OKI office 1600

22 Jan 2004

Product: Multifunction device
Price: €1,452

The glamorous gizmos that usually make tech news will always overshadow the quiet electronic workhorses and the ‘paperless office’ is still a myth, with photocopying and fax still mainstay necessities in many offices. OKI understands these market facts very well, so its top-end multifunction device bundles fax with 16ppm digital copying and printing. The OKIoffice 1600 at €1,452 offers smart mono copying and fax facilities with almost every known feature and function and 16 pages/copies per minute print output at a crisp 600dpi resolution.

This is a heavy duty, walk-up office machine, with front panel controls for fax and copying functions. Overall dimensions are similar to a table-top copier (footprint 510x492mms, 376mm high) with the standard 500 sheet paper tray and it weighs a hefty 23kgs. The flat panel scanner has a sturdy lid that includes a 50-sheet automatic document feeder.

Copying is fast, about 15 seconds to scan and print a single copy and a rated 16 copies per minute, while both the scanning and print quality are first class for the specifications. Scanning is just 400dpi, reflecting the emphasis on the fax function, but greyscale reproduction of photo images is excellent. Since printing is at 600dpi and 16ppm, the OKIoffice 1600 will also serve very well as a medium level workgroup printer. But here the copier/fax targeting really shows because the necessary PC connection is, astonishingly, an optional extra at €250 while the proprietary network card is €350.

The fax functions are in many respects the glory of this machine, eg Super Group 3 compatibility, can handle two lines, standard memory 8MB (about 650 pages) and the ability also to receive when out of paper, phone book allowing group faxing to 200 locations in one operation, battery back-up to hold messages through power cuts, etc.

Confidential faxing means relevant incoming faxes (and those sent to machines using the using ITU-T30 standard) are held in memory and only password-accessible for printing. This feature is almost essential in the financial and investment sector, public companies, etc.

All in all, the OKIoffice 1600 is first class in its two major functions for its target market but at a premium price. If this is what you need, this is what you have to have!

But although OKI clearly knows its own market and has been steadily thriving while bigger names stumbled financially and technically, some of the decisions reflected in this product are odd. Is it valid to criticise a product for not doing what it does not really claim to do? Anyway, a digital office product – indeed a printer at base – that needs optional extras to connect to a computer is surely retrograde thinking while a workgroup device that comes without a network interface card is a real head-scratcher. Then there is the staggering €250 for a bog-standard parallel interface and €350 for a NIC.

The scanner element also seems begrudging: yes, mono 400dpi is all that fax can handle and fine for 600dpi copy/print, but upgrading it to a higher resolution and colour would bring the versatility of the machine more in line with today’s office.

A multi-function device has to be judged at least in part on convenience of use and what other items it replaces. In the end, the OKIoffice 1600 only replaces a fax machine and medium duty cycle photocopier and is no cheaper or smaller than having one of each. It’s all OKI’s choice, looking at world markets, but here in Ireland right now it just seems a pity.

By Leslie Faughnan