Review: HP CM2320n Color Laser Multifunction Printer

by Aaron Weiss

A sturdy build, impressive speed and vibrant color makes the CM2320n ready for business.

Last spring we reviewed HP's entry-level color laser MFP, the CM1312nfi. At $499 the printer packed in a lot of features, including a memory card reader and color LCD screen, and most notably, impressive color output quality. Oriented toward the consumer market, though, it was a little slow for heavy-duty use.

The new CM2320n, on the other hand, might be described as the 1312's business-oriented cousin. Starting at $599 for the base model, the CM2320 series gives business users one big upgrade—speed. Three models with different feature sets let buyers decide whether they need extras like the memory card reader and photo-oriented features of the 1312 (for a price, of course). The CM2320n is the base model in the series, supporting network connectivity but lacking fax, memory card reader, or color LCD.


The CM2320n shares the same body and design as the older CM1312 series. In fact, the only outward difference is that the 2320n lacks a fax keypad and has only a 4-line monochrome LCD compared to a flip-out color LCD in the CM1312nfi as well as the costlier CM2320nf and CM2320fxi models.

The CM2320n looks like a compact laser printer with a flatbed scanner merged onto it. The paper output is the space below the scanner. The printer's front consists of two paper input trays—a manual feed door that you pop open when needed, and a typical drawer-style 250-sheet tray.

A third tray, for another 250 sheets, is available on the fxi model. The door to the manual input tray also reveals the toner tray, which holds four toner cartridges—black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.

On the back you'll find the power plug, 10/100 Ethernet jack, and a USB 2.0 port. A rear door can be opened to clear paper jams, but unfortunately cannot be used as a straight-path paper output tray.

HP CM2320n Color Laser Multifunction Printer
The HP CM2320n Multifunction Color Laser Printer includes a flatbed scanner with 50-page ADF and prints up to 21 pages per minute.

A side memory flap exposes a single memory slot that accepts a 144-pin DDR2 SO-DIMM. The printer includes 160MB of built-in memory, and you can add a maximum of 256MB to the expansion slot, making for a total of 416MB. (In contrast, the CM1312 cannot be expanded beyond 160MB.)

Setup and Software

The included HP drivers support both Windows and Mac OS X. The Windows installer is cumbersome and takes a lot longer than it should, but ultimately gets the job done. Besides drivers for PCL6 and Postscript 3 emulation, the software also installs a TWAIN and WIA driver for the scanner.

HP's software can also provide basic status information, such as toner levels, but this information is available through the printer's integrated Web administration, which is more functional and easier to navigate through any Web browser.

Most people will setup the CM2320n on a network rather than by USB. This makes it easy for any machine on the LAN to send print jobs (with drivers installed) without bothering with printer sharing or print servers. Further easing setup, the HP installer can locate the printer on the network so you needn't muck around with IP addresses.

The driver software offers a range of useful, though typical, options. There are basic templates for several kinds of jobs, from envelopes to glossies to snapshots to labels. You can print multiple pages per sheet (which reduces the size of each page), or you can print in duplex mode, which will use both sides of the page. Note that the CM2320n does not include a duplexer, which means you'll have to manually flip the output stack and re-insert it to finish two-sided print jobs. (Only the fxi model includes an automatic duplexer.)

Unlike many printer drivers, there is no "toner saving" mode as such, which would normally print at a reduced DPI. Here you can manually lower print quality to 600DPI only when choosing to print in black and white mode.

Ready, Set, Print

The CM2320n print engine promises two feats: speed and quality. The speed comes courtesy of the unit's 450 Mhz processor, which is rated at up to 21 pages per minute in all modes at any quality level (compared to 8ppm for high quality color on the CM1312nfi). The quality comes from HP's ImageREt 3600 engine and ColorSphere toner formula, which claims to produce both a wider color range and higher gloss than other toners and print engines.

