Samsung CLP-300

I just bought a colour laser printer from Samsung. The CLP-300.

Why the CLP-300?

Most of my prints are text documents. From scientific papers to music tablatures and, off course, "how to" articles. I rarely print photos... and I definitely didn't want to buy a relatively good photo printer for a reasonable price and then spend the value of the printer per month in ink cartridges. I might be exaggerating a bit here but you get the idea. Laser printers are usually cheaper per print and therefore a cheap monochromatic laser printer seemed to be a good choice for me. I only had one more problem to solve. I live with my girlfriend and she would be using the printer too. The problem is she loves colours. My plan is ruined... or is it?

I started looking for colour laser printers but most of them were very expensive. Much more than the monochromatic models. Enter the CLP-300. It's a small sized (at least for a laser printer), it's low priced and it's relatively quiet. It really looked a good option for home printing.

Another thing that bothered me was if it would work with Linux? I read some people saying yes, and some saying no. The printer comes with proprietary Samsung drivers for Windows XP, Vista, Mac OS X and Linux so I decided to take my chances. It's not very common to see Linux drivers directly from the manufacturer. I bought it for €199 from Staples in Portugal (plus a few more € for an USB cable to connect the printer to the computer... for an almost €200 purchase, why on earth there's no USB cable in the box?).

Setting up the printer

At home I have one desktop running mostly Ubuntu Linux and occasionally Windows XP. I also got one laptop running Windows XP and a MacBook running Mac OS X and Ubuntu Linux. They are all connected on a WiFi network. This screams "printer sharing"! The desktop as server and the laptops as clients. First, let's see how to configure the server. The print server will be set up in Linux but I also tried installing the printer under Windows XP with the Samsung drivers just to see how it would behave.

Windows XP

Installing the printer in Windows XP SP2 was really easy as expected. I connected the printer, turn it on and Windows XP automatically detected it and ran the driver installation program from the included CD. After a few minutes, I was printing text and pictures in colour and black and white.

Ubuntu Linux

Let's make it clear I'm using Ubuntu Linux 7.10 fully updated as of January 29th 2008. I never installed any printer here so I never added any additional printing software or drivers besides the ones that come pre-installed.

All that said, installing the printer under Ubuntu Linux was even easier than on Windows XP. I connected and turned on the printer and it was automatically detected and added as a new printer. For driver, Ubuntu automatically used the open source drivers already installed (I can change them though if I want later but I probably wont). In a few seconds, the printer was ready. One point for Ubuntu Linux for being faster and easier.

Mac OS X

I haven't tried this at this time because my only Mac OS X box is a MacBook and I definitely don't want to have to connect the printer to a laptop to print. I rather share it over my wlan... which I already did (see below). I did install the driver for Samsung to be able to use the Smasung's driver for Mac OS X whenever used the printer from the MacBook.

Setting up print sharing

There were two ways I could do this: use the driver available at the server or allowing each client to use a different driver. I tried both but stayed with the second option which was my goal from the beginning.

Ubuntu Linux as server with Linux open drivers

Sharing the printer under Ubuntu is so easy it scares me! System->Administration->Printing->Share published printers connected to this system.

Easy is good right? Well... for most people... yes. But for me it scared me not knowing straight away how the printer was being shared! Which protocol? Which ports? Who will be able to see the printer? My first guess was samba and the SMB/CIFS protocol and the second guess was IPP but I don't see it anywhere explicit in the graphical interface. Later, I tried nmap and discovered there were no SMB related ports available but the 631 IPP port.

I am familiar with IPP and CUPS server but most people aren't. In my opinion, there's still some work to be done in Ubuntu's (or Gnome's) printer administration GUI. Most (if not all) options there can also be accessed at http://localhost:631 (the cups server web administration interface) and at /etc/cups and are a bit cryptic to someone that thinks "the easier the better".

Mac OS X as client

Using the shared printer from the MacBook was also very simple. I just fired System Prefereces->Print & Fax, clicked the "+" sign to add another printer and there it was. I immediately tested it and it worked just fine. At this time I still didn't know how the printer was being shared and Mac OS X also didn't tell me anything about it.

