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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Two-sided printing; good text quality; speedy; inexpensive extended warranty.

The Bad Mediocre graphics printouts; humdrum design; rudimentary drivers and software.

The Bottom Line This small-workgroup monochrome laser falls short of the competition in speed, print quality, and features.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Service and support 7.0

Intro

The HP LaserJet 2420d falls into HP's "medium volume" category, meant to serve small workgroups of up to five users. You could network this non-Ethernet model across a peer-to-peer network, but you'd be better off buying a version with built-in networking, such as the 2420dn or 2430dtn. Yet despite HP's strong laser-printer reputation, this printer pales next to the Lexmark T430dn. Though similarly priced, the HP holds less paper at maximum capacity, comes with less RAM, and lacks useful business-oriented software features, such as account tracking, offered by the Lexmark T430dn. These shortcomings alone might not make or break your buying decision, but the HP 2420d prints slower and creates noticeably worse output--especially with graphics--than the Lexmark T430dn. For the same imperfect output quality as this HP, you can get the Brother HL-6050D for $100 less. The two-tone gray-plastic HP LaserJet 2420d is a prototypical office laser printer, with a nearly square, 16.7-by-15.7-by-10.2-inch (WDH) footprint, a standard 250-sheet output tray on top, a 250-sheet paper input drawer on the bottom, and a front multipurpose tray that fits 100 pages. A back door provides a straight paper path for heavy media. The printer weighs 36 pounds, about average for a small workgroup printer. Built-in grooves on either side serve as handgrips for easy moving.

The control panel's turquoise and salmon buttons are easy to understand. A brightly lit LCD helps you adjust paper handling, print an event log, and clear paper jams. We were struck by the high-pitched, claptrap sounds made as we opened and closed the trays and the drawers; but despite these sound effects, the components don't look or feel flimsy. Still, the HP 2420d's overall appearance is staid and straight out of cubicle-land. Few workgroup laser printers offer innovative design, but compared with this HP, we appreciate the Lexmark T430dn's lower-slung profile and shiny chrome control panel.

The HP LaserJet 2420d can expand to fit some business needs. If you plan to share this printer with more than one computer, don't bother tacking on a print server for $300 to $500; instead, buy the network-ready HP 2420dn off the bat for $900. For a reasonable $149, you can add one 500-sheet input tray to the HP 2420d to hold a maximum of 850 sheets. Lexmark's trays cost more, but you can fit up to 1,100 pages in the T430dn.

HP's print drivers cover rudiments such as number of copies, paper size, the addition of watermarks, and resolution adjustments. But the Lexmark T430dn lets you make a bevy of image-quality adjustments, plus it enables bonus confidentiality and account tracking features that appeal to businesses.

The HP 2420d comes with 48MB of RAM and has a maximum 304MB, which is good. If you buy the networkable version of this model, the 2420dn, you get 64MB of RAM with a maximum of 320MB, the same as the Lexmark T430dn. However, an extra 256MB DIMM for the HP runs $599, less than half of what Lexmark asks for the same amount of RAM.

HP's Toolbox software lets you track printer status over a network and request e-mail alerts when errors occur or supplies run low. Some of CNET's users have complained that the Toolbox software is bloated; we didn't encounter problems on our test bed in CNET Labs. However, we decided to explore the matter further by installing the HP 2420d on another Windows XP computer, which ate up an agonizing half hour. Yet our next installation attempt on the same PC worked seamlessly and took less than five minutes.

According to HP, a replacement toner cartridge lasting 12,000 prints runs $206, or about 1.7 cents per page, an average value. The Lexmark T430dn has the same cost per page if you use that vendor's cartridge-return discount, or 2 cents per page at full price.

Speed
The HP LaserJet 2420d turned in zippy speeds of 21.6ppm (pages per minute) for text and 18.22ppm for graphics--a hair behind the Lexmark T430dn but still ahead of the Brother HL-6050D.

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