, and its bulky solid body means it absorbs its operating sound in a much more robust fashion than the creaky cases that most inkjet engines get placed into.
Is there kudos in owning "the world's smallest colour (sorry, "Color") laser printer"? Probably not in the long run; we suspect consumers are too savvy to just buy on a style feature alone, especially when very little effort seems to have been put into the design otherwise. The CLP-310 is a perfectly acceptable colour laser for the price, and as long as you can wait for prints to come out, they're perfectly acceptable too.