Oki MC361

The Oki MC361 color multifunction printer uses laserlike LED technology to produce impeccably sharp (though somewhat shiny) text. It prints at a good clip, too, and it offers full-featured paper handling. That’s a lot of positives for its low $549 price (as of July 12, 2011). Where it falls short is in graphics quality and ease of installation.

Okidata needs to spend a few weeks in user-friendliness boot camp. The company provides a nice bundle of software and utilities, including PaperPort 11 and OmniPage 16 SE, but you must install them and several other utilities separately. Cue the IT groans. And trust us, you’ll need an IT type to get the network scanning to work properly, as it’s a convoluted process involving a configuration tool.

Installation on the Mac is the same deal, with an added difficulty: Only the TWAIN scan driver is on the install disc. As a result, you can scan from within the likes of Photoshop, but the MC361 doesn’t show up under Printers & Faxes; for that, you’ll need to download the Image Capture driver from the company’s website. On the brighter side, network-oriented features such as secure printing are top-notch.

Other aspects of the MC361 are more pleasing. The control panel is well thought out, and the 3.5-inch monochrome LCD, while minimal, gets the job done. Paper handling is all that a small workgroup should need, consisting of a 250-sheet input tray, a 100-sheet multipurpose feed, and a 50-sheet feeder for the ADF. The output tray, located underneath the letter/A4-size scanner bed, will hold approximately 100 sheets. The MC361 automatically prints, copies, and scans in duplex (two-sided), a big plus for paper-conscious offices. The telescoping scanner lid has a full inch of travel and could go higher, but a cable on the left side holds it back.

The MC361 produces sharp-looking text, whether printed, copied, or scanned. Beyond that, however, quality can be disappointing. Our photo prints suffered from background graininess and oversaturated colors. Our color scans seemed overly dark, and our monochrome scans (other than text) looked rough. All printed output has a slightly glossy sheen, which you should check out before you buy.

Whatever the form of output, you won’t have to wait long for it with the MC361: In our tests, text pages averaged swift rates of around 15.2 pages per minute on the PC and 13.8 ppm on the Mac. On the PC, snapshot-size photos printed at 3 ppm at default settings on plain paper, and 2.2 ppm at better settings on glossy paper. On the Mac, a full-page photo printed at a middling 1 ppm, while a four-page PDF with a mix of text and graphics printed at a below-average speed of 4.1 ppm. Copy and scan speeds were fast.

The cost per page, judging from Oki Printing Solutions’ estimated pricing, is mediocre at best. The $98, 3500-page black toner cartridge works out to about 2.7 cents per page, while each of the three colors costs $146 and lasts for 3000 pages. That comes out to about 4.9 cents per page, per color, making for a rather pricey four-color page costing 17.4 cents. We found some pretty hefty discounts online, though, so shop around.

The Oki MC361 is inexpensive to operate–with discounted supplies. Combine that with its speed, excellent text, and tolerable graphics, and you have a very affordable workgroup printer. Network scanning setup is not for the technically faint of heart, however. If you need more speed, check out the faster but otherwise nearly identical Oki MC561

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