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Installation Hassles Abound

 
 
By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2008-02-05
 
 
 

The Multi-Function Printer market is all about capabilities and those vendors that can pack the most features into a unit at an affordable price are sure to be market leaders. Add excellent output to those features and you're sure to have a contender to the title of best MFP.

Konica Minolta is taking aim at that best MFP title with its MagiColor 2590MF, a model that combines a color laser printer with a scanner, copier and fax machine into an attractive desktop package that offers stunning color output.

Priced at $699, the unit offers affordable color and all the primary functions needed by today's small businesses. Options tend to be expensive though, with a duplexer adding $399 to the price and a 500 page (instead of 250 page) paper tray adding another $299 to bring the total price of a well-equipped unit to a whopping MSRP of $1,397, quite steep for a SMB MFP.

Once set up, the 2590MF does offer nice output and is reasonably fast. First page out occurs in about 15 seconds (for black and white), while a first page color print takes about 22 seconds. The printer is rated for 20PPM black and white and 5PPM for color. As the speeds indicate, the unit uses multiple passes to generate a color document, while a black and white document can be processed with a single pass.

Even though the unit uses multi-pass technology for color prints, the paper follows a relatively straight path, helping to prevent jams or other problems. There is no bypass feeder though, so if you want to print envelopes or letterhead, you will need to place that stock in the main paper tray and track it accordingly.

While most users may be happy with the fully configured and installed unit, installers will find the steps to set up the printer almost torturous. There are a number of clips, pieces of tape, chunks of Styrofoam and other shipment packaging protectors to remove before one can even attempt to set up the printer.

What's more, the unpacking instructions are less than intuitive, relying on diagrams and illustrations to point the installer in the proper direction. Konica Minolta does try to help installers out with an installation document, but for most people the multiple illustrations (over 20) will only add to the confusion. Konica Minolta could ease the process by including a flash-based video on the CD showing how to setup the product or at the very least include written instructions with the illustrations. Simply put, if '80s Icon Mr. T reviewed printers, his comment would be: "I pity the fool who has to set up this printer"!

Interestingly, despite all of the packaging, the first unit we received did not work. Once we powered the unit up, we were presented with a cryptic message -- "Machine Error, Service Call (18H)". Searching Konica Minolta's Web site offered no explanations of the problem and the included documentation lacked a course of action. We filled out a tech support request on Konica Minolta's site, another tedious process that asked for all but the users blood type, we still have yet to receive an e-mail acknowledging the problem or offering a solution (over a week and a half at this time).

Discussing the problems with Konica Minolta's PR team led to a phone call with some service insight; after trying to solve the problem with a few procedures, Konica Minolta determined that the unit must have been damaged in shipping, despite the fact that the box arrived undamaged.

Konica Minolta promptly delivered another unit for testing via a courier service; it was obvious that the new unit had been previously unpacked and configured before being shipped out. While that may have sped up the review process and made things a little easier for our Lab's crew, it did deny us the experience that a VAR may have with a new unit.

That said, the replacement unit functioned fine and operated without a hitch. That is, until we installed the duplexer unit. The duplexer snaps onto the back of the printer, after popping out a few plastic tabs/port covers. Regrettably, our duplexer came with no instructions and the printer instructions lacked any guidance on installing the duplexer. A search of the tech support area of the Web site offered no clues on how to install the duplexer. We pushed on and installed the duplexing unit using common sense, and we were rewarded with a horrible grinding noise when we tried to print.

Further investigation showed that a piece of tape, which is the same color as the unit, covers a paper feed slot on the back of the 2590MF. Removing the tape and reinstalling the duplexer solved all of our problems. Perhaps Konica Minolta should consider making that piece of tape a color that does not blend in with the back of the printer or add some text to the tape that says "remove for duplexer", or at the very least, make instructions readily available.

Installers will encounter other setup hassles, complicated by the fact that the unit's LCD interface and push buttons are very inconsistent. For example, when setting up the 2590MF's IP address, an installer would use the cancel button to clear out any existing settings and then the arrow keys to input new parameters. If the installer tries to use the same procedure for setting the time and date, the menu will exit.

Date and time are set using the numeric key pad instead. Those inconsistencies live throughout the setup interface and prove to be an annoyance. It's clear that the machine is destined for a global market; installation docs are included in several languages and regrettably all are lacking the details to quickly set up and operate the unit.

For typical use, the unit is easy to operate, but once you attempt to do something out of the ordinary, the interface proves to be annoying. For example, if you want to do a duplex copy, you need to hit a function button several times. Wouldn't a "duplex" copy button make much more sense? The same goes for selecting document types; a user is expected to use the quality button to determine that -- not very intuitive.

Setup and usage hassles aside, the unit did offer impressive color output. We used the SpencerLabs printing suite to test image quality and found that the unit recreated details and colors on par with a much more expensive color laser printer. Scanning and photo copying also offered excellent detail and color. Black and white text output was crisp and clear, while printed photographs offered faithful color reproduction.

The bottom line here is if you can deal with the quirks, inconsistencies and irritations associated with installation, set up and advanced feature use, you will not be disappointed with the unit. And happily, pros outweigh the cons, and all of the cons should be easy fixes for Konica Minolta to accomplish.