The HP Color LaserJet CP1215 is a simple, single-function laser printer designed to fit comfortably in a small business work group. At $299, its unobtrusive footprint and excellent quality color and black output would have made an excellent alternative to the pricier HP Color LaserJet CP2025n, but we can't recommend a printer this limited; on top of being incompatible with any Mac OS, all of our speed tests indicate a superslow output speed, and a severe feature drought dries up our enthusiasm. If you happen to be on a Mac, or typically print a large volume of color documents, take a look at the more cost-effective Dell 1320c, another color laser that offers faster color prints and even a single-sheet manual-feed slot.
Design and features
Like the HP CP2025n, there isn't much to say about this printer's looks, or lack thereof. The same gray-and-white shades cover the exterior, except this model is missing an LCD screen. Instead, HP includes a basic control panel on the side of the faceplate that contains all the buttons necessary to operate and troubleshoot the device: a Ready light, Resume button, Cancel button, Paper Jam light, Attention light, and a series of icons that glow to indicate low toner levels all make up the majority of the control panel, with Paper Feed and Power buttons rounding out the set. The notification lights work fine, but we found ourselves wishing for just a simple two-line LCD that could display specific troubleshooting help or detailed information about a print job.
In terms of size, the printer measures a manageable 15.7 inches wide by 10 inches tall by approximately 20 inches deep. It weighs 38.9 pounds, which is considerably lighter than most laser printers, thanks to a lack of internal autoduplexing and networking hardware.
The rest of the printer is just as simple as the front, with a small Power button on the left side and a power plug on the lower back. All the paper handling and toner access takes place up front by way of several fold-out drawers. Looking from the top down, you'll find the output tray, toner drawer, and input tray at the very bottom, which can only hold up to 150 sheets of plain paper. Most businesses, even smaller ones, prefer to use a larger capacity tray with at least a 250-page capacity that won't require constant refilling.
Installing the driver and establishing a connection with a computer is tangle-free, since this is a USB-only printer. Currently, you get no option to buy a networking attachment for the printer, so a direct connection is necessary. We'll also continue to applaud HP for the basic instructions that make it easy to set up; the driver even automatically runs an installation guide to help you along the way. Within the driver, you're given the option to change a few settings, but it's nowhere near as comprehensive as the CP2025n's customization options. In fact, the printer is fixed at a 600X600dpi resolution for both black and color. The manual color options let you choose between four color or black neutral grays to save ink, but there's no way to adjust the resolution of your prints. In addition, the drivers are formatted for all manner of Windows operating systems, but there's no support for Macs, which effectively eliminates a large number of potential buyers.
Oftentimes, manufacturers strategically keep the price of budget printers down by shipping a "starter" set of toner cartridges with the device. These cartridges typically contain a fraction of the toner levels compared with those sold on the vendor Web site, so the surprise comes after you've already purchased the machine. Unfortunately, such is the case with the CP1215; all four toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) contain roughly half of the standard volume of toner. Luckily, the cost of the CB540 toner series compatible with the printer is about average: $72 for the color cartridges that should yield 1,400 pages, according to the Web site, and $78 for 2,200 pages of black toner. Using those figures, since no high-volume toner cartridges are available, our calculations come out to 5.1 cents for a page of color and 3.5 cents per page of black--slightly more expensive than the CP2025n, but still affordable nonetheless. Finally, the CP1215's monthly duty cycle maxes out at 1,000 pages. Compared with the CP2025n's 40,000 pages per month, this is definitely suited to a much smaller office with proportionally lighter printing responsibilities.