Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 1500L
At a Glance
If you're fed up with your ink jet printer's jaggy-looking text but can't switch to a monochrome laser because you need to print color documents, the LaserJet 1500L might meet your needs. It costs only $700 and delivers good print quality. As an alternative to an ink jet, the 1500L has some definite pluses. For one thing, no ink jet can match the crisp black and clean, graceful lines of the 1500L's text output. It printed text at 10.9 pages per minute--not fast for a color laser but about double the average speed of our most recently tested ink jets. On color graphics the 1500L's print quality is no match for a good ink jet. It does produce good detail and realistic coloring, but printouts are marred by a somewhat dotty texture. Its rear exit provides a straight paper path--a feature too many color lasers lack--so you can run labels and cardstock without fear of the wrinkles, jams, and sticky messes that the tight turns of a more serpentine paper path can cause.
The 1500L is best suited for standalone use. For example, it has a USB 2.0 port but no ethernet connection. Its fold-out auxiliary paper tray holds just 125 sheets. A standard 250-sheet closed tray--an option you'll want if you print a fair amount or want to keep two kinds of media loaded--costs an extra $200. Only 16MB of memory comes installed, and you can't add extra RAM. Though the 1500L printed PC World's test documents without a problem, we'd feel more confident about using the 1500L for demanding print jobs if we could expand its memory.
The 1500L's control panel is far less extensive than those on costlier color lasers, so setting up and maintaining the printer may be puzzling at times. For example, the toner cartridges occupy a carousel just beneath the printer's lid; to install or replace toner, you have to open the lid and press a button on the control panel until the color you want swivels to the top. HP's printed setup instructions were ambiguous (though the printer installed effortlessly following Windows' normal procedure). The on-screen documentation--though in the form of a help file rather than a manual--proved to be detailed and thorough, and it comes embellished with animations showing how to perform a few common maintenance tasks.
HP's one-cartridge-at-a-time toner design accounts in part for the 1500L's modest print speeds, and it seemed to contribute to the printer's noisiness as the carousel moved from one color to the next. But its compact design allows a single person to set up or move it: It weighs less than 50 pounds fully loaded and is small enough, at 18.5 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and only 13 inches high, that you can stretch your arms around it.
If you're looking for a printer to serve only one or two people, the LaserJet 1500L should meet your needs.
HP LaserJet 1500L
Buying Information: Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 1500L Rated 16 ppm text/4 ppm color laser. 16MB RAM standard, 600-by-600-dpi maximum resolution, 125 sheets input and output.