The price of colour-laser technology has been steadily falling for several years. Now, finally, HP has brought out a sub-£200 colour laser. Such a price would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago but, with a raft of competent models currently occupying the £210-£240 space, the LaserJet 1600 now seems a natural move forwards rather than a revolution.

You'd never guess the LaserJet's low price from its casing. Insubstantial and flimsy this printer most certainly isn't. It should be able to soak up plenty of abuse from eager users.

It works well, with paper being fed into the draw at the base of the printer and the results dropping into a tray built into the top of the 1600. In laser terms there's nothing new about this, of course, but it's nice to see that the manufacturer hasn't cut costs by compromising on the design. The standard paper input is 250 sheets, which is very good for a printer of this price, and the maximum input is 500.

Print quality is surprisingly good for the money. We had a few initial problems with fuzzy images, but these were quickly fixed with the printer's cleaning tool. Otherwise, results were sharp and fairly colourful.

The palette is perhaps a little dark and you'll need to fiddle with the settings to get optimum quality, but generally we were impressed. Text is pretty strong: a bit light for our tastes, but well-defined.

Speed is more of a concern. At 600dpi (dots per inch), colour prints came out at just 3.8ppm (pages per minute). This is certainly no faster than any of the HP's competitors, and slower than several. Text averaged just 6.9ppm in our tests. Other models regularly print at twice this speed. Neither is this a cheap laser to run, with toner cartridges costing little less than those of comparable colour lasers but generating far fewer pages.

HP LaserJet 1600: Specs

  • Hardware resolution 600x600dpi
  • software resolution 2,400x600dpi
  • installed RAM 16MB
  • max RAM 16MB
  • quoted print speed B=8ppm C=8ppm
  • actual print speed B=6.9ppm C=3.8ppm
  • USB 1.1/2.0
  • 250-sheet standard input (maximum 500)
  • toner costs B=£59 C=£64
  • print life (pages) B=2,500 C=2,000
  • 1-year warranty
  • 407x453x370mm
  • 18.4kg
  • Hardware resolution 600x600dpi
  • software resolution 2,400x600dpi
  • installed RAM 16MB
  • max RAM 16MB
  • quoted print speed B=8ppm C=8ppm
  • actual print speed B=6.9ppm C=3.8ppm
  • USB 1.1/2.0
  • 250-sheet standard input (maximum 500)
  • toner costs B=£59 C=£64
  • print life (pages) B=2,500 C=2,000
  • 1-year warranty
  • 407x453x370mm
  • 18.4kg

OUR VERDICT

In terms of physical build and operation, the LaserJet 1600 is excellent. With consumables costing as much as the printer itself, running expenses are a concern and text output is quite slow. However, those wanting a cheap laser for colour graphics will find this a solid buy.

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