HP Colour LaserJet 3550n review

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The latest entry from HP’s LaserJet brand is the 3550n, a colour laser that, although not the cheapest on the market, is still comfortably priced for most medium-sized offices. The ‘n’ suffix differentiates it from the 3550, which doesn’t come with network compatibility out of the box. Rather than being integrated into the chassis, this is supplied through HP’s external Jetdirect en3700 box. Setting the printer up on the network was simple; the en3700 has a test button that prints out a status page noting the printer’s IP address, meaning there’s no hunting around in a front-panel menu system to find it.

HP Colour LaserJet 3550n review

The 3550n falls slightly behind the market in terms of print speed, managing 16ppm where much of the competition is offering 20ppm. For small jobs, the warm-up time of less than 10 seconds makes up for it, but more complex documents, such as our 12-page Excel test, slowed things down, with pages crawling out at 6ppm. When printing a 20MB PDF document, the 3550n was also slow, printing at about 11ppm. In a busy office environment, numerous large print jobs will quickly pile up, but the more usual scenario of small but frequent prints won’t be a problem.

Print quality was generally excellent, with colours reproduced accurately and toner applied evenly. The only major problem was with the production of grey. It was fine when printing mono-only documents, but when printing colours as well greys constantly appeared as a soft lilac colour, regardless of which Image Colour Management setting we used. This is clearly a problem for anyone who needs to print high-quality monochrome images for use within colour presentations.

HP has spent a lot of time designing this machine. When the front is opened to replace toner cartridges, the rack holding the cartridges swings towards the user to make access easier. The toner collection tray is easy to remove, and even the manual-load paper tray is a step beyond the normal fold-out piece of plastic that most manufacturers provide.

The 3550n’s printer driver is rather more lacking in features. In particular, colour settings are no more advanced than allowing the user to change the edge control settings, which have such a minimal effect on quality that you’ll be struggling to notice the difference.

Administrators will be happy with HP’s Java-based LaserJet toolbox, which shows information about toner levels and the status of the fuser and transfer units. This information can also be gathered over the network, meaning that administrators can diagnose problems and know when to purchase supplies remotely. Administrators can also produce a custom installation package for distribution to end users in order to make integrating a new printer easy.

The 3550n is by no means a bad package, and for ease of use, installation and maintenance it’s one of the best printers around – just note the lack of PCL and PostScript support. The price of both the unit and its low colour printing costs add to its appeal, but the lacklustre mono performance means we can’t recommend it.

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