The $399 Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 1300 has some big shoes to fill, replacing one of our favorite personal monochrome lasers, the LaserJet 1200. The LaserJet 1300 keeps the same look and feel, right down to its sloped-front design and front-loading paper tray. It also offers a number of options unavailable in the earlier model, such as wireless networkability and more memory. But somehow, the excellent print quality of the LaserJet 1200 got lost along the way--along with a lot of our enthusiasm for this otherwise promising personal laser printer.
Setting up and installing the LaserJet 1300 is simple. The printer's box includes nearly everything you need: a toner cartridge, a power cord, a printed setup guide, and an installation CD. Unfortunately, like most vendors these days, HP does not include a USB or parallel-port cable. The printed guide offers step-by-step instructions, with easy-to-follow illustrations. The CD includes an expanded user guide that covers most installation problems. It also offers complete descriptions of LaserJet 1300's improvements over the LaserJet 1200 and of many extracost options.
The design of the printer itself is straightforward. Weighing 19 pounds, the LaserJet 1300 is on the heavy side, though its dimensions of 16.3 inches wide by 19.1 inches deep and 9.5 inches high are about right for those of a personal laser printer. Most of the LaserJet 1300's basic maintenance functions are easy to do. It's easy to install the toner cartridge and the paper tray, as both are located in front. The toner cartridge fits behind a removable panel above the opening where the main paper tray sits.
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You'll need to refer to the electronic manual to decipher the lighted signals.
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The toner cartridge and the paper tray are both easy to install from the front.
The standard paper handling is sufficient but a little hard to use. In addition to the main paper input tray, you get a manual-feed tray that's located on top of the main paper tray. However, removing the main paper tray with a little too much force can dislodge the manual-feed tray.
One common and annoying feature of lower-priced laser printers is the array of usually apocryphal status lights that try to tell you what the printer is doing. Unfortunately, the LaserJet 1300 shares this shortcoming. You'll need to refer to the electronic manual to decipher the signals; there are no markings on the printer itself that explain the status.
The LaserJet 1300 is compatible with most major operating systems. HP provides drivers for Windows 95 and later, Mac OS X and later, Novell NetWare, Red Hat Linux, SuSE Linux, HP-UX, Solaris, IBM AIX and MPE-iX. CNET Labs tested the LaserJet 1300 with Windows XP Professional.
There are a number of excellent SOHO features in the LaserJet 1300, such as a 133MHz Motorola Coldfire processor chip and 16MB of built-in RAM, expandable to 80MB. This amount of horsepower should readily handle the mostly small-scale print jobs of SOHO users. The printer wakes up quickly, and in our informal tests, the first finished page appeared in less than 10 seconds. The LaserJet 1300 printer includes an expansion slot for an Ethernet print server (the LaserJet 1300N model comes with the $199 adapter). You can also add an HP JetDirect network adapter for fast Ethernet capabilities (JetDirect 175x 10/100 Base-TX is $159, and the JetDirect 310x is $249) or 802.11b capabilities (JetDirect 802.11b is $199, while the JetDirect 380x 802.11b is $239).
HP includes print-driver language options. The standard is HP PCL 6, but you also have the option of installing HP PCL 5e and PostScript level 2 emulation.
The LaserJet 1300's paper handling matches the needs of SOHO users well. The main input tray can hold up to 260 sheets of letter, legal, and other standard sizes of business paper, and the manual-feed tray can hold 10 sheets, as well as envelopes, card stock, labels, and transparencies. An optional 250-sheet paper tray on the bottom increases the maximum input capacity to 510 sheets of paper. The output tray, which is in back, holds up to 125 sheets.
The LaserJet 1300 offers some nice printing features through its Properties dialog box. You can manually print duplex (both sides of a sheet) if you want to. You can also add customizable watermarks to documents, print multiple pages on a single sheet (N-up printing), and design booklets. There's also an EconoMode setting for printing with a reduced amount of toner; the documents are still very legible. The LaserJet 1300's default resolution of 600x600 dots per inch (dpi) can be increased to 1,200x1,200dpi.
If you want fast printing, you got it. In CNET Labs' tests, the LaserJet 1300 pumped out 16.2 pages of text per minute (ppm). Not only is this printer faster than any of the competition, it also made HP's claim of a 20ppm top speed seem nearly credible; most printers, including others from HP, don't come anywhere near their top speed claim. When printing graphics, the LaserJet 1300 produced an equally laudable 11.37ppm at its default resolution of 600x600dpi--plenty fast for your personal or workgroup-setting printing needs and a midrange speed compared to the competition's.
Unfortunately, the LaserJet 1300's fast-moving prints do not look as good as they should, especially when compared alongside prints from comparable personal laser printers on the market today. The text output of the LaserJet 1300 lacked the definition and clarity you'd expect from a laser printer. Letters looked faint, and smaller fonts were not fully formed, with bumps in the text and the serifs; graphics prints suffered even more from the faint output. And the grayscale images were inconsistent, although banding was quite clear in all. Diagonal lines were choppy, as they were in the text tests.
Laser printer speed (personal and workgroup)
Pages per minute (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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The LaserJet 1300 comes with a typical (and, sadly, short) one-year, limited parts-and-labor warranty. Telephone tech support is available toll-free from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. When we called, the hold time was minimal (less than two minutes), and the technician was knowledgeable and helpful.
HP's Web site offers plenty of support information for resourceful users, including driver and manual downloads, discussion groups, FAQs, and e-mail support from HP technicians. You can also find information on how to recycle used toner cartridges--a landfill-saving benefit in which HP has been an industry leader.