* Prices may differ from that shown
Wouldn't it be nice if these technical ops would be as fun to read as the food, movie, music or book ops? Well, I thought so, and that's why I decided to give this one a little twist to try and make it more interesting for my readers. So here goes, a review about a fax machine, in the style of a film review (of sorts).
Cue Music - "What would persuade you to get your own fax machine? After a disastrous screw-up by the woman who sends all the faxes for the office, how could you resist the draw of a sleek machine that's yours, and yours alone? EEEE-hissss-blaaaat! Music to your ears? Samsung, SF-5100, at an office supply theatre near you!" Music swells. Deep, rapid voice-over: "At time of production, found at on-line at Dabs.com for £264.37, Office Online for £293.75 and EurOffice for £324.99 (VAT excluded). Also see http://www.qsl.uk.com/samsung_fax_machines.htm for a sneak preview picture, center stage".
Haunting, isn't it? But this is one fax machine that won't keep you in the dark. Well, at least not totally. And here's why I think it should get a bit more screening than its gotten so far.
The Plot (or how to use this machine):
There are two levels to this story line. The sub-plot being, will the document/s arrive safely and clearly in your in-tray (quality of the incoming faxes). While I found no fault with the clarity of this, I did find that the pages tended to fall down after arrival since the speed in which they come through the plot (machine) makes them aerodynamically perfect, and the front-protruding plastic receptacle - broad as it may be - is unable to stop their flight. While this isn't a fault with the script, I'd say that the set designers have something to answer for here.
The major story line is, predictable, at best. That is, how will the documents leave the scene and arrive at their out-going destination (sending faxes)? The writers have given the characters several action options to help make this more interesting. For instance, should one just place the document face down on the document feeder and then simply key in the destination fax number using the good sized, oval number keypad buttons, located right in the middle of the control panel, and then hit the pretty, gray-green start/enter button? Or perhaps they should use one of the ten little "one-touch" dial buttons to the left of the control panel, after they've stored fax numbers into them? Then again, there are two-digit "speed-dial" numbers that can be stored, as well. And maybe, just to make sure that they're dialing correctly or that the other line does, in fact, connect to another fax machine, they should pick up the phone handset and listen while they dial? But why pick up the phone handset, if there's an on-hook dial/voice request button just to the right of the keypad? These kinds of twists and turns make this plot a fairly spicy one, and yet, not so complex as to make it unpalatable.
The Actors (or what buttons play which roles):
If you're starting to think that this story (machine) is sounding a bit old-hat, you'll find that as the movie progresses (as you learn to use this), the actors (features) you thought were minor are suddenly giving staring-role performances (much more useful than you might think). For instance, that gold copy button - its not essential to the plot, since it doesn't aid in either sending or receiving faxes. But oh, if it wasn't there! And the red stop button - shouldn't it be gotten rid of? Surely, it goes totally counterproductive to the missions at hand. What about the redial/pause button? Do they think we can't remember the last number we dialed? And why would we need to put a pause into a number we're trying to store into the memory? Furthermore, why does the search/delete key have two functions? Couldn't they have given us two separate ones? They even allowed one major character - volume control - to play a double roll as a scroll key to help you get through the menus. Yet, the writers decided - and rightly so - that these characters usefulness to the overall film were essential. And those who have two parts to play, do so in different modes of fax usage - one part played when sending a fax, and the other when working with one of the fax's many functions. Pretty clever, huh? (Some buttons have more than one use. When sending a fax they are used in one way, and when setting up the fax or performing special functions, they are used for another purpose altogether. This means less buttons on the control panel for a cleaner look.)
I do have to say that I found the ensemble work of the one-touch dial button chorus to be slightly on the small side (these buttons are very small). They're not quite big enough to take center stage, and perhaps their one-function parts were not important enough to have given them larger parts. Their size does, however, leave room left stage of them to place a sticker (three of which are provided with the theater entrance fees) where you can lists the numbers with their corresponding destinations. These stickers can also help you keep track of the two-digit numbers in your memory, but that might confuse you if you place it too close to the one-touch sticker - since all three stickers you get are identical. Not the best performance I've seen, but at least they don't upstage the stars.
So on the whole, I have to say that the acting here is on a very high level. But I have to say that the real star of the show is the document tray/feeder. Nicely angled to keep pages from falling forward, I've never seen it trip up and not take a page when needed, nor grab more than one page at a time. This was the biggest downfall of the similar production of the same script, called "Canon L250", which I found to be mediocre, at best. I also have to say that the supporting role of the paper tray/feeder is played no less than superb. However, in the other smaller roles of the document exit tray and paper exit tray - well, I did already mention that aerodynamic problem.
Soundtrack (or the sounds this machine makes):
Furthermore, there seems to be some confusion regarding when you'll hear the fax machine's dialing music, and when you won't. I'm not sure who is to blame for this, but it's the most annoying part of the whole soundtrack (sometimes you hear it dialing a number and sometimes you don't. I can't figure out any rhyme or reason to this). In all other ways, the music here is smooth, complementary to the script and very unobtrusive - just the way I like it (you can fix the level of the sound from loud to almost silent). And we do know that if the machine is on a stage (in an office) where performances (meetings) take place, the background noises of both incoming and outgoing extras (documents) can be terribly disturbing for concentration on the actors. Not so in this production, and bravo for that.
