HP Color LaserJet 2840
At a Glance
HP's Color LaserJet 2840 has a stylish, gray-and-black design. Unfortunately, despite a few nice features and networking capabilities, it's a mediocre performer in most respects.
One attractive feature is the inclusion of media slots so you can print photos directly from a media card via the front panel, without having to go through a PC. Media card slots are common on inkjet MFPs but rare on laser-based machines.
You can connect the HP Color LaserJet 2840 to a network in a peer-to-peer environment, where you install the software on each client, or in a client-server environment. For the latter, though, the unit supports only Windows 2000 Server out-of-the-box. If you want to set the unit up on a Windows 2003 Server Edition network (which we rely on for our testing), installation involves using the Add a Printer box in Windows and then searching for the printer's IP address. HP says that drivers for Windows 2003 Server should be available for download from its Web site by the time you read this.
Regardless of how you set up the unit on a network, you'll need to install HP's software on each client PC to take full advantage of the unit's networked capabilities. Once the 2840 is plugged into the network and you've installed the drivers and software, each client user can configure the MFP with its Web-based configuration tool, HP Toolbox.
The 2840 goes on to offer a strange mix of onboard and PC-only controls. For example, the scan button on the unit's front panel sends the image to a prescan view; but to zoom in and out, rotate picture, auto-correct, resize, lighten/darken, sharpen, adjust color on a color wheel, and set saturation and resolution--you must work from your PC.
The 2840 took 37.7 seconds to scan a color document--the slowest scanning performance among the three color laser MFPs tested for our July 2005 roundup, and the second slowest among the entire crop of laser MFPs (including monochrome models). The scanned results were hardly worth the wait: Documents and images looked oversaturated and much too red.
The 2840 also dawdled as a printer, printing text documents at 7 pages per minute and color graphics at just 1.3 ppm. On the other hand, text looked clean and sharp, and grayscale graphics had a smooth texture and little banding--though our testers deemed the test pages too dark. Color graphics were generally good, with realistic hues that were just a touch too bright. Blues looked a bit oversaturated, but images had smooth transitions and good contrast. Test images printed on photo paper appeared vibrant but somewhat pixelated.
Copying documents via the front control panel was a breeze. You can copy in black-and-white or in color directly from the console; copies of monochrome text pages emerged in just 3.2 seconds per page. Copies weren't as dark and sharp as the original, but seemed generally accurate.
HP includes media card slots for CompactFlash, Secure Digital xD-Picture card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, SmartMedia, and MultiMedia Card with the 2840; and it capitalizes on these by offering a number of photo-specific features more typical of photo-centric HP printers. For example, you can print a proof sheeting containing thumbnails of all of the photos on your card. The 2840 goes beyond printing a contact sheet: You can take that proof sheet, mark photos directly on the page, and scan it back into the machine. The MFP will then print all of the photos you've chosen.
The included Image Zone software--HP's excellent image organizer and editor--organizes images in an Explorer-style menu. Image Zone lets you make such adjustments as changing brightness and contrast, removing redeye, cropping, and adding color effects such as black-and-white or sepia tones. You can create panoramas, CD labels, photo albums, calendars, and gift cards using the software, too. A "share" section helps you send photos in an e-mail message or upload them to the Internet. Image Zone is part of the HP Director software suite, which you can use to scan a picture or text document, transfer images from a card, or send a fax.
Though it can handle more than one user over a network, the 2840 has little paper-handling flexibility. It comes with a 250-sheet main paper tray and a 150-sheet multipurpose tray, but there are no optional paper trays. Like all of the models we tested for our roundup, the 2840 accepts sheets of paper up to legal-size.
The media card slots and the extensive image software make the 2840 attractive for offices that print lots of photos, but its pokiness and mediocre image quality will incline many prospective buyers to steer clear.