Friday, 6 June 2008

HP Laserjet P1505 Review

Undercutting all of the small laser printers recently tested, the HP Laserjet P1505, with a price tag under £90 is aimed at the budget end of the laser market. Lacking an LCD screen, it makes do with buttons and coded lights and although it boasts a USB2.0 port, there is no Ethernet port for multi-user printing. If network printing is a high priority, HP does offer the P1505n model that incorporates an Ethernet port, but the price rises by an unreasonable £50.
The P1505 will certainly not take up too much room on your desktop. At 8.9x14.9x9.6 inches, it is smaller than many inkjet printers and weighing only 12.9 pounds it is not difficult to move single-handed. Without an LCD screen, the control panel consists of an array of lights labelled with icons that are so confusing, you often have to refer to the on screen documentation to figure out what the light sequence is telling you. HP has obviously cut corners to get down to this price and the paper guides that are located deep within the input tray are small and hard to move. The output tray also has a rather flimsy fold out extension showing more cost paring.
Do not be overly concerned if you are quickly required to renew the toner cartridge on this machine. It is factory fitted with a small capacity starter cartridge that is limited to 1,000 pages. The only available replacement cartridge (HP CB436a) is good for double this amount, although at £42 is not very good value, giving a cost per page of over 2p. The other problem with this cartridge is the fact that it is a new design and is currently only used in a total of three models. Unless it is introduced into more new printers, it is unlikely that cheaper compatible toner cartridges will be commonly available in the near future, leaving you with high print costs.
Unfortunately there was also evidence of cost cutting in the print tests. Plain text is handled fairly well given the likely workload, HP’s new spherical toner delivering crisp characters, however graphic performance isn’t up to par. Gradients were afflicted by plenty of banding and the maximum resolution of 600x600 dpi is half of that available from some other budget printers, like the Brother HL-5240. If print quality is disappointing, the same cannot be said for print speed. This printer hit 22ppm in tests that included both text and graphics, a result that is excellent for a budget laser printer and is faster than many more expensive printers.

If you are just after a fast affordable mono laser printer for your home office, at less than £90 the HP Laserjet P1505 may just fit the bill. But if you require a little more in the way of usable features or better quality output, you would be well advised to increase the budget slightly and look one division up, at the likes of the Brother HL-5240.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Canon Pixma iP2600 - A bargain printer

The Canon Pixma iP2600 is a budget, no frills inkjet photo printer. Retailing for under £30 and replacing the Pixma iP1800, this is an entry level, basic printer with few features. As such it lacks such items as a PictBridge port and a memory card slot, but is a sleek design and produces bold, crisp prints at competitive print speeds.

Printer manufacturers have been working hard to get away from the plastic grey look that has been mandatory for all printers in the past and the Pixma iP2600 follows this trend. The sleek exterior is 5.6x17.4x10 inches and has a mirrored glossy black finish, more reminisant of a furniture accessory rather than an inkjet printer. It certainly doesn’t take up a lot of desk space and will blend in nicely with your iPod or other desk peripherals. As one would expect on a budget printer, the control panel is limited to a power button and a paper feed button, located on top of the printer. The power button doubles as an error indicator by flashing a warning. Power input and USB port are located on the back of the printer, although no USB power cable is supplied with the unit. As previously mentioned, the printer does not support PictBridge so you will not be able to print directly from your digital camera.

Cartridge supplies

Low capacity cartridges are fitted to the Pixma iP2600 when sold. The black PG37 cartridge with 11ml of ink and the three-colour CL38 cartridge with 12ml. These cartridges do not represent the best value for this printer, as they are not filled to capacity. The black PG40 and colour CL41 cartridges are identical in size but are fully filled to capacity. The high yield PG40 black cartridge has 16ml of ink and is available for £14 whilst the CL41 cartridge, containing a total of 12ml of ink, 4ml of each colour cyan, magenta and yellow are less than £17. When ordering replacement cartridges for this printer, remember these order codes, as these products will give you the cheapest cost per page printed.

In speed tests the Pixma iP2600 performed very well. It managed to produce 5.68 pages per minute of black text, which compares well with both the HP DeskJet D4260 and the Lexmark Z845, that are both more expensive printers. The canon also performed well in quality tests, the characters formed were precise with crisp edges and created no blurred areas, in colour graphics tests most documents came out with solid colours and nice even distribution of colour. The only slight area of concern was in portions where gradual colour gradients occurred but these imperfections were barely noticeable to the bare eye and only a perfectionist could grumble.
4x6 photos printed on Canons semi-gloss paper were also impressive. They were not perfect but were well balanced and even, a difficult job for a budget printer.

So with solid printing performance at relatively quick output speeds and acceptable photo prints, the Pixma iP2600 is an affordable choice and is a printer that performs well above its weight, making it probably the best budget buy under £50.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Printer Ink - The $20,000 gallon.

How much did you pay for printer ink last time you purchased a new inkjet cartridge? If you were not careful it could have been as much as $20,000 per gallon.

How do we reach this figure? Well printer manufacturers have steadily reducing the amount of ink they put in their cartridges and I bet you haven't noticed any reduction in cost.

Hp for example used to have a one piece three colour, cyan, magenta and yellow, cartridge that would contain 6ml of each colour of ink.
Now if you are not careful you could end up buying a similar three colour cartridge that only contains a total of 5ml. That's less ink in total than you used to get of just one colour.

Hp is not alone in this move, other major manufacturers like Epson and Lexmark are also following this low capacity route to ensure you purchase replacement cartridges more frequently. Only Canon of the major manufacturers have not altered the capacity of their ink cartridges in recent years.

These manufactures often make higher capacity cartridges that will fit your printer but you have to find them, as a general rule it is unlikely that the cartridge fitted in the printer when you bought it is the best option when it comes to being renewed.

HP and Lexmark have recently introduced XL suffixes for some of their models and for best value these are the ones you should seek.

HP and Canon give details of the capacity in ml of their cartridges on the box, if this figure is less than 10ml then there is almost certainly a better value cartridge available. Visit the website of the manufacturer or any online webshop to find an alternative.

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