Set Design, Costume and Make-up (or physical build and look of the unit, and print quality):
I'm a bit confused as to why this was marketed as a "compact" production. I don't find it all that short at all. In fact, with all the rich packaging here, its not a thin production in the least. I'm sure there are many more bombastic productions out there, but at 313 x 325 x 228 without the handset, and not including the protruding, center stage exit trays at the front, its hardly what I'd call small. Mind you, with only 7 kilo to it, and a good sized memory of 2 mega bytes, a full 6ppm, and holding 150 sheets of paper in its backstage, its also hardly a piece that can't withstand the test of time and the long-term critiques of your medium sized audiences (offices).
What's more, this is filmed with a 14.4 Kbps internal modem, using a six second page transmission filter, and you may see up to 20 document pages on the sending set at one time.
Regarding the make-up, remember, this is a Laser Fax machine - make-up artists famous for their plain paper, smudge-less printing, and non-fading qualities. So, all the characters come out looking crisp, clear and realistic from start to finish.
As I mentioned above, many of the actors on the control panel play more than one role. I found this a very refreshing ploy of the script which was very helpful to the set designers, since this keeps the overall look of this movie very clean and uncluttered looking. Overall, a very attractive looking production, if slightly muted in its colours - cream coloured backgrounds with mostly blue-gray sets, off-set with the occasional gold and pink translucent background highlight buttons. I'd categorize this as classic and subtle, rather than flamboyant or artistic. But one doesn't expect this type of a production to stray too far from what one would expect from a fax machine. Still, a touch more colour might have made this a tad more attractive to some.
Direction and Production (or instruction manual and ease of understanding):
I have to say here that this was certainly done exactly "by the book" as they say. There is nothing ambiguous or difficult to understand here. Its all carefully spelled out for you, in clear simple language and even the most complex plot twists have been carefully illustrated for the viewers. And while there are always areas where any production could go wrong, I've not come across any so far - and its been almost a year since I first experienced this one. I'd say that's close to "classic" status, in this area.
Special Effects & Features (or special features):
I don't want to bog you down here with too many technical details in this area. For the most part, all the special effects here seem to have been very carefully created to give this as realistic a look as possible. For instance, in the scene where the fax sending report is printed, a special effect of a toner save mode puts a squished copy of the first page of the fax below the report. This means that you'll easily be able to connect the actions of the fax (the document you sent) and the outcome report (transmission report) - a good literary ploy, nicely executed here. Then, there are the real behind the scenes special effects, like group dialing and delayed sending - specifically for those viewers who like the down and dirty business end of films like these. And, like I mentioned in the "direction and production" section above, these have all been explained carefully to the viewers which may seem to remove the mystery of them, but certainly add to their being seamlessly understood and integrated in the overall production.
But those aren't the only special effects here, by a long shot. Rather than describe them all here, a quick look into the official UK web site of this production (http://www.samsungelectronics.co.uk/) will help you find all fascinating the behind the scenes "making of" details you could ask for. I particularly enjoyed the documentary about the easy to replace toner drum system and the data loss prevention due to having a battery back up. Don't miss the part that details the quick scanning of the documents here, since it is really very, VERY quick, and you might miss it, if you don't watch out for it carefully (this scans your documents extremely fast).
There are all sorts of special features here that not everyone will be interested in watching. For instance, I didn't find the "polling" feature very useful, and I've not yet needed to send a fax at an hour when I'm not viewing the production (when I'm not around), so the delayed fax feature wasn't for me. But I'm sure the technophiles out there would appreciate that these features are available for when they're needed. My personal favourite is the split screen bit - that's where you can see the same scene at two different angles (or should I say, send the same fax to two different numbers).
Bottom Line (or my overall opinion):
This is one of those productions that would seem to appeal to a very wide audience (lots of people would find this machine easy to use, has all the features they'd want and at a size that isn't too big). From those who enjoy the thrill of a solid no-nonsense plot in home viewing thrillers that one never tires of, to those who like the fast-paced, easy-on-the-eye, small-business romantic comedies. It does seem to have something for everyone. My only problems with this were the inconsistent soundtrack and, I have to say, an uncomfortable showing at the box office - the production cost was a bit on the high side (not a cheap machine, and probably better for someone who works at home or a small business office), but hey, I didn't have to pay for it, so I shouldn't complain too much, right? Still, that - combined with the soundtrack problems - is enough for me to drop one star from this one, but no more.
Thanks for watching... er... reading!
I think I gave you most of the technical stuff inside this op. I did also find on the above web page the following information: for the business communications division, they say "... if you experience any difficulties in contacting your supplier please contact Samsung Telecoms on 0161 655 1100". For the consumer division, there's a postal code search engine for a service center nearest you. They also have a large list of shops that carry their items, for both business products - which is too long to list here, I'm afraid - and a postal code search engine for finding a retail shop near you. They also offer sales on-line through www.digi-uk.com - which has a sales hot-line 01386 556633, and charges £258.50 Inc. VAT at 17.5%, Business Plus (http://businessplus.opnet.co.uk/) priced here at £220.00 but doesn't mention if this is with or without VAT) and JGBM Machines (http://www.jgbm.co.uk/) for £269.99 (and they also don't say if that's with or without VAT).
I also checked the web to find the toner cartridges and they cost about £45 each - which is also fairly pricey. Biggest problem - when this fax was new, the cartridges lasted quite a long time (6-8 months), but now I seem to have to change cartriges every 3-4 months.
By the way, there is a wide-screen DVD version of this... um, what I mean is, there is a version of this fax which can be connected to your computer through a printer outlet and cable, which has software for sending faxes directly from your computer and making your own phone book that way. I think this model can also be used as a printer (not totally sure). That model is called SF-5100P. Just in case you were interested.
So, what did you think about this op? I had fun making the fax/movie metaphors here. If you liked it, perhaps I'll write my next electronic device op in the style of a food op! What do you think?