Just about every inkjet printer manufacturer—including HP—talks about how inkjets are more cost effective than laser printers. And yet HP offers color laser printers like the Color Laserjet Pro 452dw. Here's why: inkjet printers are terrific but sometimes, especially in a small business setting, a color laser printer simply makes more sense.
Yes, laser printing costs more than printing with most inkjets. But pages printed on a laser printer are sharper, especially at small type sizes, and they're more environmentally stable—especially in wet or humid conditions. That's because laser toner bonds to the surface of a sheet of paper. Inkjet ink sinks into the surface of the paper, spreads out and loses sharpness—a process called wicking.
A Solid Small Business Color Laser Printer
The Color Laserjet Pro M452dw sells for $449 (MSRP). This is not a multi-function scan, copy, fax, printer—it's designed to print, and it does that single function very well. The rather hefty M452dw weighs in at almost 42 pounds and measures 16.2- x 18.5- x 11.6-inches. It might fit on your desktop, but you'll want help unpacking it and lifting it onto a desk or table.
The review unit came with a power cord, an installation poster and guide, a software CD, a USB cable, and with all four toner cartridges already installed. This series of color laser printers uses a new cartridge design; you don't pull a plastic strip out of the cartridge before you can print. Instead, the first time you power on the printer, it automatically pulls off the strip and stores it within the toner cartridge.
The M452dw uses cartridges with a new color particle technology that HP calls JetIntelligence. The toner particles have a hard shell and soft center, sort of like an M&M. HP claims this results in more vivid colors and up to 48 percent more prints from a cartridge. We don't perform yield tests, so we can only report the numbers HP provides using the ISO testing protocol for laser cartridge yields.
HP rates the standard 410A black toner cartridge yield at a 2,300 pages, while the high-capacity 410X black cartridge yields approximately 6,500 pages. The standard color toner provides approximately 2,300 pages, and the high-capacity cartridges yield up to 5,000 pages.
The standard black and color cartridges cost $79 and $85 respectively at Staples, while the high-yield cartridges sell for $142 and $190 each. That sizable cash outlay may induce sticker shock, but the cost-per-page isn't extraordinarily high because the cartridges yield so many pages.
Small Business Color Laser Printer: Set Up and Installation
Setting up and installing the printer is painless; it takes only a few minutes. HP provides a four-page unpacking booklet and a short Getting Started Guide. You can perform the installation by downloading the latest drivers from the Internet, or you can run the installation from the included CD, which has drivers for both Windows and Mac OS operating systems.
The printer has both the PCL and Postscript 3 languages (Postscript 3 is an emulation), and works with pretty much any software. Postscript is most often used with graphic software and page layout applications such as Quark or Adobe InDesign.
The small business printer provides excellent connectivity options including Gigabit wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi, as well as USB and Touch-and-print Near Field Communication (NFC). It also provides a USB port for printing directly from a flash drive, and support for mobile printing with HP ePrint, Apple AirPrint, Mopria-certified apps and Google Cloud Print 2.0.
The M452dw's 2-inch large color touchscreen—mounted on the top surface of the printer to the right of the output tray—tilts so you can view it easily whether you are standing or sitting. The paper drawer holds 250 sheets of either letter or legal sized paper, and a front panel pulls down to expose the manual paper feed—for heavier specialty paper, such as photo paper or brochure paper.
The printer's output tray holds 150 sheets, so you can start a large print job without watching the printer constantly to prevent an overflow. As with any business printer, the M452dw provides duplex printing.
Color Laser Printer Performance
People look for two main things in a printer—performance and print quality. The Color Laserjet 452dw delivers on both. HP claims a 28 page-per-minute (ppm) monochrome speed using the ISO testing protocol. We used the Word and Excel document set from that test protocol and came up with almost the exact same number: 28.6 ppm.
We ran image quality tests on two different papers; Hammermill Digital Color Copy, which you would use for most high-quality business purposes, and a heavy, glossy photo paper from Red River. The printer produced excellent output with accurate color reproduction on both types of paper. The photo paper popped a bit more, but that's expected with glossy paper. We generally use an inkjet for photo printing but, in a pinch, you could use the M452dw with good results.
The M452dw has another feature worth noting—JetAdvantage Private Print. Many small businesses generate sensitive documents that require restricted access. With Private Print, the print job prints to the cloud, and it's released at the printer when a person enters a release code at the control panel. This is a variation of hold-and-release found on much more expensive office printers, and it provides an extra layer of security for sensitive documents.
Is a Color Laser Printer Worth the Expense?
You can buy an inkjet MFP that uses high-capacity cartridges for the same price or less than the Color LaserJet Pro M452dw. But the M452dw produces very high-quality pages quickly. And while the toner cost is a bit of a shock, the actual cost-per-page isn't excessive. The M452dw also provides a much higher duty cycle than you typically find in inkjet printers. HP rates it at up to 4,000 pages a month, though actually running that many pages per month will wear out the printer rather quickly.
If your small business produces ready-to-mail flyers and brochures or other types of high-quality business printing, the Color Laserjet Pro M452dw is worth the price.
Ted Needleman published his first review in 1978. Since then, he has written two books and several thousand hardware and software reviews, columns, and articles on using technology. He has no intention of stopping any time soon.
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