At a Glance
Compact model yielded excellent prints, but its pace was slow and its setup docs were unhelpful.
If you're trying to equip a small office on a budget, Samsung's ML-2251N offers a tempting combination of low price, good print quality, and standard ethernet. But prepare for a rocky start due to inadequate documentation.
Dismayingly, the installation routine failed to recognize (and barely documented) the ML-2251's standard ethernet connection. After troubleshooting in vain, I finally resorted to the sole alternative, which was to continue installing without specifying a connection; luckily, that approach worked. Samsung acknowledges that the documentation applies to a broad product line and largely omits coverage of this model's standard ethernet interface. That's one big corner the company shouldn't have cut.
Other aspects of the documentation and drivers were similarly disappointing. The brevity of the setup poster's multilingual instructions bordered on obscurity, and some illustrations were unclear. The CD-based manual, however, was thorough and detailed.
The ML-2251N's compact size (just 14.1 inches wide by 17.8 inches deep by 10.9 inches high) may fit well into cramped office spaces, but it offers little room for expansion to keep up with a growing business. A 250-sheet letter/legal tray comes standard, and an identical second tray is optional. The toner cartridge's 5000-page capacity and the printer's 30,000-page monthly duty cycle restrict the ML-2251N to moderate levels of use. A duplexer is neither standard nor optional.
The design had a few problems, as well. The control panel's single button, marked 'Cancel', can perform six functions beyond the obvious one--including printing a configuration sheet and selecting manual feed--but without consulting the user's guide, you'll never figure out (or remember) the intricate press/hold combinations required for each. Another beef: The printer's front cover and the multipurpose tray's cover open from the same place, and it's impossible to tell from the outside which is which.
In our PC World Test Center evaluations, the ML-2251N turned in merely adequate speeds but produced prints of surprisingly pleasing quality. Plain-text documents printed at 17.1 ppm--a slower rate than most other workgroup printers we've tested achieved, but pretty close to the Samsung's maximum spec of 22 ppm. (Its tested speed is average for a nonnetworked, small-office printer.) Text output looked better than most we've seen lately, even from pricier workgroup printers: It remained crisp all the way down to the smallest font sizes, and even italic and cursive fonts looked clean. Line art and photos exited at decent rates of 9.6 ppm and 4.7 ppm, respectively. Graphics output quality was merely fair: Printouts looked washed-out and grainy, with limited grayscale range and some banding. But you can have fun with the poster feature, which lets you print at sizes up to four sheets wide by four tall.
The compact Samsung ML-2251N prints near-flawless text, but network installation is difficult, and the unit's leisurely printing speed means you'll get printouts on the Samsung's schedule--not yours.