Review: HP Color LaserJet CP1215

Do you want to buy a color laser printer? Do you want to buy one this week?

We should explain: The new entry-level or bottom-rung model in HP‘s Color LaserJet lineup, the CP1215, is officially priced at $300. And that’s the price you’ll see if you look it up on the home and home-office section of the hard-copy Goliath’s Web site.

Visit the small and medium business area of the site, however or any of numerous online resellers and you’ll find the same printer selling for $200, thanks to a $100 instant rebate. Sadly, the latter expires June 30, 2008, after which … well, you can shop around.

HP’s official price will presumably return to three C-notes, but other sites we visited didn’t mention the June 30 rebate yet ranged from $250 at Datavision to $200 at TigerDirect and J&R, with the latter noting, “Price Reflects $80 Instant Rebate thru 8/31/08.” pumped up its savings by claiming, “List price $382.”

With even a modest cut representing a healthy percentage of the total price, our opinion of the CP1215 naturally rises as its price falls. Still, even at the full $300 it’s a cutie, small and (pretty much) quiet enough to share your desk instead of being banished to a remote table or printer stand and delivering high-quality output at tolerable speed.

HP Color LaserJet CP1215
Pricing Bonus: The $100 rebate for the HP Color LaserJet CP1215 ends on June 30.

Don’t Push It

HP emphasizes that the CP1215 is a personal or desktop printer instead of a workgroup workhorse. For one thing, its only interface is a USB 2.0 port, with no wired or wireless network connectivity to be had. For another, while the printer’s specs rate its maximum monthly duty cycle at 25,000 pages, its “recommended monthly print volume” is a minimal 250 to 1,000 pages.

Along the way, you’ll pay a somewhat costly 3.2 cents per black-and-white and a definitely costly 17.1 cents per color page, based on HP’s price of $70 for a replacement black toner cartridge rated at 2,200 pages and $65 apiece for cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges rated at 1,400 pages. Also, as you know, the laser and inkjet printer industry, though less evil than Big Tobacco, is evil enough to sell printers with only half-full “starter cartridges” in the box. The CP1215’s are rated for 750 pages.

The hardest thing about printer setup is opening the front door, sliding out the toner cartridges’ horizontal rack and pulling a sealed-for-shipping ripcord from each before putting it back in place. It should take you about 60 seconds. Taking the color laser printer out of its carton is a one- instead of the usual two-person job, thanks to a weight of 39 pounds.

It’s child’s play to remove, refill and reinsert the bottom-mounted paper drawer, though we wish it held more than 150 sheets. Pages perform a vertical U-turn to emerge face down on top of the printer, jamming only once during our two weeks’ testing. There’s no second paper tray or slot for feeding envelopes or other special media, and duplex (double-sided) printing is a manual job of reloading pages as prompted by the software driver.

Install the supplied Windows software and plug in a USB cable (not included), and you’re ready to go. The CP1215 isn’t as tiny as some inkjet printers nowadays, but if you haven’t seen a color laser lately you’ll be tickled by its compact 16- by 18-inch footprint and 10-inch height. HP says the unit draws a maximum of 290 watts while printing, falling to 11 when idle and 4.4 watts when having a snooze.

We make a point of mentioning the Windows software because that’s all the CP1215 knows like other entry-level lasers it’s a host-based printer that uses Windows’ (2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista) own imaging facilities instead of a printer language like PostScript or PCL. Mac and Linux users must cross the HP off their lists.

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