After our recent in-depth look at HP’s stellar new OfficeJet Pro X line of high-volume inkjet printers, we’re now finding it difficult to get all that excited about a single-function color laser machine of any stripe. Built around the printer giant’s new “PageWide” stationary-printhead technology, the OfficeJet Pro X inkjets are equal to, if not superior to, small-office and workgroup color lasers in several ways—but most of all when it comes to the per-page cost of consumables. Competition in the entry- and mid-level business-printer market just got fiercer. A color laser printer needs to be pretty remarkable on several fronts to impress, now.
In fact, the introduction of PageWide-based printers into the business-printer market will most likely cause printer makers, including HP, to reevaluate their color laser pricing and positioning. Recently released color laser models, such as the $329.99-MSRP HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color Printer M251nwwe’re reviewing here, may well get caught in the crossfire.
Like its multifunction sibling, the $449.99-MSRP HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color MFP M276nw we reviewed a few weeks ago, the M251nw is capable enough in terms of print quality and speed. We liked these printers well enough in isolation, but the far-too-high cost per page (CPP) of their toner makes them impractical for small offices, small businesses, and workgroups that have more than modest print-volume requirements.
In short, the M251nw costs too much to use. That’s too bad, because it performed respectably on our benchmark speed tests, and we have no complaints about its print quality. However, we did find its lack of an automatic duplexer for printing two-sided pages disappointing. It’s not often that we see an over-$300 printer these days come without support for unassisted two-sided printing. Also concerning was this model’s somewhat small—small for a laser printer, that is—150-sheet input drawer.
In fact, the more we consider it, the more M251nw looks to us like a “personal” color laser printer in a high-volume printer’s body—because the biggest trait of personal lasers, when it comes right down to it, is that they are designed not to be used all that much. That’s at odds with HP’s recommended maximum monthly duty cycle of 30,000 pages for this printer. But if you print that many pages (or even close) on the M251nw, it will cost you plenty extra compared to higher-cost, higher-volume models over time.
In sum, we see the M251nw as a low-volume laser printer, which really is a bit of an oxymoron when it comes to lasers at this price. You can find plenty of lower-cost inkjet models out there that print business documents almost as well—and for less money per page. We liked this machine’s print quality, but given the competition, only small offices and workgroups with very limited print-volume needs will find the M251nw a sensible pick.
See the entire review at Computer Shopper.