Review: HP CM1312nfi Color Laser Multi-Function Printer

The HP CM1312nfi, which sells for an impressive $499, certainly puts the “multi” in multi-function – including a flatbed scanner enhanced with an automatic document feeder, Ethernet networking, fax line and a built-in memory card reader for photo printing without a PC. And, of course, color laser printing.

The good news is that the CM1312nfi’s weakest feature is the box it comes in. Getting to the product inside involves more effort and puzzle solving than it should. Here’s hoping you only have to do it once.

The Setup

Like most multi-function printers, the CM1312nfi looks a bit like someone welded a flatbed scanner onto a printer. Still, the unit maintains a modest 17-inch footprint. At just over 50 pounds, the machine weighs about ten pounds more than a comparable multi-function inkjet.

Setup is literally a snap—you snap the keypad bezel onto the unit’s face, snap in the automatic document feeder tray and paper input tray. The four toner-ink cartridges arrive pre-installed in their own tray. The CM1312nfi uses one black and three color (cyan, yellow, magenta) cartridges.

You connect a PC or Mac to the CM1312nfi using either its USB 2.0 port or Ethernet jack, both located at the rear. An incoming telephone line can be plugged into an RJ-11 jack for faxes, and a second RJ-11 jack lets you daisy chain additional phones through the unit.

With its simple setup, you’ll have this printer up and running in less time and angst than it took to remove it from the box.

Menus and Software

Navigating the CM1312nfi’s menus and customizing the many configurable printer features – from copy count and size to contrast and networking – is intuitive and easy to use and hardly even requires reading the manual.

The PC software installation, however, takes you through a long series of steps, which ultimately install the necessary printer drivers. Drivers are available for PCL 5, PCL 6, and Postscript Level 3 emulation. On the Mac this process is a little more streamlined.

Still, the HP printer driver is full-featured with many presets of task-oriented goals, like “general everyday printing”, “envelopes”, “cardstock”, “labels”, “photos” and so on. Alternatively, you can manually set driver parameters like paper type to customize your output.

While printing, an HP status window pops up displaying print progress and toner levels, but in our testing it never acquired toner level data from the printer. Fortunately, the issue is moot because you can thoroughly configure and monitor the CM1312nfi through its built-in Web server.

The Web interface hosts a comprehensive range of printer settings and reports, from default paper sizes for different media to print quality to handling paper out and paper jam conditions. You can view toner status, and after 25 percent of a cartridge has been used, the printer will estimate how many printed pages remain.

The HP CM1312nfi Color Laser Multi-function Printer
The HP CM1312nfi multi-function color laser printer includes a flatbed scanner with 50-page ADF, memory card reader and fax.

Print Jobs

With a single 150-page paper tray and recommended 250 to 1,500 monthly page output, the CM1312nfi is best described as a light-duty printer designed for smaller scale jobs. Its rated speed of 12 PPM for black and eight PPM for color falls on the slower side relative to costlier color lasers.

The CM1312nfi outputs its first page more quickly than some more expensive color lasers. It’s LED-based “Instant On” technology does not require the lengthy warm-up time that can slow down first-page output, even for printers with a higher PPM rate over longer print jobs.

The CM1312nfi excels in two important areas: print quality and supported media types. Black print quality is crisp and strong, while color prints are sharp and vibrant. There is a subtle but attractive gloss to the prints, even on plain paper.

In fact, the CM1312nfi can print on actual glossy photo paper, something that some more expensive color lasers cannot do. While the CM1312nfi will not compete against a good inkjet on photographic print quality, it can produce very acceptable 8x10s and smaller, particularly with good quality glossy media.

HP claims that its ColorSphere toner formula increases color range by 22 percent and gloss by 40 percent over other toners, and while we can’t put these precise measurements to the test, the look is impressive—particularly coming from a three-color toner palette.

In addition to glossy paper, the CM1312nfi handles a range of weights from light to cardstock, and a range of formats including letter, legal, A4, envelopes, labels, and transparencies. Unfortunately, the CM1312nfi lacks a separate manual paper feed slot. To print the one-off envelope or other unusual media, you have to load it into the primary (and only) paper tray—an unusual feature omission.

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