Affordable Color Laser Doesn’t Skimp on Extras

We’ve seen the class of good, low-cost color laser printers emerge over the past few years. And while most have proven fine for home-office or very small office use, in general they haven’t had the speed or paper-handling features to satisfy a workgroup or typical small business. Hewlett-Packard is looking to fill that gap with the HP Color LaserJet 2605 series.

With the 2605dn ($499) and 2605dtn ($699) you get good speed, very good output quality, plus the paper-handling prowess that other entry-level models lack. Both models are built around a 10-ppm (pages per minute) color/12-ppm monochrome laser engine and include a built-in 10/100 Base-TX Ethernet network interface card (typically an extra-cost item on low-cost laser printers).

You also get built-in duplexing, a feature we love for small business owners. After all, the easiest way to trim your printing costs is to print on both sides of a page whenever possible. Both models come with a 250-sheet input drawer that handles everything from envelopes to legal-size stock. The 2605dtn adds a second paper drawer, built-in memory-card slots for direct printing from removable media and other goodies.

Snap to Set Up
The 2605 models have a small footprint, so finding space for one should be easy. The printer is tall and a bit heavy, though (44 pounds), so take care lifting it out of the box and into position. (Handholds molded into each side of the chassis make lifting more secure.)

Once it’s in place, simply remove the well-marked orange shipping tape and tabs from the printer and each of the four toner cartridges, slide the cartridges back into place, and load the paper. HP’s wizard-driven installation software walks you through the rest. We went from unpacking to printing in about 30 minutes.

Worth the Step Up in Cost
The extra touches the 2605 series delivers make this an affordable color laser, not a cheap one. In addition to the built-in two-sided printing, you also get HP’s “Instant-on Technology.” While instant is a bit of an overstatement, we found the warm-up time from idle (about 20 seconds) to be significantly less than with other color laser printers we’ve used.

The 2605dtn model we tested was also quieter than other color lasers. The typical whirring and clunking as a print job churns through were more muffled than we’re used to in this class. In a busy office we still wouldn’t want to share a desk with it, but for people who print more occasionally, the printer should be relatively unobtrusive.

HP Color LaserJet 2605
An Affordable Luxury: The $699 HP Color LaserJet 2605dtn lets you step up to quick speed, good output quality and paper handling that’s vigorous enough for the small office.

Buyers also get the HP ToolBox FX software. This utility shows you all the available printers on your network and their properties, lets you order supplies and access product support. The installation wizard also loads HP Photosmart Premier for organizing, printing, and sharing photos.

Put to the Test
In our tests, the 2605dtn delivered on its promises. It printed a three-page Microsoft Word document in 45 seconds (52 seconds with duplexing on), which was right in line with other low-cost color lasers we’ve tested. A nine-page PowerPoint presentation (complete with that familiar blue background) printed in a quick two minutes, five seconds, and a five-page PDF brochure (with text and color photos) finished in a minute flat.

As we’ve come to expect from HP, output quality was very good for a printer in this price class. Even four-point text was crisp and readable. Our PowerPoint presentation showed even color graduations and little or no banding even on full-fill areas. Very thin curved lines (specifically, hairline borders around circles) came out jagged, but straight lines were razor sharp. Photos showed good color and detail on plain paper; expect even better results if you step up to HP’s specially formulated brochure, photo and presentation papers designed to work with the 2605 series.

Sure, you can find a color laser printer for $399 (less if you go with a closeout model). But for our money, the duplexing alone makes the HP 2605dn worth the extra $100. Add in the other enhancements, and the 2605dn and 2605dtn will serve a small office well.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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