Samsung makes some color laser printers (the CLP-510 and CLP-550, and their networking versions) that, at first glance, have a very attractive feature set for a low price, especially the claimed Linux support and a built-in duplexer. This was pretty appealing to us—we were looking at a new edition of our very basic recorder instruction book, and I've never had luck with the "print the even numbered pages, turn the output over, stick it back in the input hopper, and then print the odd numbered pages" method, which almost always gets you wrinkled output.
So... when a friend pointed us at a web site where the CLP-510N (networking, so we could easily share the printer!) was being sold for $400, we decided to buy it. (That's your cue to quote an old joke about the Lone Ranger and comment "What you mean 'we,' Paleface," dear.)
Then began our experiences with what we have come to call the "eighty-pound paperweight."
The Linux support is via a proprietary driver, which does not have feature parity with the Windows driver:
- the printer can do 1200 dpi; the Linux driver only supports 600 dpi
- Samsung's stupid Linux driver prints black by overprinting cyan, yellow, and magenta
- the driver installed under Fedora Core 4, but wouldn't print
- the driver comes with its own BS configuration tool, rather than working and playing well with CUPS
- like most low-cost printers, the driver is stupid and offloads much of the work onto your CPU
- Samsung apparently has no interest in updating the driver, providing a version to work on AMD64, or documenting their proprietary printer language so decent drivers can be written
But wait, there's more!
At the time we got the printer, it came with a single CD. I looked at it under Fedora Core 3 and Gentoo...and only saw the Windows and Macintosh drivers. The Samsung web site at the time didn't let you download the Linux driver. Purely by accident we found that Ubuntu would find the Linux driver. We guess that they were playing some kind of bizarro multisession CD games that for some reason didn't always work as they were thinking it would. Anyway... we burned a CD on the Ubuntu computer and managed to install.
Then we found that it was far finickier than the other laser printer we own (a HP LaserJet 5M/MP). It has to be told what kind of paper it's being fed. Card stock works... mostly... if you use the special side feed rather than the paper tray... and never try to print card stock double-sided.
In any case, we did get it to work, and it did a pretty good job on plain paper... until we ran out of cyan toner.
Then we discovered that the toner cartridges are "chipped," and function in a really stupid fashion that guarantees you'll waste toner. It keeps a count of the pages printed using the particular toner color, and refuses to print after the count hits the maximum the cartridge is rated for. It doesn't matter whether the page is .01% covered with cyan or 40%; that counts as one page... and remember, it's too stupid to print black as black.
So... we went to a nearby Cartridge World. It was the first Samsung CLP-510 toner cartridge they'd seen, but they did refill it and replace the chip. Yay! We printed three or four pages... and then we ran into the waste toner tank problem.
Most laser printers divert waste toner back into the cartridge. Makes sense, right? Not Samsung. They have a separate waste toner tank that they want you to replace (for $20+) when it gets full. Amazingly, it's not chipped...so we dumped the toner and vacuumed it, and put it back in. No luck.
Then we found this page. (If I were a tinfoil hat sort, I'd suspect Google, because I've yet to find a string of text from the page that I can use to find the page with Google!) It details the stupid design of the sensor that determines whether the waste toner tank is full, and the problems people have with it. (It also describes how the chips on the cartridges can be written to to reset the count when you refill the cartridge, providing a DOS/Win9x program to do it via the parallel port.)
We're now going through Samsung support to get the waste toner tank problem resolved. The friend who pointed me at the great deal on the printer? He had the problem too...and because there's no official Samsung printer repair people near Des Moines, they ended up sending him a (refurbished) replacement printer. I've emailed the tech I talked to (the suggestion to clean the place the sensor shines through didn't work), mentioned what was done for my friend, and said that if/when they do that for me, I'd be willing to pay the price difference and get a CLP-550N, which does PostScript and hence should just work... hopefully giving Linux full access to the printer's capabilities.
So... if you see a CLP-500, CLP-510, or CLP-550 for sale... pass it by.