Top positive review
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Not bad, but...
on January 11, 2005
(This is mostly my review of the KX-FL501, with relevant changes)
It performs quite well, when it's working. The quick-scan feature is total gold, I can toss several pages through then walk away and do something else with them while it faxes.
But the toner. Oh, god, the toner.
I'm used to laser printers whining at me on the message display about low or "out" toner, and I'm just as used to ignoring them. The helpful people at Panasonic have decided that they don't like people ignoring those messages, so they include a pleasant beep. And when I say "pleasant", I mean it gives me nightmares. When the time comes for the machine to be replaced (and it will come, oh yes, it will come), I may run an extension cord outside so it can actually be actively beeping as I go Office Space on it.
Anyway, toner. To guard against the possibility of someone with super-human will tuning out the beeping (or perhaps to guard against the deaf), they also have included a helpful print out. On this print out are several large bars of varying shades, designed, presumably, to illustrate visually to you exactly how low your toner is.
I have never seen this page print in anything but a perfect, pristine manner. The bars are wonderful in their consistency, with nary a hint of lightness. While this would be an excellent demo of print quality, as a notification that the toner is low, I must admit to some confusion. It's *perfect*. It *never prints light*. So as far as I can tell, the only function it actually serves is to *use more toner*. Quite a bit of toner, considering the large black and near-black bars.
In amusing phone conversations with Panasonic, I've determined that either A) there is no way to disable this helpful function or B) there is, but they require a more substantial bribe than I've offered to offset their loss in toner revenue.
It gets better.
After it's printed two or three of these frame-worthy gems over the course of a week, it decides to play hard ball. Now it claims that the toner is gone. Out. No toner remains. This is communicated in two ways. One, the beep. Only this time it's incessant. The beep just goes on and on until you replace the toner, unplug the machine, or throw it out the window (and perhaps even then). It also...*prints out a notice*. That's right, you read that correctly; to inform you that there is no toner, it *uses toner*. I'm sure you've guessed the best part already - this notice, like the joyous banners of grayscale earlier, also prints perfectly. It's never been even a little light.
Now we engage in a little off-Broadway production for the benefit of the fax machine. "Ahh, pity," we say, opening the machine and removing the toner unit. "We're out of toner. Guess I'll have to get more toner. I'll just open this package over here," we continue, as one of us makes crinkling noises in the background, and the other grimly shakes the toner unit from side to side. "Ah, good, I'll just pop that in, then," we say, winking, as we remove the toner drum, whisper an incantation over it, and pop it back in. "Whew, good as new. I'm sure glad we don't have to worry about any light printing thanks to the Panasonic engineers," we shout with glee, as we put the toner unit back in and close it up.
If we've said the incantations correctly, the fax machine accepts our tribute and pretends everything is ok for a couple days, when the process is then repeated. Usually we perform the ritual twice successfully before it tires of our blandishments and insists the toner is out, despite the repeated evidence of our eyes. At this point we surrender to its whims and put a new drum unit in.
The drums aren't *too* bad, price-wise. I just have a minor philosophical objection to tossing them out when there's still clearly good toner left in them. But aside from that, it's a worthwhile machine.