HP Color LaserJet 3700n
At a Glance
HP's $1600 Color LaserJet 3700n is the least-expensive color laser with an ethernet interface and an image-crunching processor that PC World has seen recently. That sets it apart from sub-$1000 models such as the Oki C5100n and Samsung CLP-500, which use the host PC's processor to generate the image before printing. But before you get too excited about the low price, note that the 3700n is among the slowest color lasers at one critical office function: printing text. And in our page-yield test, the 3700n used up 18 cents' worth of toner per color page, or about 50 percent more than the average.
The 3700n printed text at 10.2 pages per minute, only about two-thirds the average of recently tested models. Color graphics printed at an average-rated 3.8 ppm. This lack of speed makes the 3700n best suited for small workgroups, as does its limited paper capacity: The 3700n has only a 250-sheet main tray and a 100-sheet auxiliary feed. The 3700dtn model, however, comes with an extra 500-sheet feeder and an internal duplexer; it sells for $2249.
The 3700n printed clean, accurate text, extremely sharp line art, and very attractive gray-scale photos with realistic shading and sharp detail. Its color photos, however, didn't fare so well. PC World's output jury saw color prints that were too dark in shadow areas and dotty enough to interfere with detail, and their colors looked somewhat flat.
The 3700n is designed, like many HP color lasers, around a vertical one-pass engine. That makes the printer's case somewhat taller and narrower than horizontal one-pass designs. It stands 18.4 inches high, 19 inches wide, and 17 inches deep, but it didn't feel top-heavy or awkward when we moved it. The design also makes the 3700n especially easy to maintain. For example, the imaging belt isn't buried inside the printer, where it would be difficult to access, but instead is built into the front door, which lowers on hinges. Lowering the front door also pulls the toner cartridges forward on a rack, so they're easily accessible, too; and with one cartridge removed, you can access the entire paper path. The control panel menus are easy to navigate, thanks to a strict hierarchical organization and thoughtful cues that remind you where you are in the menus. Still, we sure would like backlighting on the LCD.
The 3700n has the full suite of HP's management tools. That includes an embedded Web server, which allows you to see the printer status from a Web browser on your PC, operate the control-panel menus remotely, and receive e-mail alerts when something goes wrong. Also, because it has its own image processor, the 3700n can take its place in a network printer-management and print-server environment such as Windows Server 2003. Installing the printer on the network was so easy, we thought we'd missed something--the installer created a TCP port and figured out everything else with no help.
The Color LaserJet 3700n is an economical choice if top-quality monochrome prints are a high priority and if your workgroup can live with its relatively slow print speeds.