The results almost literally jump off the page. Overall print quality from the CM2320n is outstanding, and color printing is superb for a laser. High-resolutions digital photographs output on glossy stock not only come rolling out in a matter of seconds, but image quality is comparable to all but the better inkjets. Plus, there's no messing around with low-capacity and easily clogged ink cartridges.

HP's "Instant On" fuser also produces a relatively quick first page, without the delays other models often experience when starting a print job, especially when coming out of sleep or power-saving mode.

Speaking of power saving, an interesting observation about both the CM2320n and the earlier CM1312nfi—they don't cause a power surge effect like we typically see with other laser printers. With other lasers we've owned and reviewed, printing causes my uninterruptable power supply to beep and the compact fluorescent blubs in my office to flicker. The HP causes neither, meaning that Iwecan finally leave the lights on and print at the same time. Measuring its power draw using a handy Kill-a-Watt monitor, the CM2320n consumes a maximum of about 670 watts when processing a print job, and a fraction of that in between jobs.

Like most such laser printers, the CM2320n accepts a wide variety of media. You can feed it heavy card stock up to 53 pound, transparencies, glossy photo paper, label sheets, and most common sizes of envelopes, postcards, and index cards.

Because the printer does not support a straight paper path output, though, there is a greater chance of experiencing a jam with media that does not respond well to curling.

Copy and Scan

Generating a basic copy is as simple as placing material on the flatbed and pressing the respective "Start Copy" button—one for monochrome and one for color. Timing a single copy of a full-color magazine cover, the entire process from button press to finished page clocks in at about 28 seconds.

Control panel buttons let you adjust the quantity, size, and contrast of copies. For batch jobs where you want to copy multiple source pages, you can use the ADF or automatic document feeder. It supports up to 50 pages, so you can output multiple copies of batch sources with or without collation, assuming there is enough printer memory to capture all source pages.

Floating hinges allow the scanner lid to be positioned over thick or irregular objects like books, although their range is limited and they pop out of place quite easily.

The copier, of course, is a scanner. You can scan documents from either the flatbed or the ADF directly into your computer in one of several ways. The HP software installs a scanner driver, so that you can import scans directly into most imaging applications like Photoshop.

Scanning like this will launch HP's scan interface, with which you can resize, crop and apply other adjustments before importing the scan. The software defaults to a resolution of 200 DPI, which is a little low for pictures or photographs, but you can bump it to 600 or even 1,200 DPI, the highest optical resolution the scanner supports (higher resolutions involve software interpolation).

Using HP's helper software, you can assign the printer's scan function to a specific software application. This way, rather than launch the software and import a scan, you can trigger a scan from the printer, which will launch the software.

The CM2320n model cannot send scans directly to e-mail, network shares, or memory cards, but you can find these features on nf and fxi models.

Consumable Costs

Toner, sadly, does not grow on trees. And the CM2320n uses four ink cartridges, which list at about $120 apiece. The black toner is rated to yield about 3,500 pages, while the three colors are rated at about 2,800 each.

Doing the math, these numbers yield about 3.5 cents per page for black printing and 4.2 cents per page for color. Of course, real world results could vary considerably depending on the kind of printing you do.

Heavy Duty Volume

Undoubtedly, the big difference between the CM2320 series and the CM1312 series is sturdiness — not only is the CM2320n considerably faster, but it is rated to a much higher productivity level. Whereas the CM1312 series is designed to print between 250 to 1,500 pages per month, the CM2320 is good for up to 2,500 pages.

Bottom Line

Combined with its outstanding color output and fast speed, the CM2320n is an all-around stronger performer — but you'll have to pay extra to gain the same feature-rich options included with the cheaper (and slower) CM1312nfi.

Aaron Weiss a technology writer, screenwriter and Web development consultant who spends his free time stacking wood for the winter in Upstate New York. His Web site is: bordella.com

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This article was originally published on Thursday Feb 19th 2009
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