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First Looks: Oki MB491 Mono LED MFP

By Daniel Goh & Ng Chong Seng - 29 May 2012

First Looks: Oki MB491 Mono LED MFP


An Attractively-priced 4-in-1 Mono MFP for Workgroups

Not every business needs a color printer. This is especially true if all you print is text. However, from an economics point of view, it’s hard to argue against a multifunction printer (MFP). You pay slightly more, and get a machine that can double up as a scanner, copier, and in cases, fax machine. There are additional considerations if you are getting a MFP for workgroups of up to say, 20 people: can it print fast enough, can it handle the print load, does it do duplex printing? It’s important to know that an inefficient printer in a business environment can lead to productivity loss.

The Oki MB491 is a 4-in-1 monochrome MFP; it’s not only a network-enabled printer, it can also function as a standalone scanner, copier, and fax machine (with Super G3, no less). The headline feature is without doubt its 40 pages-per-minute (ppm) print speed. We did a quick check, and found that MFPs with a print rate in this ballpark typically cost in excess of S$800. For S$500, it’s not hard to pick up one that can do 28ppm. The Oki MB491 with 40ppm? S$599. If this isn’t an aggressive pricing strategy, we don’t know what is.

At the driver installation stage, not every piece of software or driver is installed by default, so go through the options carefully to make sure you've gotten everything you need.


Reversing ADF

The fast print speed aside, the MB491 has a generous 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), which is a boon if you frequently find yourself going up to the machine for multi-page copy, scan, or fax jobs. To be more specific, it’s a reversing ADF, meaning during a two-sided scan, it will scan one side of a page, then pulls it back in to scan the other side. A duplexing ADF would be faster, but this RADF is no slouch either: a 10-page duplex-to-duplex job took 45 seconds.

Unlike the old MB480, the MB491 has a roomier operator panel that runs the length of the flatbed scanner. It has a 3.5-inch backlit LCD, a ten-key pad for entering numbers and characters, and one-touch keys for accessing stored email addresses and fax numbers. You can even create macros for tasks that you do frequently. To enter text quickly, you should use the QWERTY keyboard that resides under the one-touch keypad. Right beneath this operator panel is a USB port that lets you print directly from or scan to a USB flash drive. Direct scanning to email, FTP, or a shared folder is also possible. And lest we forget, mobile printing apps like Microtech ePrint and Cortado Workplace are compatible with the MB491.

The bottom cassette holds 250 sheets of paper, and there’s a multipurpose tray that holds an additional 100. If that’s still not enough, you can buy a 530-sheet tray to bring total capacity to 880 sheets.

The Oki MB491 has a 50-sheet reverse ADF. Of course, you can use the document glass if you want to. The multipurpose tray holds up to 100 sheets of paper. It can contain papers up to 52 inches (1320.8mm) long, so use it if you're printing something long, such as a banner.
You can print from or scan to USB memory via the USB port at the front. Use the one-touch keys to access stored email addresses and fax numbers quickly. Under the one-touch keypad sits a QWERTY keyboard for entering text.


Good Performance

Make no doubt about it: The Oki MB491 is a very fast mono printer. Our 10-page test document was printed in about 20 seconds. In full motion, the MB491 did achieve a print rate of 40.3ppm. (For PPM/CPM calculations, we omit the time to print the first page.) In duplex mode, it took roughly 39 seconds. Using the ADF, the same set of documents was copied in about 31 seconds. The duplex copy task (that is, 10 one-sided pages to 5 two-sided pages) was completed in 40 seconds.

Text Print Quality Text Copy Quality

Output quality-wise, the MB491 is on par with most mid-tier mono laser printers, with text looking very sharp at the default 600 dpi (dots per inch) print resolution. We’re also pleased with the graphics quality, a common weakness even for laser printers that excel in text. For more important documents, you can up the resolution to 1,200 dpi; it gave us slightly better details. Copy quality is good too, but not outstanding; the resolution tops out at 600 dpi. According to Oki, the MB491 isn't fitted with the OEM scanner unit used in its predecessor. Instead, it uses Oki's own scanner unit. This scanner has an optical resolution of 600 dpi, and scans up to 10 ipm (images per minute) in color, or up to 38 ipm in mono. The scan-to-USB-memory function worked a treat too: our 10-page black-and-white document was scanned to a SanDisk Cruzer Switch USB flash drive (in PDF, at 300 dpi) in 34 seconds; an A4 color photo (scanned as JPEG, at 300dpi) took 14 seconds.


Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, the Oki MB491 is an excellent choice for an office that has relatively heavy-duty printing needs. More importantly, it prints very well, and is very sensibly priced. You can easily increase the paper capacity by getting a second 530-sheet tray; however, you can't upgrade the RAM as it's fixed at 256MB. The printer comes with a 2,000-page toner cartridge; when that's used up, you can either buy a 4,000 or 12,000-page replacement.