If your printing needs are documents with black text and greyscale images, then a mono laser printer would be more suitable than a colour inkjet printer because of its advantages. Laser printers print crisper text and deliver better print economy, than an average inkjet printer.
Mono laser printers and multi-function devices (MFD) have become affordable over the years. The average price of a mono laser printer is around Rs.5,000 and a multi-function device costs around Rs.9,000. They cost twice as much as their inkjet counterparts, but that’s justified considering the print quality, economy and printing speeds they offer. Also, laser printers aren’t as bulky as they used to be. With improved designs, they are now almost as compact as inkjet printers. One such device is the Panasonic KX-MB1520, which incorporates a scanner and Fax. It belongs to the KX-MB1500 series of MFDs, which has three variants. The KX-MB1500 doesn’t feature fax and the KX-MB1530 offers an automatic document feeder (ADF) for the scanner for unattended paper feeding, be it for scanning, copying or fax.
With an integrated flatbed scanner, the KX-MB1520 doubles as a photocopier. The most striking feature of this printer is its design. Its footprint is almost the same as an inkjet printer thanks to the paper tray that resides within the printer, as opposed to protruding out like in many other models. Also, despite an integrated scanner, the height isn’t too much. This allows this printer to easily fit into tight spaces. According to Panasonic, the new compact design is 40 percent smaller than their conventional model.
The paper tray can hold paper sizes only up to A4
The printer uses a toner cartridge with a built-in drum and it costs Rs.4,100. However, with a rated yield of 2,500 pages, the print economy translates to Rs.1.64 per print. The print resolution is 600x600 dpi, which is the standard resolution of an entry-level mono-laser printer. The paper tray can hold 150 sheets, plus there’s a manual feed, which can take one sheet at a time, in case you wish to use different quality of paper or a letterhead.
The optical resolution of the scanner is 600x1200 dpi, whereas, the interpolated resolution is 19200x19200 dpi. The scanning and copying modes have very useful functions, thanks to the printer’s firmware and the Multi-Function Station software that comes bundled. The scanner has four mode (both in the software and the printer’s firmware) – Viewer, File, E-mail, OCR and Custom. You can set the resolution, page size, brightness, contrast, colour mode (colour or greyscale) and file type (JPG, PDF, TIFF and BMP) for each mode. After scanning using a mode, the scanned image is saved to the specified location or automatically opened in an OCR program installed on your PC or attached to a new email message. The scan resolution can be set between 100 to 600 dpi in the software.
The cartridge yields 2,500 pages
The copier mode allows you to set the contrast, copy size (A4, Letter and B5), reduction (up to 25 percent), zoom (up to 400 percent) and page layout. The page layout option is the most useful – you can choose to magnify a page across 2 or 4 pages, combine up to 8 pages in a single copy, copy the front and back of an ID / visiting card on a single sheet without having to re-insert pages. This greatly eases the copying process and saves time and paper.
The fax function allows sending and receiving faxes using the built-in 33.6 Kbps modem. The printer has 3.5 MB of memory to store 100 contacts and around 150 pages of fax should you run out of paper. There’s no handset, but you do have the speakerphone function to make phone calls.
The only connectivity that the printer offers is USB 2.0 interface. Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity would have been very useful for a shared environment.
Design and build quality
The entire shell of the printer has a matte finish, except for the control panel, which is glossy. If you’re meticulous about cleanliness, you’ll need to keep a piece of cloth near the printer because the control panel will get blemished with fingerprint each time someone uses it. However, we liked the design and layout of the control panel. It is very convenient to access because it is angled. Also, the buttons are large, labeled and have a good tactile feel.
Affordable printing solution from Panasonic
The paper tray accepts paper sizes only up to A4 size. So if you wish to use Legal paper, you have no choice, but to use the manual feed, which takes one sheet at a time. A good thing about the paper tray is that when it has run out of sheets, it automatically gets pushed out notifying the user to reload.
The overall build quality of the KX-MB1520 is good, except that the quality of the paper tray could have been better. It feels a bit flimsy. The scanner lid and hinges are also sturdy.
In order to verify the manufacturers claim that this printer can churn out 18 pages in a minute, we noted how many copies of a 5 percent document it could print in a minute. We printed using Normal mode and it printed exactly 18 copies. No matter what the volume of text is in a document or whether it includes graphics, you’ll get 18 ppm. The copying speed, too is 18 ppm, except that the first document takes 17 seconds because the scanner has to first scan the document.
Printer, scanner, copier and fax, all in a compact form
The overall print quality isn’t exceptional, because we’ve seen models by other brands perform better. The quality of the printed text is very good, but we weren’t too satisfied with the print quality of gradients. The transition from black to white wasn’t smooth in some cases. It goes unnoticed when you print small graphics, but it’s slightly perceivable in certain cases where too many gradients are used.
The Panasonic KX-MB1520 is good option for homes and small offices if the fax function is necessary. A price tag of Rs.10,900 for this mono-laser MFD is justified for the feature set and the kind of performance it offers. However, it would have been a greater bang for the buck, if it had an Ethernet port and provision for legal size documents in the paper tray.
If you’re open towards considering a colour inkjet MFD, then we strongly recommend the Brother MFC-J625DW which offers fax, Wi-Fi for wireless printing, memory card reader, PictBridge, ADF, automatic duplexer, and an intuitive touchscreen interface. It costs Rs.10,390 and we feel it’s better value for money.