HP Color LaserJet 2500L
At a Glance
If you do moderate-to high-volume printing, you should know that, in the long run, a laser printer costs much less than an ink-jet. Even though a laser printer costs more initially, and despite the higher price of toner cartridges, ink-jets almost always have a higher cost per page. It's easy to find a monochrome laser for less than $300, but prices for color lasers that work with the Mac have stayed fairly high -- generally above $1,500. Hewlett-Packard has changed this with the Color LaserJet 2500L, a PostScript-based color printer for individuals and small workgroups that's priced at an unbelievable $1,000. And while its price is nice, the Color LaserJet 2500L's speed and the quality of its output are what set it apart from nearly every other printer in its price range.
The Color LaserJet 2500L has a strong set of specs: 600 dpi, 16 pages per minute (ppm) in black and 4 ppm in color, PostScript Level 3 emulation, USB and parallel connections, and a 125-sheet input tray. (HP also offers models based on the 2500L, including the $1,199 Color LaserJet 2500, which comes with an additional 250-sheet paper tray, and the $1,499 2500n, which includes the tray and a 10/100BaseT network card.)
Quick Setup, Snappy Performance
Although the Color LaserJet 2500L is fairly small for its genre, it weighs a hefty 53 pounds -- you won't mistake it for an ink-jet, and you won't want it on your desk.
Setup is easy. The printer has four toner cartridges (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black) and an imaging drum, all of which are easily accessible and a snap to install. Once you've installed the PostScript Printer Definition files and connected the printer to your Mac, you can share it across either an OS 9 or an OS X network without a problem, making it great for small workgroups.
In our tests, the 2500L was zippy with both black-and-white and color output. A 20-page Microsoft Word monochrome text document took 1 minute and 45 seconds to print, and a color version of the same document printed in 5 minutes and 29 seconds. A single-page color PDF took 48 seconds while a 10-page color PDF file printed in slightly less than 3 minutes. Our standard 22MB Photoshop test file also printed very quickly, in 1 minute and 47 seconds.
Print quality is very good. HP claims that its new toner formulation results in sharper text and more-consistent color, and our tests bore this out. Text at small point sizes was readable, and graphics were pleasing to the eye, with sharp, even lines. If you're a graphics pro, you won't want to use the 2500L as a proofer, but you can use it for quick comps.
HP went with a PostScript 3 clone, instead of licensing Adobe's PostScript, but this really isn't a problem; during testing, every page from Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Illustrator, and QuarkXPress printed flawlessly. In fact, the only significant negative we can ascribe to the printer is that the front-loading paper tray is a bit flimsy, but this is not a major flaw.
According to HP, each color cartridge should last for approximately 4,000 pages; the black cartridge, about 5,000; and the drum unit, between 6,000 and 8,000. This translates to roughly 2 cents per page for monochrome output and 12 cents for color. Our unit's toner life was very close to HP's claims, which means that you'll spend a lot less money over time than you would with an ink-jet (because of the small size of ink-jet cartridges, an ink-jet's ink usually costs two to three times as much as a laser printer's ink -- and costs can go even higher if you use expensive coated papers designed for ink-jets).
Macworld's Buying Advice
Breaking the magic price barrier of $1,000, HP has done an amazing job with the Color LaserJet 2500L. Its combination of crisp, clean laser output and PostScript support means that small workgroups with big printing needs can finally get the benefits of color-laser technology without putting too large a dent in their budgets.
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