The $350 HP LaserJet Pro 100 bears a near-exact resemblance to the LaserJet Pro M1212nf, but this step-up model cuts out the fax machine in favor of color printing that uses Hewlett-Packard's innovative new carousel-style cartridge bay. The printer maintains a small footprint by leaving out the autoduplexer, and the rotating toner carousel helps with size as well, but unfortunately at the expense of printing speed. Larger offices will appreciate a heavy-duty device like the Dell 1355cnw multifunction printer, but the HP LaserJet 100 earns my recommendation for home offices where users will take advantage of HP's unique features like ePrint and Smart Install, and the LaserJet Pro's 35-page autodocument feeder.
Design and features
The HP LaserJet Pro 100 is exceptionally compact for a multifunction laser printer, but the multiple color cartridges inside bump the weight up to 35 pounds with all the accessories attached. Its narrow 17-inch by 16-inch footprint won't hog space on your desktop, and HP includes wide cutouts on the bottom of each side to use as handles when transporting the unit around an office. Unfortunately, HP doesn't include the USB or Ethernet cord necessary to make a hardwired connection, probably to encourage you to establish the Wi-Fi connection you'll need to access the ePrint services.
Once you acquire a cable, HP's Smart Install makes it simple to establish a connection and start printing without the fuss of a driver disc. The new design embeds the communication drivers directly in the printer itself, so all you have to do is plug the power cable into a wall, connect it to your PC (via USB), and turn on the printer, and the two machines will take over and do the rest. Smart Install is also useful when it comes time to transfer the printer to another host computer, or if another user wants to use it as a network printer. Unfortunately for Mac users, Smart Install only works with Windows machines, so HP includes a standard installation disc as well.
Setting up the printer with an Ethernet cable is nearly as easy as setting up a direct connection. As with USB installation, you can use either the included CD or Smart Install. I opted for the latter. First, you must print out a configuration report using the printer's control panel by pressing the setup button (the one with the wrench icon), using either of the arrow keys to select "Reports" from the Main menu, and then selecting "Config report." The printer will then spit out two pages of configuration details, one of which is the printer's IP address. Type the address into the browser of a PC on your network, and on the resulting Web page, click the HP Smart Install tab. From there, click the green Download button to install the software. After a quick download, the printer will print out a test page confirming it's connected to your network.
The printer ships with version 1.0 of the operating software, but you'll need to download and install a firmware update to enable ePrint. Once you have an active Ethernet connection established, follow these instructions from HP to download the update, locate your printer's IP address, and enable Web services on the LaserJet Pro 100. It took me about half an hour to update the firmware, but once you're set up, you can use ePrint to send jobs directly to the printer using a unique e-mail address.
The ePrint system can print e-mail message attachments in the form of images, document files, PDFs, and photos, and it will send a separate job for any text that appears in the body of the e-mail. The default preferences let anyone with the address print wirelessly, but you can also set up a list of verified senders to allow on a private network. My testing confirms ePrint works with a variety of Web clients like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and Microsoft Outlook, and you can even e-mail articles directly from an RSS feed like Google Reader.
You can track the progress of print jobs sent to the assigned address through the HP ePrintCenter. The printer recognizes and begins printing a job immediately after it receives an e-mail, and I like that you can queue up several jobs and track them all just as you would using a desktop client. Still, I'd also like to find some of this functionality on the printer itself.
The process for connecting to a wireless 802.11b/g/n network is similar, except that you have to enter your SSID and password to start the process. Once the printer finds your router, a physical Wi-Fi button on the front control panel will confirm the connection and print out an information sheet to confirm it, and you're set. All three of the connectivity options are a breeze to install, and after you get the LaserJet set up, you'll find it's a considerate officemate--it doesn't waste energy, as witness its Energy Star qualification, and it's fairly quiet during operation. Our only environmental complaint is that it has no autoduplexer, meaning it won't automatically flip the paper to print on both sides, although you can of course always do that manually.
The LCD status display console is small, but well-equipped, with all the necessary buttons to operate the machine. A number pad sits below the two-line display, and you also get two buttons down below to start and stop a job, as well as a host of setup buttons for adjusting the darkness of your prints or starting a copy job. Unfortunately, you don't get an autoscan button, so you'll have to start the scanning process on your computer first and return to the machine to finish the job.