capsule review

HP Color LaserJet 3600n

As another entry in the growing sub-$1,000 color laser printer market, the HP Color LaserJet 3600n arrives network-ready with built-in 10/100BaseT Ethernet as well as USB 2.0 for a direct connection to your Mac.

Unlike some entry-level printers, the 3600n does offer upgrades like wireless networking, duplexing units, and additional paper trays. Unfortunately, even though its text and fine line printing are excellent, the overall output was a little light.

Like many entry-level color laser printers, the 3600N does not support PostScript. Instead, it relies on your Mac to do the heavy lifting for image processing, so it’s not a big deal that this printer’s RAM is not upgradeable. Lack of PostScript support is not necessarily a bad thing either, as most Macs have much faster processors than those found in laser printers. In terms of speed, the 3600n kept up with, and sometimes edged past most PostScript-enabled printers we’ve recently reviewed, with the exception of our 22MB Photoshop image. If you aren’t working as a professional graphic artist, you’ll probably never even notice the absence of PostScript. We were able to print PDF files from Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and QuarkXPress without any problems.

New toner

The 3600n features HP’s new ColorSphere toner—which is supposed to look glossier than the previous toners—as well as other tools that are designed to do a better job at trapping and defining edges. But maybe that’s the problem. I found that at default modes, the output was a little light, both in printed text and photographic images. Low-contrast photographic prints actually looked hazy. Printed text was very clean and crisp, as were the fine lines in our graphics test page, though they were still a little light for my taste. There was some very subtle banding in the lightest areas of some of the color gradients too, but overall the printed graphic output was very good.

Maybe you don’t care how well your laser printer handles photographic images, but HP does, because they’re now including the company’s Real Life Photography tools in the printer driver. These tools can automatically adjust photos by reducing red-eye and increasing brightness. After fussing with some of these tools, I was able to get a photographic image to look punchier and have better contrast. HP said that a firmware update would soon be available to address the light-printing problem. This free update, originally planned for December 2005, is now scheduled for sometime this month.

Timed Trials

10-page Word test 0:49
1-page Word test 0:19
22MB Photoshop image 3:31
4-page PDF 0:57

jury tests

Graphics—Fine lines, gradients Very Good
22MB Photoshop image quality Flawed
Text quality Excellent

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

Specifications

Print Resolution 600 dpi
Connection 10/100 Base-T Ethernet; USB 2.0
Paper Sizes up to 8.5 x 13 inches
PostScript Version n/a
Installed RAM /Max RAM 64MB
Cost to replace ink/ toner carts $523 ($133 for black per 6,000 pages; $130 each for C-M-Y per 4,000 color pages)
Weight (in pounds) 59.6
Dimensions (height x depth x width in inches) 15.7 x 17.7 x 15.7
Paper capacity 250 sheets
Duty cycle 50,000
Special Features HP’s Real Life Photography tools built into driver

Macworld’s buying advice

The HP Color LaserJet 3600n is quick, capable of excellent text and fine-line prints, and definitely worth considering for people who plan to print primarily business documents containing text and pie charts. Photographic images, however, had a hazy sheen and an overall light appearance. A fix from HP is in the works, but it hasn’t arrived as yet.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]

HP Color LaserJet 3600n
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