The HP LaserJet Pro M1212nf is an entry-level monochrome multifunction laser printer that cuts only a couple of corners on its way to supplying print, copy, scan, and fax functionality for only $200. Built-in autoduplexing for double-sided printing and Wi-Fi networking are two features that didn't make the cut, but there are plenty of useful features that did, including a 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), and HP's Smart Install application, which makes setup a breeze. We also found the LaserJet Pro M1212nf's print speed and quality more than acceptable, even if text isn't quite as deep and rich as the output from the HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn. With its low price, compact size, and easy setup, the M1212nf is a great choice as a first multifunction laser printer for home offices and small businesses.
Design and features
The HP LaserJet Pro M1212nf is matte black, lending it a bit more of a consumer inkjet look than your typical gray or beige corporate laser printer. It's also compact and light for a laser printer, measuring 12 inches high, 17 inches wide, and 10.5 inches deep, and weighing 18 pounds. Two cutouts on the bottom of each side are useful handles, adding to the printer's portability. As is frustratingly common, HP does not include a USB or Ethernet cable in the box.
HP's Smart Install app makes it simple to set up the LaserJet Pro M1212nf. Plug it into a wall, connect it to your PC (via USB), and turn on the printer, and a few mouse clicks later, you're done. Smart Install loads drivers and software stored in the printer's memory. After running our tests on a Windows 7 machine, we tried connecting it to a MacBook and found Smart Install did not work, which is why HP also throws a CD in the box.
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. We 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 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.
After you get the HP LaserJet Pro M1212nf set up, you'll find it's a considerate officemate. Energy Star-qualified, it doesn't waste electricity, and it's fairly quiet during operation.
During operation, a two-line LCD status display keeps you informed, along with three status lights. A numeric pad sits below the LCD display, and there are also two buttons for starting a copy or fax job. There isn't a scan button, making scanning a two-trip process: place the materials to be scanned on the flatbed scanner, return to your desk to begin the scan, then head back to the scanner to retrieve the scanned documents. Thankfully, the LaserJet Pro M1212nf is compact, making it likely that you'll find a spot for it next to your desk.
The LaserJet Pro M1212nf can print in either 600-dots-per-inch or 1,200dpi modes. A 150-sheet paper tray protrudes from the front of the printer, and a 35-sheet ADF sits above the flatbed scanner/copier on the top of the machine. If your office prints large volumes each day, you'll find yourself refilling the paper tray often; 150 sheets is not a lot of paper. The HP LaserJet Pro 1606dn, a budget single-function mono laser, holds 250 sheets by comparison. The ADF is a hugely convenient feature for busy offices. We would have liked to have seen a built-in duplexer, but we understand that an entry-level model can't have it all.
HP rates the printer's monthly duty cycle as 8,000 pages, though the recommended monthly volume is 250 to 2,000. A replacement toner cartridge for the LaserJet Pro M1212nf costs $68 for a rated 1,600 pages, which works out to an affordable 4.2 cents per sheet. Do note that the introductory cartridge, as HP calls it, included with the printer is not completely filled. Large offices looking for a shared workhorse will need to spend more for a more robust machine, with a higher duty cycle, higher-capacity toner, and lower cost-per-page figures.