Samsung's pitch for the ML-1630 is that they wanted to create -- and we're quoting here -- "a printer that did not look like a printer at all". This left us dizzy with anticipation -- would Samsung deliver a printer that in fact looked like a Christmas cake? A Mallard? Some kind of Chainsaw? The possibilities, seemed, to borrow another marketing catchphrase, to be endless.
What they've delivered indeed doesn't look like a printer. Well, not much. If you chopped the top half off of any recent AIO inkjet, and draped the whole lot in a Plasma TV's worth of piano black plastic, you'd have a very good image of what the ML-1630 actually looks like. It also faintly reminds us of some enterprise-level desktop PCs in slim cases, but in no way Christmas cakes, Mallards or Chainsaws. We'll just have to go back to the dreaming board on that one.
The top panel of the ML-1630 also acts as a touch panel for stopping print jobs and powering the unit on and off. To the side of that lies an LED status panel that powers down when the ML-1630 isn't engaged in any task. The rear of the printer houses the power socket, along with another power switch and a single USB data socket. There's no network port, so those looking for a network printer will either need to share the ML-1630 via a PC, or look elsewhere.
The remarkable thing about the ML-1630 is that it isn't an inkjet, but a monochrome laser, and they're typically both very functional looking (or, in other words, ugly) creatures, and large to boot. Samsung refers to the ML-1630 as the world's "slimmest" laser printer. There's an important caveat here, however. The ML-1630 is really only "slim" in one dimension. Measuring in at 332mm by 375 by 121.5mm, it's basically a dwarf printer; Samsung could just have easily described it as the world's "shortest" laser printer -- but of course that doesn't sound quite as good on the advertising copy. The real practical upshot of this is that unless you're planning to mount the ML-1630, server-rack style, the printer will still take up as much desk space as a regular laser printer. It'll just look prettier while it does so.
The ML-1630 is a monochrome-only laser printer. The model up from the ML-1630, the AU$399 SCX-4500, features a scanner, making it a true AIO, but the ML-1630 is just a plain old printer.
Given the price difference between the two is only AU$100, there's a certain case to be made for the SCX-4500 if the whole concept appeals to you in the first place.
Samsung rates the ML-1630 as capable of up to 16ppm for A4 output, with the first page being spat out at an estimated 15 seconds. That's reasonably nippy, but not the fastest we've ever seen coming from a laser unit. In our tests with a moderately complicated A4 document, we managed to get a document single print out in 20 seconds, with an average of 10ppm. Print quality was nicely crisp, although it did show another of the ML-1630's slight catches. There's not much in terms of an output tray -- paper simply spills onto a small catching mechanism -- and as such, you'll need to allow for even more space for paper flow when placing the ML-1630.
One factor we did appreciate was how relatively quiet the ML-1630 was. Samsung rates it as less than 45dBA. While we lacked precise equipment to measure this, it was appreciably quieter than a nearby full office laser printer, not to mention the Kodak EasyShare 5300 multifunction inkjet.
We can see an obvious home for the ML-1630 within publicly accessible offices where the appearance of the office is an important factor -- fashion design houses, some PR firms and even some nightclubs, for example. With an asking price of AU$299 it's not exactly a cheap monochrome laser, however; there are plenty of sub-AU$200 monochrome units that don't look anywhere near as spiffy, but deliver quality and performance on par with the ML-1630.