A Powerful Multifunction Printer for Small Business

by Aaron Weiss

We review HP's LaserJet Enterprise Color Flow MFP M575c, a heavy-duty workhorse designed for small- to medium-sized businesses with big print and scan queues.

These days the printers that often receive the most ink, so to speak, are "prosumer" models that squeeze more and more multi-function features into lower and lower price tags. Capable of meeting the light-duty needs of many home offices and small businesses, the sub-$300 category covers a hefty percentage of the market. But what if those options don’t meet your small business printer needs?

Then you move up to printers aimed at the medium-sized business, which includes smaller businesses with above-average printing and scanning needs. The HP LaserJet Enterprise Color Flow MFP M575c doesn’t cost $300—the street price runs closer to $3,000. What do you get in this multifunction business printer for all that extra dough?

A Multifunction Printer in a Very Big Box

The M575c is heavy duty in more ways than one. The unit weighs more than 100 pounds, and you need two people to set it up. Out of the box it's designed to sit on a desktop, but make sure that desk is wide and sturdy—a rickety side table just won’t do. Optionally, you can buy a base cabinet (model CF085A, $350), which lets the M575c stand on the floor.

HP LaserJet Enterprise Color Flow MFP M575c small business printer review

Figure 1: This is no lightweight MFP. The heavy-duty HP LaserJet M575c handles high-volume printing and scanning jobs with ease.

Like most MFP’s, the M575c's scanner portion sits on top of its laser printer body. It sports two paper trays: a 100-sheet side-mounted tray with easy access for irregular or manual feed media, and a 250-sheet conventional bottom tray. You can purchase an optional third 500-sheet tray (model CF084A) for $350.

The printer includes the typical inputs for a direct USB connection or an Ethernet network jack. Note though that despite its business-class status, the M575c does not include built-in wireless networking. To connect to a wireless network, you’ll need one of HP’s wireless Jetdirect print servers.

Walk-up Printing and Scanning Productivity

Many MFP’s now offer a small display to directly control printing and scanning functions, which lets you perform many jobs without a computer at all. The M575c invites serious walk-up potential, with its tablet-sized 8-inch touch-screen display and full-sized, pull-out keyboard. The embedded operating system that powers the M575c is easy to navigate and supports advanced business-class features such as user accounts with their own settings and print jobs.

Sophisticated print management separates the M575c from the less expensive, light-duty models. Jobs You can not only manage—stop, start, and pause—jobs directly from the printer, but you can view logs of completed jobs and even send saved jobs to the printer from individual computers for printing at a later time. For example, you might save a large job with 100 pages to print after business hours, when it won’t compete with smaller jobs.

Strangely though, the M575c lacks a few convenience features that you typically find in lesser MFPs. For example, the M575c provides a USB port for attaching a thumb drive. While you can print documents directly from the thumb drive, the device supports a very limited range of formats—the only common type being PDF. Printing common files—like JPG photos or plain text files—from a thumb drive is a no-go, which seems like a missed opportunity considering the robust walkup interface.

Fast and Colorful Printing

Printing is one area where HP's LaserJet Enterprise Color Flow M575c multifunction printer really shows its colors, so to speak. Most jobs we sent put ink to page one within 10 seconds. And the print speed just accelerates from there. The rated print speed of 31ppm for black and color is not far off the mark. We easily achieved just a few ppm shy for a long, mixed black-and-color document at normal print quality. Expect slower speeds when using automated full-duplex printing for saving paper.

If you spend a lot of time waiting for color inkjets to print, it might be a shock to see a full-color page land in the output tray on the M575c in less than a minute. And while the color output may not be magazine or art-show quality, even full-color photographs on premium paper look rich and natural.

Color laser printers do come with a premium per-page cost compared to their inkjet brethren. The M575c uses three color toner cartridges that about $220 apiece, plus the $200 high-capacity black toner. With a 6,000 page rated capacity, average color prints cost about 11 cents per page. Many inkjets run between 5-7 cents per page. We don’t intend this to knock the M575c, but just to emphasize that this is a premium-priced printer with operating costs to match.

Color aside, the printer's output is not only blazing fast, but sharp and strong. Print a copy of a clean original, and it can be difficult to tell which is which.

Despite its limited support for USB drive file types, the M575c is otherwise well connected to handle incoming print jobs. In addition to printing from a standard desktop, you can send jobs from mobile devices using Apple AirPrint, HP ePrint, and over the Internet via email.

Speedy Scanning

Almost more impressive than the M575c print speed is its rapid, high-volume scanner. With a 100-page ADF and double-sided scanning, this MFP scans up to 30 ppm for color pages and nearly 40 ppm for black and white. To put this in perspective, documents we fed through the ADF essentially rolled right through and into the output tray without even a pause for the scanner to catch up.

Additional intelligence features, such as automatic blank page removal and double-feed detection, help ensure that the MFP doesn't botch a 100-page scan job.

Unlike input file formats, the M575c actually supports a flexible range of output formats for scans—including PDF, JPG, TIFF and XPS. Beyond that, the scanner includes built-in OCR processing. You can choose output formats including plaintext, RTF, searchable PDF, and HTML, for which the machine will output processed text from the original document. Like any OCR system, the results work best when the original document is clear, printed output with a relatively simple layout.

Further, you can save scans directly to the printer’s memory for long-term storage and repeat printing in the future. Or, you can setup the M575c to save scans to a USB drive, shared network folder, one or more email recipients, or a SharePoint server.

High-volume Printer Value

Here's the bottom line with an MFP like the M575c. The high sticker price pays off in high-volume output and efficiency. With a rated monthly duty cycle of 75,000 pages, the M575c is best used in an active, multi-user environment. The price tag buys you the capability to juggle and manage multiple streams of print and scan jobs—and to output those jobs very quickly. You also get a build quality that inspires confidence.

However, the premium features also come with increased complexity—the plethora of menus and options may overwhelm a business with small print job needs. If that describes your business, this is not the printer for you.

We can see small businesses that handle a lot of documents using the M575c as a scanner first and a printer second. In this era where so many documents are ultimately stored digitally, this MFP’s fast and robust automatic scanning offers true performance over cheap MFPs.

Aaron Weiss is a technology writer, screenwriter and Web development consultant living in LA. His Web site is: bordella.com

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This article was originally published on Tuesday Jul 23rd 2013
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