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Hewlett Packard's (HP) Color LaserJet CP1518ni
In PC World's Test Center tests, the HP Color LaserJet CP1518ni produced plain text pages at a paltry 11.2 pages per minute and graphics pages at 2.0 ppm or slower. The good thing; the results were pleasing: Text looked black and crisp. Though a little dark, photos looked reasonably natural. Grayscale images were free of the green or pink overtones that they often see with printers at the low end. HP's own image enhancement technology, called ImageREt 3600 technology, might have helped here: Among other tricks, it manipulates the size and position of the dot within the usual resolution grid, to give images a smoother, more natural look. (In connection with its use of this technology, HP long ago ceased quoting dots-per-inch resolution specs in favor of the vaguer ImageREt designation.)
Besides being a touch on the slow side, the printer has minor design and configuration shortcomings. The 150-sheet capacity for the main paper tray is below the 500 page average. And, when extended to accommodate legal paper, the tray sticks out the front of the printer; technically, this occupies the same amount of space as the more common rear extension, but it looks odd. Duplex (two-sided) printing is unavailable. The front control panel (with a two-line, monochrome LCD) is unintuitive: There's no clear indication that you must use the 'OK' button to summon the menus. Access doors and other parts feel flimsy or move clumsily. On the brighter side, the Color LaserJet CP1518ni comes with five photo card slots on the front and has an easily accessible side door for accepting a RAM upgrade (maximum 352MB).
As on many low-cost printers, the toner cartridges are low-capacity and moderately-priced. The printer comes with starter supplies of each color good for 750 pages of output. A 2200-page replacement black cartridge costs $70 (which works out to 3.2 cents per page), while each 1400-page color cartridge costs $65 (the equivalent of 4.6 cents per page). Overall spending another $100 up front could get you a model that will have a lower cost per page. But, at the low end this machine rocks.
HP's documentation is thorough. The wordless setup sheet for unpacking and installing the cartridges looks more like a page ripped out of a comic book than something official, but the instructions are clear. The installation routine relies on animated wizards. Inside the printer, illustrated stickers help you perform routine tasks without consulting the manual. The HTML-based documentation is comprehensive without being overly technical. HP's ratings in our recent Reliability and Service survey were average overall.
For individual users or a small office, the Color LaserJet CP1518ni's minimal paper handling and toner supplies are probably adequate.
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