Bargain hunters should look to the Oki Data C7300n; it's a better value for the price. The Brother's twin, Xerox's Phaser 6250N, offers a better if pricier implementation.
Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet 5500n
HP's Color LaserJet 5500n easily dominates its bigger sibling, the Color LaserJet 9500n. It's faster and lower priced; it offers mostly comparable specs and proves itself equally good at printing text and graphics. But Xerox's Phaser 7300DN is better still, being faster and cheaper to maintain.
The Color LaserJet 5500n earns top marks for its simple, wizard-driven setup and powerful, multidimensional Web JetAdmin management software. The default installation script automatically creates and assigns a TCP/IP port, assigns an IP address dynamically, and sets the printer as a shared device.
Print quality fared better than print speed. The Color LaserJet 5500n printed excellent quality text but at a pedestrian rate. Graphics came out at a similarly moderate pace but displayed banding, moiré, and a washed-out palette. The Xerox Phaser 7300DN was faster overall but rated still lower in print quality.
The Color LaserJet 5500n is built for heavy, varied traffic. It has a high monthly duty cycle, a high maximum paper capacity, and wide-format capabilities. The unit itself is hulking -- impossible for one person to move. The panels that open to expose paper paths and replaceable parts are durable, smooth-hinged, and well suited to heavy use. Decals inside the panels give clear visual cues for removing the toner cartridges and clearing paper jams.
The Color LaserJet 5500n loses its edge in one key area: cost. Its long-term consumables tab exceeds that of the Color LaserJet 9500n by 10 percent and that of the Xerox Phaser 7300DN's by nearly 12 percent. Although it remains our favorite of the two HPs, the Xerox has it licked.
Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet 9500n
HP's Color LaserJet 9500n is a good printer with tough competition: Xerox's comparably priced, powerful Phaser 7750DN and the faster, lower-priced HP Color LaserJet 5500n. If long-term costs concern you, however, this printer is a little more economical than its sibling.
The heaviest and tallest printer we've seen, the Color LaserJet 9500n rolls on its own wheels. Built for heavy traffic, its 200,000-page monthly duty cycle is the highest in our roundup, and its paper trays can accommodate tabloid (11-by-17-inch) paper. Only its maximum paper capacity of 1,100 sheets seems lowball; other members of the Color LaserJet 9500 product line can take more.
Everything else about the Color LaserJet 9500n's design was exemplary. A multitude of doors make the insides easily accessible. HP includes tongs -- yes, tongs -- to help you finagle jammed sheets out of the printer's depths. A spring-loaded output tray lowers itself as more paper accumulates. And the control panel is easy to understand.
Top-notch documentation includes a printed user guide tucked inside one of the front doors (as well as more detailed content on a CD). The polished Web JetAdmin software makes monitoring and managing the printer a breeze.