HP Color LaserJet CM1312nfi

HP's Color LaserJet CM1312nfi is a multifunction device that can print, scan, copy, and fax documents. Priced around $500, this device, with its color laser printer and built-in 10/100 Ethernet connectivity, is a good fit for cost-conscious small-to-medium work environments looking to add color to office documents.

The CM1312nfi has a compact design that doesn't take up a lot of space, but it does weigh a hefty 54.5 pounds, so it needs to be installed in a sturdy place. The device also features a 150-sheet paper tray and a 20-page automatic document feeder-handy for multi-page faxes, copies, and scans. One feature I miss is automatic double-sided printing; the software driver offers assistance in performing manual duplex jobs, but it's not quite as easy as having built-in auto-duplexing.

Speaking of the software drivers, the ones that shipped with the device had some trouble when we tried to use a Mac running OS X 10.5 Leopard to perform scans over a network, but HP has posted an update on its Web site that fixes most of the issues. Even after installing the update, I had difficulty using the scanner while the CM1312nfi was connected to Macworld's office network, a task that seems problematic with many network MFPs we've tested. I had no issues scanning over a closed network, or over USB, and HP was unable to reproduce our troubles over several networks they tested on. Printing over the network was never an issue.

Once installed, the software scanner driver is easy enough to use, but differs from most scanning software I've encountered. With the CM1312nfi, you start with a blank scanning window, then pick the type of document you want to scan and the settings. The CM1312nfi then scans the entire letter-sized scan bed, and you crop, rotate, and so on before saving the scan to a folder or to an e-mail program. Most scanning software first performs a quick, low-resolution preview scan; you then set the area you want scanned and set the resolution and the like, and then perform the scan. HP's method made it a little difficult for us to run our usual timed tests, as there is no way to control the amount of horizontal area scanned; there's only a vertical slider that allows you to approximate the length of your document, which is not easy to do with odd-sized documents when you can't see them.

The CM1312nfi prints documents at 600 dpi, and the scanner can scan letter-sized documents with a resolution as high as 1,200 dpi at 24 bits.

Although it's not meant to be a fine art scanner--offering only 1,200 dpi, 24-bit scanning, and no transparency unit--the scans from the CM1312nfi were of Good quality, with colors in our photo scan tending to be a bit blue but pleasing overall. The scans lacked some detail in darker areas of the photo, but did a good job capturing details in our resolution test target. A copy of a magazine cover turned out very well, with accurate colors, saturated blacks, and good-looking text. Copies of our test photo lacked sharpness and had a slight green colorcast.

The printer really excelled at our Text Quality and Fine Lines and Gradients tests, with clean legible text even at tiny point sizes, and thin, unbroken lines. The CM1312nfi is great for typical office documents, and good for photo and artistic projects.

In terms of speed, we've seen faster color laser printers, especially in our first page out test--at 33 seconds, the CM1312nfi is about average, though it took about twice as long to complete the test as the fastest printers we've tested. That said, I'm confident that the CM1312nfi is fast enough for most situations.

Macworld's buying advice

If you're looking for an inexpensive color laser multifunction device for your small-to-medium workgroup, the Color LaserJet CM1312nfi is worth a look. It offers printing, scanning, copying, and faxing, with an automatic document feeder and built-in networking. Best for business docs, and solid all around, the CM1312nfi is a true bargain.

[James Galbraith is Macworld's lab director.]

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