No one can dispute the quality of today’s color laser printers. They produce great quality output at speeds and prices that get better every year. The HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw is the latest example of this phenomenon.
This printer is designed for the home or office user that wants crisp laser printing at a lower cost per page than what inkjets offer. Although this laser printer is listed at $299.99, many retailers are selling it for $199.99 with online vendors even less.
Compared to my previous printer the LaserJet Pro 200 (M251nw), this printer is priced similarly, but has added features. What do you get for your money?
- Wireless Printing lets you print from your iPhone, Mac or PC, iPad or other mobile device directly to this printer.
- 3” Touchscreen lets you make settings and view configurations directly
- Automatic Duplex Printing lets you save paper by printing on both sides
- Multiple Connectivity lets you connect by Ethernet LAN, USB cable, USB flash drive or wireless (above)
Normally, you would insert the included CD that comes with the printer. But the M252dw includes a sheet that indicates that the CD is only valid for Windows machines. The instructions direct you to a website with Mac instructions.
I did have trouble navigating the HP site, so instead went with Plan B.
What could be simpler? Certainly not the Windows installation!
In previous models, HP would have you connect your printer to your Mac with the included USB cable for both manual and wireless operation. Now to setup wireless, there is no need for the printer cable.
Use your LCD screen for wireless operation. It will look for your network and then ask you for your password. When that is completed, you are ready to print wirelessly!
The quality of the printouts was just excellent for a laser printer. If you have to have deep and rich color printouts, use a quality inkjet printer. These printers are made for color gradations that laser’s cannot match. But they have come close in recent years as the Color LaserJet Pro can attest.
My previous printer, which the M252dw is replacing, is the 2-year-old HP Laserjet Pro 200. This printer had a print speed of 14 ppm (pages per minute). The M252 series has a print speed of 19 ppm, so it would appear that printing speed would be close.
I tested both printers and found that the new M252dw was indeed faster. as the following table will attest:
Printing a Word document took 18 seconds on the older printer, while the newer one took only 15 seconds. While this speed is not that significant, it gives you an idea of how this printer is a modest improvement over last year’s.
One of the negative considerations in buying a color laser printer is the cost of toner cartridges. The M252dw comes with a set of 4-starter cartridges (black, cyan, magenta and yellow).
If you run out of toner, you need to replace the starter cartridges with full cartridges that provide up to 2800 pages (black) and 2300 (color). Manufacturers like to save money by not giving consumers full toners when they buy their machines.
Full cartridges for the M252dw are about $67 for black or $90 for high yield and $79 for color or $100 for high yield for each of the 3 color cartridges. A set of new cartridges could cost either $304 or $390 depending on whether you elect the standard or high yield cartridges. Keep in mind that these are list prices only and discounts are common for toner cartridges.
With these figures, your cost is 3.2 cents per black page or 16.2 cents per color page. Other higher-volume laser printers offer more reasonable prices. Of course, getting a discount on the cartridges would lower your price-per-page substantially.
But the good news is that a laser printer’s toner cartridge is still cheaper than an inkjet cartridge that gives you only 500 copies for about $35.
Of course, if you really want to save money, you should purchase a black laser printer that would lower your cost to less than .03 per page. These can often be found under $100. No one said color laser printing was cheap!
One of the real plusses of the M252dw is that it is capable of doing automatic duplex printing (printing both sides). This feature was not available with last year’s M251nw printer.
For an office that does a lot of multiple-page printing, this feature saves you money by using less paper to print documents.
One of the nicest changes in the M252dw is a single-sheet document feeder. While most would not use this feeder that frequently, it can be used to print an envelope that is a real plus.
The M252dw let you import documents or photos from your USB flash drive. This printer has a separate port on top of the unit that allows the user to plug in their jump drive to immediately connect with this printer.
- Print Speed: Up to 19ppm black and color
- Print Resolution: Up to 600 x 600 dpi
- Connectivity: Ethernet LAN, USB cable, USB flash drive and wireless (above)
- Memory: 256MB
- Paper Handling: 150-sheet input tray, 100-sheet output bin
- Touchscreen: 3” LCD movable panel
- Paper Sizes: 3” x 5” to 5” x 14”
- Size: 15.4” x 16.4” x 9.3”
- Weight: 27 lb.
Although this printer has significant features, it does have some minor drawbacks.
What was HP thinking when it designed such a small output tray of 100 sheets? This is way too small for an office application. Even last year’s model had 150 sheets!
The LCD on this printer has been reduced from 3-1/2” from last year’s model to 3” on this new one. Even Apple’s iPhone 6 users know that bigger is better!
The cost of toners is just another negative. To replace a set of toners in a lower-priced color laser printer for close to $300 seems excessive.
The real benefit of the Color LaserJet Pro M252dwis that it prints great quality color prints, nearly rivaling inkjets. The downside is print speed is slow especially when compared to more expensive color lasers or even most black lasers. Only you can decide if this tradeoff is acceptable.
Yes, color laser is more expensive than black laser printers. But if you need color in your printouts, your cost per sheet will be below that inkjet printer you are used to and you will gain a speed advantage. With a laser printer you don’t need to replace a cartridge every 300-500 copies!
Like everything else, buying a color laser printer is a personal decision. Only you can weigh the pros and cons of such a purchase. However, with the price of color lasers coming down, a printer like the M252dw looks more attractive than those beasts of several years ago.