From cartoons to charts and graphs, it's always more exciting to see things in color. While color laser printers have dropped significantly in price, purchasing one is still a big investment. We took a look at Hewlett Packard's LaserJet 4550N, the replacement for the popular HP LaserJet 4500 series, and compared it with the results of our recent roundup of color laser printers.
Ready, Set, Print!
Like the color workgroup printers from our roundup, the HP Color LaserJet 4550N is packaged to run right out of the box. The printer comes with 64MB of RAM -- sufficient for everyday use in a small- to medium-size office. Maximum resolution is 600 dpi; paper products sized 3.9 by 7.5 inches to 8.5 by 14 inches are accepted. The 4550N is equipped with two paper trays; a duplexing accessory can be purchased separately. Setup simply involves installation of the imaging drum and the four print cartridges (C, M, Y, and K). Once everything is installed, you just connect the printer to your network through an Ethernet cable.
All Area Access
Managing this printer is easy with the included HP LaserJet Utility software: network administrators can check the status of print jobs or change settings from any computer on the network. Plus, the 4550N features infrared capability and an embedded Web server that, with an IP number, enables the administrator to control the printer from any Web browser.
The installation CD comes with printer drivers for most major platforms including Windows 3.X, Windows 9.X, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Mac OS 7.5.3 (or later), and Novell NetWare (3.X, 4.X, 5.X). (With OS X, drivers aren't necessary. Printing is available through AppleTalk.) For the Macintosh, the driver installs printer-description files (PPD) and ColorSync profiles. As an added convenience, with the optional Fast InfraRed Receiver accessory ($66), PowerBook users with an IrDA port can print wirelessly.
Color and Text
While color laser output does not compare to that of a high-quality color ink-jet printer, lasers print faster, and the output is generally sufficient for business applications. The Color LaserJet 4550N produces smooth text and graphics, as well as excellent images. Its prints are almost identical to those from the HP Color LaserJet 8550N, which scored high in our laser printer roundup: both printers produce output at the same resolution (600 dpi) with HP Image Resolution Enhancement technology (HP ImageREt 2400). The main differences between the printers are price, speed, and paper capacity. The 8550N is listed at $5,549 and has a paper capacity of 1,100 sheets; at $2,359, the 4550N holds 400 sheets. The 8550N produces 24 ppm black-and-white, 6 ppm color; the 4550N produces 16 ppm black-and-white, 4 ppm color.
The LaserJet 4550N comes with a one-year limited on-site warranty. Technical support is available by phone Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. mountain time. The call is not toll free.hp LaserJet 4550N