The HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451 series includes three workgroup printers. The M451nw comes with both wireless (802.11b/g/n) and wired Fast Ethernet 10/100 capabilities. The model we physically reviewed wasn’t the M451nw, but the more expensive (around £380) M451dw, which is in essence identical to the M451nw except that it comes with auto-duplexing – the M451nw is manual only. Another model, the M451dn (£350), also comes with auto-duplexing, but does without a wireless network connection.
The HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw has a Smart Install feature, which means that provided you need just the main printer driver loaded, the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw can install itself without a disc needing to be inserted. Where it worked, this proved a nice feature that cut the usual 10-20 minute installation process to a mere three minutes. However, the installation is unlikely to be seamless in every case. Although it ran smoothly with Windows 7, a Vista PC threw up a number of problems (many of which were solved by loading version 3.5 of Microsoft Net). Provided you keep your PCs up to date, you may find Smart Install a boon, but don’t necessarily expect it to be as painless as the literature suggests.
Paper handling is fairly strong for the price. The HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw's main paper tray is a hefty unit that can comfortably hold 250 sheets. Add to this the 50-sheet multi-purpose tray that neatly drops down from a front compartment, and you have a fair amount of paper handling as default. Should you need more, an extra £120 will buy you an additional 250-sheet tray – bringing the maximum up to 550 sheets. The nicely indented top can securely hold 150 sheets.
The duty cycle of 40,000 pages a month isn’t the largest in the industry, but is fine at this price point, and those needing to print out decent but not top-heavy printloads will find the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw a suitable choice. A little more disappointing is the memory – the 128MB provided as standard may be adequate, but you can only expand this to 384MB in all, and that limits this printer for high-detail jobs. See Business Advisor.
The HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw is a fast model. On paper the Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4535 DWF is faster, but that printer can't get near to laser-quality text while remaining at such a high speed. The HP, on the other hand, offers very strong results at high speeds. Its text output can be churned out at a rate of 14.3ppm. This is fast indeed, and the resulting output is a little thin, but extremely clean and well defined.
No auto-duplex facilities are provided with the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw, although at this price point the duplexing is rarely fast enough to make it a viable option in any case. And the colour output comes at a high speed - 9.1ppm puts it on a par with the Canon I-Sensys LBP7200Cdn. The images are quite vibrant and exciting, even if the palette is a little dark. The colours are generally well distinguished from each other, and we experienced no obvious problems with banding, gradients and so on.
The HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw isn't the cheapest model to run. Its text costs are fine, at around 2.1p per page. This isn't amazingly low - the Epson costs half this price - but both the Brother HL-3070CW and the Canon are more expensive still. The HP does fall down on colour costs, and 11.3p a page is steep.
The HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw is noticeably larger and bulkier than, for example, the diminutive Brother. Interestingly, there isn’t much difference in the footprints between the two. The M451nw, though, is considerably taller and manages to look both tough yet stylish, with a nicely curved front that leads down to elegantly carved compartments.