High-end printing, low-end price – Hardware Review – HP’s LaserJet 4P – Evaluation
HP LaserJet 4P
AT A GLANCE: The four pages per minute (ppm) HP LaserJet 4P shoots past other personal lasers by offering features like 600-dotsper-inch (dpi) output and a RISC processor at a remarkable price.
DOCUMENTATION: As usual, HP provides a manual that’s clear in its explanations, wonderfully detailed in its illustrations, and well indexed.
EASE OF USE: As simple as hooking it up to your PC, plugging it into an outlet, and loading the software. The product ships with the HP Laser Jet Printing System for Windows 3.1 and DOS drivers, as well as the DOS-based HP Explorer software.
SUPPORT: Telephone support is free and available from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. weekdays except Wednesday, when the line closes at 4:00 p.m.
LIST PRICE: $1,229
AVERAGE STREET PRICE: $925
MANUFACTURER: Hewlett-Packard, Dir. Mktg. Organization, P.O. Box 58059, MS 511L-SJ, Santa Clara, CA 95051; (208) 396-2551, (800) 752-0900
Hewlett-Packard brings advanced features to the low-end laser printer market with the new HP LaserJet 4P. A plethora of goodies is packaged inside this diminutive four-ppm laser, which takes only 14.7 by 15.4-inches (W,D) of desk space and weighs a mere 20 pounds. A new Canon PX II engine delivers true 600-by-600-dpi resolution, a 16-MHz Intel RISC processor drives performance, and an optional SIMM chip ($289) upgrades the unit to Adobe PostScript Level 2 capabilities. In all these areas, the 4P surpasses many other personal page printers, including HP’s own entry-level LaserJet 4L.
Of course, the 4P carries a higher price tag than the $849 300-dpi 4L: $1,229 list. On the street, that translates to about $925–still a bargain compared with other 600-dpi printers. You’ll notice the benefit of the 600-dpi engine, in combination with the microfine toner, best on scanned photos and other graphics. These images print with rich blacks and smooth gradations between shades of gray. As you’d expect, printing graphics in the printer’s 600-dpi mode takes a little longer than using its 300-dpi mode, but the output is definitely worth the wait.
Text prints sharp, clear, and quickly. A discerning eye will more readily pick out the differences in quality between a page of 10-point text using the unit’s 600-dpi mode versus one printed in its 300-dpi mode. But almost anyone will be able to point to the 4P’s clear advantage in 600-dpi mode over 300-dpi competitors when printing out considerably smaller text– say, 4- or 6-point characters. HP’s venerable REt (Resolution Enhancement Technology) contributes to the effect, eliminating jaggies from the edges of text and line art’s corners and curves. The printer’s Windows driver lets you finetune print density and REt settings (for example, you can correct an REt setting that causes bulges in sloping lines by choosing the Light or Medium settings) among other features.
Although the 4P can be upgraded to 26MB of memory, the unit also takes advantage of HP’s Memory Enhancement Technology (MEt) that was introduced in the 4L. MEt effectively doubles the printer’s memory by compressing data and fonts so you can print complex pages– such as those with many downloaded fonts or large graphic images–without adding memory. Using only the 2MB that comes standard, I was able to print complex full-page graphic images with no problem. Other favorite features brought over from the 4L include EconoMode printing (which cuts toner use by 50 percent); a power-saving mode that uses less than 10 watts when the printer is idle; and HP’s Explorer software, which, among other features, displays messages sent from the printer on your screen. In its standard configuration, the printer supports the Enhanced PCL 5 language, including 35 scalable Intellifont typefaces and 10 TrueType typefaces that match those in Windows 3.1.
A full-featured, easy-to-use control panel takes you painlessly through menu choices. HP designed the printer to accept custom media (including one-up mailing labels and 3-by-5-inch index cards) in paper stock up to 42 pounds through its manual feed slot, and indeed the printer accepted everything I threw at it … eventually. It took awhile to get the knack of inserting paper, index cards, and envelopes into the manual feed–too often, I accidentally put it too far into the slot (beware the multiple clicks). On the positive side, you can select a straight-through paper path to get your envelopes out wrinkle free, and a paper-jam access door on the back helps you out of sticky situations.
You can add additional HP MasterType Library fonts through the font cartridge slot and network connections with HP’s JetDirect EX external interfaces. With the PostScript SIMM installed, the printer automatically switches between PCL and PostScript jobs. The upcoming LaserJet 4MP ($1,729) will ship with PostScript, an AppleTalk port, a 20-MHz RISC processor, 80 typefaces, and 6MB of memory installed.
Simply put, the 4P raises the bar in what users will expect from a low-end, under-$1,000 laser printer.
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