Windows XP as client

When I realised the printer as being shared through IPP, it was also very simple to set up. Well... at least when I guessed the printer URL from the example displayed by Windows. One point less here for Ubuntu for not displaying the URL of the shared printer on the GUI.

Ubuntu Linux as server, clients get to choose the driver (the right way)

Ok... at this point I had the printer set up and working for any computer at home. Problem: the Linux printer driver was being used no matter which computer I used as client to print. This can be a problem sometimes because the Windows driver (or the software) comes with some options you may only have access to if you use the driver locally. Same for Mac OS X. So it would be cool if I could use the Windows driver when printing from the Windows laptop, the Mac OS X driver when printing from my MacBook and the Linux driver any other case. Fortunately this has a solution too and it wasn't new to me.

So back to the Ubuntu Linux server where the printer was being shared. I just added the printer again but this time as a generic raw printer (Makes->Generic, Model->Raw queue). So now we have two printers at the server: one using the Linux driver (for printing locally) and the other a raw printer that just prints anything thrown at it without any processing that will be used for printing remotely.

Windows XP as client with driver for Windows

Back to the Windows laptop, I installed the Samsung driver. The install program complaints about not detecting any printer connected to the laptop but I just ignored it and clicked "Continue". Then I deleted the previously added printer add added another one, the one I created as a raw printer on the Linux server, and configured it to use the Windows driver I just installed. Done and working!

Mac OS X as client with driver for Mac

This time it wasn't so easy.

Back to "Print & Fax", the raw printer was detected as the previously but this has a catch. I added the printer but couldn't change the driver. The control was greyed out.

If you add an IP Printer you can select the driver but this won't work with my set up because the CLP-300 is not an IP printer.

As OS X uses cups, there's also the option of accessing cups' web administration interface by pointing your browser at http://localhost:631 but when it comes to select the driver, there's no Samsung maker available.

So how did I make it work? I did a little hack. I don't know if this is the only way to do this but it did work for me. Don't held me responsible if you do this and you screw up your system though :). Anyway, here is what I did:

  • Remove all the printers I have (tried) to add before.
  • Add an IP Printer and selected the Samsung driver (this printer wont work!).
  • CUPS creates a file at /etc/cups/ppd. Back up this file. You might need administrative privileges.
  • Remove the IP Printer just created.
  • Using the CUPS web administration interface at http://localhost:631, add a new printer using any of the available drivers. Be sure to configure the correct URI (ex: ipp://server/printers/RawPrinterName)
  • Replace the file at /etc/cups/ppd by the one you previously backed up.
  • At the command like, as root, run "killall cupsd; cupsd" to restart the cupsd daemon.
  • Print :)

Conclusion and brief review

You can find some reviews on-line about the performance of the CLP-300 much better that whatever I can do at the moment so I wont be very extensive this. But from my yet little experience with this printer, I'm relatively satisfied.

The good:

It does print text fast and with quality I expected.

As for cost per print, one of the features I was aiming at the most, I don't know yet but I'm trusting other reviewers.

It's small and fits well in a home environment.

It's easy to set up and works on Windows XP, Mac OS X and Linux.

It does print colours (see below).

The bad:

Even though it prints fast multiple pages it does take some time to print the first page when you haven't print anything for a while. I'm not very experienced with laser printers but I guess this is common.

It gets hot. Hot usually means energy being wasted. Don't know if this is common among laser printers and haven't measure how much energy is being used to print. If left alone for a while it cools down even when turned on though.

I tried printing a photo just to see how it worked. I read it was not very good at printing photos but, in my opinion, that's an understatement. It's BAD! Really bad! The photo came out two dark overall(I tried changing some parameters which had no noticeable effect), the contrast was all wrong and colours didn't seem very accurate either. I was expecting "not very good" but I got "extremely awful". Maybe the picture didn't help because it was too complex (two face and some trees as background) or maybe the reviewers I read aren't so picky as I am. But it's still a very bad performance with photos.

For my needs, this is good enough given the price. My choice was a bit precipitated because I needed a printer really fast but still seems to be a good choice. If I had more time, I would probably look for the CLP-300N which is the same but with a network card for a bit more money but there was none available at the store.