Available for just £80 (£70 online) and currently the best retail home-suitable printing solution I can find. So I got one. I'll get onto the review in a little while, but there's an small saga to be cathartically expunged first.
It all began when the Laserjet II went off to silicon heaven (or the tip, to be less prosaic) because, unfortunately, I killed it. Not one of my prouder moments… I was rather upset, actually. With my not being here for ages, it didn't get the powering up and down cycles that could conceivably have prolonged its 14+ years of operation. Replacing the heating lamp was the cost of a second-hand Laserjet in itself, closer to the cost of a new printer had I bought refurbished parts with a guarantee.
So, I went trawling on eBay. Put some of the money I've made selling stuff on there back into useful kit, and all that… had my eye on a Laserjet 5L. Robust printers, good cartridge life, designed for office and heavy school use. Capable of printing to a variety of stock, too. Won one for £55 + shipping (a shade high, but it came with a fair degree of toner and I have a sentimental attachment to the model.) It arrived dead.
Now, by dead, I'm not talking simple electrical fault. HP build 'em good. Had I noticed the extent of the damage initially, I would never have plugged it into a live socket. Closer inspection revealed that one of the back corners had been buckled inwards with sufficient force to snap the circuit board underneath the power connector. Shit.
The seller was pretty good about it. Not the best packing I've seen, but it must have been dropped or thrown pretty damn hard whilst in the care of the postal system in order to do that sort of damage. Cue mailing it to a Royal Mail depot for them to assess the claim… I love it how they expect people to have packaging of sufficient size to send them not only the item damaged but the original packaging as well, not to mention the wherewithal and time to fuck about with getting something the size and weight of a laser printer (plus original packaging) down to a post office.
This was in fact the second piece of hassle with the postal service in general within a short space of time. I sent a collection of CD singles out to an auction winner which arrived without stamps. Stamps… don't just fall off. Not when applied correctly. When I'm paying for recorded delivery, I expect a little more care and attention on the part of the post office. On getting the packaging back (after refunding the young lady concerned—no reason she should be put out by a problem at my end) and showing it to the guy concerned, I was fobbed off with "they must have come off en route" and not one word of an apology. The upshot of which is that I'm no longer having any dealings with our local post office: the branch in Kingswinford usually takes the few extra seconds required to print labels rather than stamps, and I've never had problems with them. It avoids invidious situations: we're reliant upon Royal Mail and its duly appointed franchises, and mistakes affect others to a far greater extent than them. Doing business, on whatever scale, it isn't their reputation on the line when transactions run into problems… fortunately, I've always dealt with pretty decent, understanding people.
Anyway, enough bile for one entry… this was my cue to look around for retail alternatives. Staples are running an offer currently for the Samsung ML-1210 for £80… not bad for a regular mono laser. You perhaps wouldn't expect one to stand up to a busy office environment, but I read around to get some reviews. Some catches would be expected… expensive media, or reliability problems. Nope. Great reviews. Toner is around the £50 mark, about half that on eBay or with a toner refill kit. It comes with a starter toner (about 1500 pages using 'Toner Save' mode versus 3500-4000 from a full cartridge.) It offers USB or parallel connection. It feeds envelopes and thin card. It has a vertical output tray. It's really rather fast. Quiet, even.
What it isn't is particularly small-my scanner's no longer on the desk, but then again I only ever use it periodically. Damn tiny MFI furniture and incompetent builders.
Samsung manufacture parts for other companies, HP possibly amongst them… so, not quite the printer I was initially aiming for but possibly one better with the USB and toner mileage. Print quality is much sharper than with an inkjet, and I never printed in colour anyway. Plus, the insidious thing about modern inkjets is that in cleaning their heads every time they're switched on, your colour cartridge rapidly empties even when not used for printing tasks. Anyway, my Epson C42-UX has been sold to a good home, and I now have a further three inkjets to eBay… (Don't ask, just don't ask.)
Buying from eBuyer rounded things to about £76 including postage, but being able to throw in small extras such as case thumb screws, a fresh mouse (Chic get my vote), long USB 2.0 printer cable for just over a quid and so on and so forth… definitely preferable to paying £80 in Staples, and definitely an encouraging price for a laser.