Panasonic All-in-One Printer Takes Multifunction To New Level

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Panasonic has taken all-purpose devices to a new level with the KX-MB2061, an eight-in-one office machine that incorporates not just the usual printing, scanning, copying and faxing capabilities, but adds voice mail and a cordless telephone system to the mix. The best part for the SOHO market is that it does all this for a list price of $249. The only thing missing is an optional coffee maker.

The CRN Test Center received a review sample of the new multifunction printer, the first to be designed by Panasonic System Networks Company, the entity formed in January, 2010, by the merging of Panasonic's document, communications and security divisions. The Panasonic KX-MB2061 was unveiled in December, and testers were impressed with the amount of functionality packed into such a small, low-cost device.

The first thing to impress testers was the easy setup. The total time between opening the box and seeing the first printout (a photo copy) was about 10 minutes. Its two-piece toner/fuser unit, which small offices might appreciate for its low waste and cost-efficiency, was easy to assemble thanks in part to the one-page text-free setup guide. With DHCP enabled by default, the unit was given an IP address upon startup and in seconds was visible to the network. The included software installation CD saw the printer on the network and automatically configured the test PC to use it by default. Total software installation time was on the long side at about 15 minutes.

The remote scanning software includes a preview mode that helps zero in on the desired portion of the original document. Maximum optical resolution of the scanner is 600x1200 dots per inch. With interpolation, resolution increases to 19200x19200, which simply means that logic within the scanning engine mixes real data with data that it guesses might have been. This mode decreases dot size and can sometimes improve the appearance of "jaggies" on line art. But for color and greyscale work, interpolation is not particularly useful. Supported output formats are PDF, JPG, TIFF and BMP. The 20-sheet document feeder can be used for scanning, and scanned files can be sent directly to email or stored in a network or FTP folder.

For printing, the KX-MB2061 incorporates a 600x600 dpi laser printer that's rated at 24 pages per minute. The unit lived up to that spec in our tests. When copying 25 pages, the first page took about nine seconds to emerge, and the remaining 24 were finished about a minute later. When printing an ordinary text file from a PC, the time to first print was about 8 seconds, and about 14 seconds for a complex document with multiple images and color gradations. The KX-MB2061 supports only GDI imaging; PCL and Postscript output are not supported.

Next: The Printer Boasts Phone CapabilitiesPanasonic's new unit supports as many as six wireless handsets (one is included, along with a pair of rechargeable AA batteries), which work according to the Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telephony (DECT) 6.0 specification, which itself is a variation of the spec standardized in Europe, Australia, much of Asia and elsewhere.

In addition to high quality digital sound without interference and a level of security, the DECT spec also introduces a degree of interoperability across brands.

The KX-MB2061 comes bundled with software that allows users to perform all of its functions over a network. Access to 24 page-per-minute laser printing, color scanning, copying and fax send/receive all can be done from a computer running any version of Windows. Network printing from computers running Linux and Mac OS X is supported, but companies might prefer a dedicated postscript printer for outputting complex images. The software also provides a centralized phone book, which can be useful to a small company for storing customer and supplier phone, fax numbers and cover-sheet data.

As is typical of devices and software made in other countries, some of the dialog software's boxes contained language that stretched the limits of English grammar. Still, the software installed easily onto our test machine: a Dell E5510 Latitude notebook running 32-bit Windows 7 Professional. The software performed all functions correctly and we came across no bugs. The device's embedded Web pages are extremely crude and of limited use for anything other than for divining printer status.

Also included with the bundle is Readiris Pro 7 OCR software, which worked flawlessly. To test the software, we scanned a one-page document that was mostly text in a mixture of font sizes and also contains images. Scanning took just a moment, and soon gave rise to an analysis of the page's paragraphs and images in sections. All the words were recognized, we could save the document in any of dozens of text and application formats, including some we hadn't heard of since cave-man times. The tool's OCR wizard helps novice users through that is otherwise a fairly easy process of scanning, correcting and saving. The tool also offers automatic page orientation and deskewing capabilities as options during the wizard.

Having worked in several small offices, we realize how useful it can be to incorporate printing, faxing, scanning and copying in a single device. Moreover, the cost of a dedicated copier is usually beyond the reach of a company just getting off the ground, so it's often something that small companies must do without. The addition of a high-quality, secure phone and voice mail system at once simplifies and lowers the cost of the telephony solution for the small company.

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