When you think of multifunction printers for use at home or in small businesses, you generally think about the heavyweights in the industry such as Canon, Brother, Kodak, Epson and HP. However, Panasonic has recently started making inroads, at the lower end of the cost scale and the Panasonic KX-MB1520 is targeted specifically at entry level.
Identical in virtually every respect to its sibling the KX-MB1500, the KX-MB1520 simply adds a fax option to the usual print, copy and scan. Available in black and dull cream, this is a mono laser printer with the accent firmly on compactness, measuring just 360 x 380 x 203mm whilst weighing a relatively sturdy 9kg.
In the base, is a 150-sheet input tray with a manual single-sheet feeder just above. In place of a dedicated output tray, Panasonic has created an inner paper exit ‘slot’ – just below the scanner lid that can be propped up slightly, to increase output volume. When it comes to connectivity, however, you’re severely restricted, having just a USB link to a PC with no sign of either Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
The slanted control panel relies on a mixture of clearly labelled one-touch buttons and a 16 digit, 2 line mono LCD display that is virtually unreadable except in very strong lighting. On the other hand, the useful Easy Print Utility software that comes with the machine allows you to merge multiple file types into one document. This is along with rearranging them on the page, before either printing or saving to a PDF file.
Scanning quality is unusually good for 600 x 1200 dpi resolution and you have four choices to scan directly to e-mails and files, view the results and use OCR (although you will have to rely on third-party OCR software installed). The fax function is highly efficient and comes with a built-in speakerphone and Fax/Tel switch, so you can quickly call the receiver and check they’ve received the fax correctly.
Printing speeds are satisfyingly nippy at 18 ppm for standard A4 text documents and the same for copies; even copies of A4 photos flash out in around 5 seconds. While the quality of the black text is solid and consistent, images struggle to match the contrast levels of the colour originals, though. As you might expect, there’s also no auto duplex facility with the KX-MB1520 and you will probably have to shell out for a standard 2500 page toner cartridge fairly soon, as the printer only comes with a 500 page starter version. Somewhat mean-spirited of Panasonic, when you consider that they don’t even throw in a USB lead that virtually all the competitors would do, without thinking.
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- Fast print speeds and a helpful speakerphone for fax use.
- Terrible non-backlit LCD display which is almost unreadable.