HP LaserJet 1300 Review

At least twice a year, a hit movie or TV show turns some actor or actress into an “overnight star” — usually, it turns out, after the performer has been working hard for a decade or more. And at least twice a year, some big tech company like Microsoft or IBM “discovers” the small-to-medium business (SMB) or small-office/home-office (SOHO) market, announcing a splashy initiative to serve customers who fall short of the Fortune 500 enterprise but who need more powerful tools than home-PC-puttering families and kids.

This month’s example — at least in hardware marketing, though you’ll also be seeing a lot of Hilary Duff and Hugo Weaving — is HP, which has launched everything from an SMB-oriented, online Imaging & Printing Expertise Center to a new crop of monochrome laser printers positioned between entry-level mini-models and 10- or 20-employee workhorses.

At first glance, the LaserJet 1300 looks just like the model 1200 it replaces at the same $399 price — or, for that matter, like the LaserJet 1000 personal printer introduced 18 months ago at $249 and now selling for $199. All are small enough (about 16 by 19 by 10 inches and 19 pounds) to put on a corner of your desk instead of a separate printer stand, though a bit noisy to put right by your telephone.

But while the 1000 produced text at 10 pages per minute, the new 1300 doubles that to a rated speed of 20 ppm, with a 133MHz processor and 16MB of standard RAM doubling the specs of the 15-ppm LaserJet 1200. It also prints at up to 1,200 by 1,200 dpi resolution, instead of economy lasers’ 600 by 600 (though realistically we consider the latter OK for business text documents). And its duty cycle is a sturdy 10,000 pages per month.

In addition to its built-in, 250-sheet paper tray (plus 10-sheet “priority input tray” for feeding letterhead or envelopes on top of the main drawer), it supports a second 250-sheet tray (a $230 option).

And while the $399 base model tested here has just USB and parallel ports, the $599 LaserJet 1300n replaces the latter with a 10/100Mbps Ethernet print server — still a more costly choice than a generic, external print server or simply sharing a printer attached to one (always-on) PC on an office network, but the $200 premium is more palatable than the $400 or more extra that some vendors charge for network-ready models.

Back To Basics
The USB and parallel ports — the latter actually a plug-in module for the LIO slot used for the 1300n model’s print server — are at the rear, along with a power switch (call us old-fashioned, but we like printers you can turn off without unplugging, unlike some of the cheapest lasers). Setup is simple, with a toner cartridge that almost literally falls into place behind the front panel.

The LaserJet 1300’s standard toner cartridge is rated for 2,500 pages, with replacements costing $72 — that comes to just under 2.9 cents a page (not counting paper), which is far cheaper than your average inkjet printer, albeit about a penny more than midsized or larger monochrome lasers. You can trim the figure to 2.3 cents per page by opting for a 4,000-page cartridge priced at $92.

You can flip down a rear door for a straighter paper exit path, though both letterhead and cheap copier paper had no trouble making the U-turn from the paper drawer to their resting place on top of the printer in our tests. This face-down output conveniently leaves Page 1 of multipage documents on top when you remove them, but pages are prone to slide off the top of the stack well before the total reaches the claimed 125-sheet output capacity.

HP’s PCL 6 software driver — there’s a PostScript-compatible driver on the CD as well — provides a good choice of resize or fit-to-page, N-up (thumbnail or handout), manual duplexing, and watermark printing options, as well as an economy mode that promises to save toner but whose pages looked to our eyes too faint or pale gray for even in-house draft use.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the LaserJet 1300 produced, well, laser-sharp text in big and small font sizes alike. A bit unusual for a laser printer, however, is the choice of resolution or speed-versus-quality settings in the driver: 600 by 600 dpi for quickest output; what HP calls FastRes (600 by 1,200 dpi) for most jobs; and ProRes (1,200 by 1,200 dpi, with your choice of 141 or 180 lines per inch) for fine graphics or photo images.

Since a laser print engine always runs at the same speed, the different quality settings don’t make as big a difference in text-document times as comparable inkjet choices — our 20-page Microsoft Word document took 1 minute and 13 seconds at 600 dpi, and 1 minute and 14 seconds in FastRes mode, for example. But higher resolutions require more memory and can mean more pauses between pages (though you can minimize the latter by boosting the 16MB of onboard memory to as much as 80MB).

The different resolutions can have a visible effect on image quality; even the simple company logo in our one-page business letter looked nicer (with smoother filled areas) in ProRes than at 600 dpi (15 versus 13 seconds; even at the speedy setting, our print jobs never equaled HP’s claimed 8 seconds first-page-out time).

Our 55-page Adobe Acrobat document’s mixed text and graphics looked perfectly adequate at 600 by 600 dpi (4 minutes and 17 seconds), though noticeably nicer in in FastRes (just under seven minutes). And though we still can’t imagine see anyone using a monochrome laser to show off 8 by 10-inch photos, our digital-camera print definitely looked better at 1,200 by 1,200 dpi than 600 by 600, although print time jumped from 34 seconds to triple that.

Overall, the LaserJet 1300 strikes us as a likable text-job workhorse at a reasonable price — solo workers willing to settle for smaller, non-expandable memory and paper capacity might choose a bargain $199 laser like Minolta-QMS’ PagePro 1250W, but a growing business will be won over by HP’s offering of a second paper tray and network-ready model. We wish the 1300 had automatic duplexing like the Lexmark T420d we tested in February, but it has higher resolution at a lower price. It may not be an overnight star, but it’s a talented actor.

Adapted from HardwareCentral.com

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