HP Color LaserJet 3800n
At a Glance
HP LaserJet 3800N Laser Printer (22 PPM, 600x600 DPI, Color, 160MB, PC/Mac)
Model has a small footprint and is easy to maintain, but it is comparatively expensive. Supports PCL and PostScript.
The HP Color LaserJet 3800n looks identical to the cheaper Color LaserJet 3600n, but it has a faster processor and more memory inside. It's also a true PCL printer and supports PostScript emulation, instead of relying on your PC's processing power to print from the Windows GDI. The inclusion of a processor translates into faster text printing, but color pages actually print slower than they do from this model's sibling, the 3600n. Unless monochrome text speed is of the essence, it may be hard to justify the $999 3800n's $200 price premium over the 3600n. The 3800n's vertical one-pass engine keeps the unit's physical footprint small (15.8 by 17.7 inches). The front of the machine folds down to make changing toner cartridges easy. The full-size black and color cartridges that the 3800n ships with are rated at 6000 pages each (the 3600n uses 4000-page color cartridges). Though they're expensive--$133 for black and $170 per color--each incorporates a fresh drum unit, so that expense won't sneak up on you over time. No other parts require regular replacement, so the 3800n is easy to maintain and there are no hidden costs. The estimated per-page costs are 2.2 cents for black-and-white and 10.7 cents for color.
The main paper drawer holds up to 250 sheets of paper. Folding down the multipurpose tray at the front lets you stack another 100 sheets. For heavy-duty printing, you can attach an optional 500-sheet bin (priced at $250). HP doesn't offer a duplexer for the 3800n; to get that feature you'd have to step up to the 3800dn, for $300 more.
The 3800n printed pages at above-average speeds in our tests: 16.5 pages per minute for text and 5.3 ppm for color graphics. By comparison, the 3600n prints text at 13.0 ppm and color graphics a bit faster at 5.6 ppm.
The print quality for most office tasks is good. Our judges liked the sharp text but noticed a few oddly shaped characters. Large, solid letters had a dappled appearance. The line art sample came out too dark, causing closely spaced lines to merge into a solid block.
Our grayscale image achieved good tonal variations. Despite some obvious dithering patterns, the 3800n printed good-looking color graphics on plain paper. However, photographs printed on glossy paper looked unnatural, with blown-out highlights, grainy dithering patterns, and fine banding.
This model's small footprint, decent paper handling, and competitive costs per page make it worth a look. And it prints text faster than its less-expensive sibling does.