We’ve been watching and analyzing communications technology for 40 years or so, but we still can’t help but marvel at the remarkable evolution of color laser printers over just half of that time. During it, HP’s LaserJet brand has played a huge, instrumental role in the advancement of color laser imaging.
Less than 20 years ago (September 1994, to be exact), HP introduced its first color laser—the unpretentiously named Color LaserJet. A behemoth of a machine, the Color LaserJet churned out full-color prints at the rate of 2 pages per minute (ppm). Its cost per page (CPP) for toner was about 10 cents, and your home-based or small business could own one for a mere $7,295.
That’s more than 16 times the list price of the LaserJet model we’re reviewing here: the $449.99-list LaserJet Pro 200 Color MFP M276nw. Factor in inflation, and the first color LaserJet actually cost about 30 times more than this one—and all that that first LaserJet could do was print. Conversely, in addition to printing about 14 color pages per minute, the MFP M276nw also copies, scans, and faxes. (“MFP” stands for “multifunction printer.”) In 1994, of course, you would have needed a separate device to perform each of these functions.
As MFP color lasers go, by today’s standards the M276nw is about average in terms of price and performance. It comes with many of the convenience and productivity features that home-based and small offices need, and, like most other comparably priced color lasers (HP’s and others’), it prints great-looking business documents. However, the cost of using this printer, in terms of the per-page price of toner, is far too high—especially for a laser device. Indeed, ironically this model swings too far for our liking back toward the CPPs of that 1994 Color LaserJet, and it costs about as much to use as several low-end inkjet MFPs, greatly diminishing the M276nw’s overall value.
Compared to several competing color lasers we’ve tested (including HP’s own $329.99-list LaserJet Pro 200 Color Printer M251nw, a single-function machine built around the same print engine as this model), the M276nw turned in slightly slower-than-average print times on most of our benchmark tests. Mind you, that’s not to say this MFP is slow, by any means—it’s just a step behind most, which shouldn’t matter much in offices with the kind of print-quantity needs that match up well with a model around this price.
If your office prints thousands of pages each month, though, this sluggishness will be more evident. Over time, those extra seconds and minutes can add up to hours of waiting too long for print jobs. Add that to the astronomical CPPs, and you might be better off choosing a high-volume, near-laser-quality inkjet MFP, such as HP’s own $299.99-list OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus. It and several other business-centric inkjets deliver per-page costs of about half (or less) than what we saw from this color laser model. (We discuss this model’s CPPs further in the Setup & Paper Handling section of this review.)
Furthermore, HP left out a couple of key convenience features, such as a duplexing print engine for printing two-sided pages automatically. Also, the automatic document feeder (ADF) can’t scan both sides of two-sided originals. If neither of those things is a deal-breaker, an office with average print volume requirements might find this MFP a good value, keeping in mind that its main strength is that it prints good-looking documents. If you print thousands of pages each month, though, you’ll get much better value from a more expensive, higher-volume model over the long haul, which could save you literally thousands of dollars after just a few months of use.
Read full review at Computer Shopper.