The Samsung SCX-4720F looks like the definitive monochrome laser multifunction printer: a big cube of a machine topped with an automatic document feeder. But Samsung goes beyond the basics with this MFP.
For starters, its control panel comes with an LCD menu and a generous array of standard buttons (including up to 40 fax number storage buttons). You also get a scan-to button that lets you scan to e-mail, to a file, or to an application.
Samsung provides more copy functions to the front panel than other MFPs do. The unit has settings for adjusting the brightness (choose among light, normal, and dark) and specifying the number of copies. In addition, you can bolster image quality by choosing whether the original is a text document, a text-and-photo combination, or photo only. A "special copy" button lets you activate various copy options, including both-sides page printing, auto-fit, and poster.
Another nifty extra feature is a USB port for printing or scanning directly from a USB storage device (either a flash drive or a hard drive) without going through your PC. The MFP automatically detects any USB device attached to the port, or you can access the device by pressing the Direct Print button on the panel. Scrolling through the drive is easy with the menu navigational keys; documents are listed in a simple hierarchical format with their extensions included, so you can find supported file types.
The SCX-4720F turned in impressive performance on our tests. Text documents printed faster than average, at 16.3 pages per minute, and grayscale graphics printed fairly quickly, at 6.3 ppm. It was the fastest scanner we tested for our July 2005 roundup, scanning a color document in 18.3 seconds; its closest competitor, the Canon MF5750, scanned the same document in 24.3 seconds.
The SCX-4720F achieved high marks for print quality, too. Text looked clean and sharp, producing legible 2-point type with dark letters. And it handled a grayscale photograph better than most competing MFPs, showing smooth shading and good contrast. Noticeable banding appeared on narrow parallel lines, but the lines were clean and clearly separated. Printed scans looked a bit dull and dark, however.
The unit fared less well as a copier than as a printer and scanner. It recorded the slowest copy times among the monochrome MFPs in its cohort, copying a monochrome text page in 6.4 seconds (the average time was 5.3 seconds), and its copy quality was merely fair, due to light, jagged lettering.
The SCX-4720F comes with one 250-sheet main paper tray and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray. I didn't test the optional ethernet, which costs $180. With this option in place, the MFP appears on the network with its own IP address, and you can share it as a networked printer or scanner with multiple systems in a small workgroup. Scanning and image editing software called SmarThru comes bundled with the MFP, but the software doesn't automatically load when you install the drivers, so you have to load them separately. Otherwise, you must use the TWAIN scanner drivers in Windows XP.
The SCX-4720F will fit into a small or home office seeking a quick performer that offers high-quality prints and a few extra features.