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Buoyant Samsung unveils new printer line-up in Milan

Samsung staged a lavish launch event in Milan this week to reveal its next-generation printer line-up, and told ITProPortal that the company will be the world's number one printer firm in five years' time.

The primary target of the new line is business - an ambitious move considering the dominance that the likes of HP and Xerox currently enjoy in B2B printing, and the fact that big companies can wait up to half a dozen years before refreshing their printers and opening up a market-gap. But Samsung is defiant, and also aims to expand its more significant market share in consumer printing when the first devices are released on 27 July.

The key to Samsung breaking new ground in the print industry, particularly from a marketing perspective, will be its deployment of the tech that has propelled the company's meteoric rise in the smartphone and tablet arena. In particular, the touch-screen user interface (UI), so identifiable with the popular mobile devices, has been incorporated into the high-end products of the new printing fleet and will eventually be seen across the whole range, top officials told us.

The A3 copiers/printers sport an impressive 7in screen, while the A4 printers come equipped with 4.3in displays (below). Users can customise up to 40 short-cuts on the intuitive UI, meaning actions are then performed with a single button press.

And crucially, mobile connectivity is enabled through the Samsung MobilePrint app that supports Android, iOS and Windows Phone platforms. Easy interaction from the palm of your hand to the printer will certainly enhance appeal for businesses and consumers alike.

"We're now able to leverage the other Samsung technology platforms and I really think that's important for us to get across," said Head of European Operations Paul Fox in Milan. "It's not a case of ‘that technology is good, let's just bolt it on' - it's that it adds value. If a user interface on a standard copier has been built by a copier engineer and isn't very easy to use, why not use something that's been built for the consumer?"

It is clear Samsung believes its notoriety gained in other areas, exemplified by the recent Galaxy S III fever, will be vital - as Fox added, "Mobility devices are such a now subject that it's getting us access to almost any company at the moment. And we're going in there saying we've already got all this, so why not take a look at our printing solutions too?"

Besides the UI, Samsung's new A3 copiers, that also print, scan and fax, are boosted by an all-in-one mainboard that uses the company's semi-conductor technology to consolidate seven chips and nine boards into one high-powered component. The board uses data more efficiently to reduce failure rates and save power, as the eco-friendly copier can decrease its consumption to just 1.5W in sleep mode.

Encompassing the entry level products too, are dual-core processors that reduce waiting time for first-page prints significantly, from around 30 seconds to 17. Good response time is allied with fast speeds too. The CLX-8650, admittedly at the top end of the A4 colour scale and more likely to feature in your workplace rather than your home, produces 48ppm - making it the world's fastest A4 colour printer currently available.

The laser colour printer range is further enhanced by Samsung's Rendering Engine for Clean Pages (ReCP) technology, 1,200 x 1,200 dpi, and edge enhancements for vibrant images and crisper text.

The company also claims its printers take up less space than their counterparts from rival brands. The most affordable of the next-generation range, the CLP-365 (left), is a reported 27 per cent smaller than its market equivalents, on average.

Samsung gives us a projected price of £150 - £200 for the compact CLP-365, with prices for other consumer-focused printers staggered up to £230. The CLX A3 copiers, which are likely to target small and home office environments when released in September, are expected to cost between £360 and £420. Prices for the B2B-only products have yet to be confirmed.

Hands-on time with a set of office printers may not get the reviewer's pulse racing, but the UI's on both the A3 and A4 machines were slick, responsive, and plainly an excellent selling point for Samsung. The screens could have fallen into the trap of being a gimmick and a distraction from the actual purpose of the device, but any such perceptions were dispelled by high-quality prints across the board.

On the CLX-6260 (above), which we had the most time with, rich and detailed images left the printer very sharp. Not surprising for a high-end office product, but still proof that Samsung is taking this line seriously and is likely to at least match the current leaders in B2B printers. The Koreans aren't exactly lacking the cash to mix it with the big boys in the field.

Moving on to the entry level printers designed for the home, the results were less impressive. Perhaps our version of the aforementioned low-cost CLP-365 was slightly overawed by the occasion in Milan, as the time it took to print our image was disappointingly slow, and a streak down the side of the copy compounded its woe (right; circled).

The contrasting performances of the business and home devices in the hands-on are a reflection of this new line-up's focus. Samsung is desperate to crack the B2B market, and the array of office printers revealed with great technological fanfare was in contrast to the lower-key consumer side of the launch. It is clear where the priorities lie as the company prepares to unleash this new range.

Confident in the gleaming new range for the workplace, Vice President of Samsung's printing division, Seung Hyun, tellingly claimed, "Our printers are going to keep on improving, there's no doubt about that. In five years' time we're going to be number one in printing. It's going to be a tough job, particularly in B2B, but it can happen."

UPDATE: Samsung got in touch with ITProPortal about the performance of the CLP-365 printer in Milan, stating that the poor print-out it produced during our hands-on time was not a true reflection of the product. A representative delivered the following statement:

The CLP-365 printer displayed at the launch event in Milan was an early marketing sample and not a full production model. The issues experienced with this printer are not an accurate representation of the quality and speed of Samsung's printer range. Samsung will be providing IT Pro Portal with a sample of the CLP-365 printer so that a review can be carried out and these features can be tested.