Kyocera Mita FS-6970DN Inverness

There are plenty of situations when printing on A4 paper isn't ideal. From short-run notices to printing A4 spreads, a machine with A3 capability can be a useful alternative. Kyocera Mita's FS-6970DN is a compact A3 duplex laser, which has both speed and expandability on its side.

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Kyocera Mita FS-6970DN

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There are plenty of situations when printing on A4 paper isn't ideal. From short-run notices to printing A4 spreads, a machine with A3 capability can be a useful alternative. Kyocera Mita's FS-6970DN is a compact A3 duplex laser, which has both speed and expandability on its side.

Styled like Kyocera Mita's latest range of A4 lasers, the FS-6970DN looks purposeful, while still being simple in design and function. The only real differences between an A4 and an A3 printer are the width of the carriage and the size of paper input/output trays. In this machine, the extra length in the input tray sticks out the back, increasing the footprint but still maintaining the printer's clean lines at the front. The extra width, while apparent, is well integrated into its design.

The control panel is set into its top surface and includes three status LEDs, which are lifted up above the printer's top, set into a triangular ridge behind the LCD display. Kyocera Mita explains this is so you can see any attention indicator from the other side of an office - a simple, but effective idea.

Menu navigation, handled by a button ring with an OK button set in the centre, is a little unconventional. Headline options are shown in the top row of the two-line backlit LCD display, with sub-options in the line below. This is normal, but moving through the sub-options is done with the up and down arrows while selection is made with the right arrow.

Most manufacturers do it the other way round, navigating through sub-options with left and right arrows, and selecting with the down arrow. Both techniques are valid, of course, it's just that it takes some getting used to.

At the bottom of the front panel is a 250-sheet universal paper tray, and there's a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, which folds down from the front panel, above this. Both can take paper up to A3 in size, and you can add up to four extra, optional 250-sheet trays for a maximum feed capacity of 1350 sheets. We'd still like to see a higher standard capacity than 250-sheets for the main tray in a machine at this price, though.

Installation is simple enough and the software is mainly composed of the PostScript driver, which supports all the key functions of the printer. The specific Mac OS X driver for the FS-6970DN wasn't available at time of review so, under advice from Kyocera Mita, we used the driver for the FS-6900. This included support for A3 paper and automatic duplexing, which is particularly effective, as A4 paper is fed through in landscape mode and prints are made from side to side.

Kyocera Mita claims an engine speed of 35ppm for A4 paper, halving to 17ppm in duplex mode. We saw a maximum speed of 20.7ppm, halving to 10.9ppm when printing duplex. Two thirds of the rated speed is actually quite reasonable for a printer, as most suppliers, even those sticking to the ISO test specification, choose to ignore initial processing time and quote a page-on-page time, to keep the numbers high. We timed the complete print cycle.

Print quality is variable. Black text is particularly crisp and clean, and it benefits from the printer's default resolution of 1200dpi. Greyscale graphics are a little light by default, with lighter colours equating to very pale tints. This can be adjusted for, but oddly the photo sample does the opposite and prints darker than expected, with a lot of detail lost in shadowed areas of the image.

Because of the 300,000-page ceramic drum Kyocera Mita uses in this machine, the only regular consumable is toner, which has an RRP of £78 (£68 ex VAT) for a 15,000, A4-page cartridge. This gives a cost per page of 0.52p for 5% coverage, which should equate to about 1p per page for A3. Both these figures are exceptionally good and counteract what is perhaps the biggest bugbear with the FS-6970DN - its high asking price.

Verdict

Nearly £900 for a mono laser printer seems expensive, even for an A3 model, but its high ticket price is mitigated by low running costs.

Author: Simon Williams

Kyocera Mita FS-6970DN