Oki’s colour laser MFP fast, but falls short

The OKI MC360 colour laser multifunction printer (MFP) arrives in the low-cost end of the category ($549 as of Jan. 8, 2010), offering better-than-average speed, especially compared with the lower-priced Brother MFC-9320CW. It also has some nice features. Unfortunately, Oki’s careless documentation and over-styled design make the machine harder to use than it should be.The MC360 performed quickly–but not well–in our tests. Plain text exited at an above-average rate of 12.6 pages per minute (ppm), graphics at 4.5 ppm. It printed grayscale and line-art samples surprisingly quickly compared with the competition, from 3.5 ppm to 4.9 ppm, respectively. Unfortunately, colour and grayscale images tended to be oversaturated and sometimes grainy. Scan quality was disappointing: both printed and onscreen scans looked murky; line art was rough.

Paper handling includes a 250-sheet input tray and manual feed slot, plus a 150-sheet output tray that’s refreshingly easy to reach beneath the scanner unit. The scanner has a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF). Unfortunately, Oki made the MC360 confusing. The installation process is plagued by holes and oversights in the documentation. Most notably, the installation instructions give the included CDs different names from those on their labels, so you don’t know which one to use. The control panel has icon rather than word labels for the buttons. For manual duplexing, you either have to follow curt instructions on the front LCD or click a “Duplex Help” button in the driver to summon help; it would be nicer if they popped up automatically when you choose duplexing.

Oki’s toner is no bargain, at least based upon the list pricing provided by the vendor. The machine ships with its standard-size supplies: a 1500-page black cartridge costs $54 to replace, or a pricey 3.6 cents per page. The 1,000-page colour cartridges each cost $63 or 6.3 cents per page. A four-colour page would cost 22.5 cents. The high-yield supplies offer little relief: The 2500-page black cartridge costs $77 or 3.1 cents per page, while each colour costs $110 for 2,300 pages, or 4.8 cents per page. A four-colour, high-yield page would cost 17.5 cents. Shop around: A quick online check showed that Office Depot actually charged a dollar or more above Oki’s list price for the standard-yield cartridges and just a few dollars less for the high-yield versions. Other vendors had lower prices.

A small office on a budget might be able to overlook the MC360’s foibles, simply because it’s a low-cost colour laser MFP with impressive speed. It will handle mainstream chores well enough. If you care about design or colour quality, however, you will find the MC360 disappointing in some ways.

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