HP Color LaserJet CM2320nf Color Laser MFP

The HP Color LaserJet CM2320nf color laser multifunction printer would be a good choice for a small office with a light workload. This US$599 (as of April 6, 2009) MFP is compact and well designed, but its black toner is particularly expensive.

The Color LaserJet CM2320nf has a fairly basic set of features. In addition to the 250-sheet main input tray and 50-sheet multipurpose tray, a 550-sheet extra tray is available for $150. The automatic document feeder (ADF) holds 50 sheets for copying or scanning. Disappointingly, it can't perform automatic duplexing, but helpful on-screen prompts walk you through the manual process. The control panel is straightforward: All buttons are clearly labeled and grouped. A 2.4-inch, tiltable color LCD shows menu options and status messages. Hewlett-Packard includes its useful HP Document Manager software for initiating and organizing your scans and faxes. The HTML-based documentation does a nice job of covering the MFP's principal functions but is sketchy on some details.

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The Color LaserJet CM2320nf posted average or better-than-average scores in our tests. HP's specs claim that the model has a top speed of 21 pages per minute for both black-and-white text and color image printing, but in our tests the machine managed a pedestrian 17 ppm for text and 4.1 ppm for color graphics--though the latter is above average for this category. Text output was outstanding; and ornate fonts stood out sharply, even at small point sizes. Most color prints appeared to be somewhat oversaturated, though fleshtones looked realistic; color scans varied in saturation, too. Scans and copies of monochrome graphics struggled with fine details.

The Color LaserJet CM2320nf's toner system is a bit quirky--and pricey. The cartridge rack slides out on loosey-goosey arms that feel unreliable for long-term service, and the toner cartridge slots are not keyed. To make matters worse, when I deliberately switched colors, the alerts on the LCD and on HP's ToolboxFX status and settings applet were vague.

Black toner costs $123 with a 3500-page yield, which amounts to a pricey 3.5 cents per page. Each 2800-page color cartridge costs $121 (or 4.3 cents per page), so a typical four-color page costs 16.5 cents. A low-volume office might not feel the pinch for a while, but busier workplaces will. And because the Color LaserJet CM2320nf ships with 1200-page starter cartridges, you'll need to buy replacements sooner rather than later.

The HP Color LaserJet CM2320nf could fit well in a small office that prints or copies limited quantities of documents and graphics. If duplexing is high on your list of desirable features, however, consider the slightly more expensive Brother MFC-9450CDN.

This story, "HP Color LaserJet CM2320nf Color Laser MFP" was originally published by PCWorld.

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