HP LaserJet Pro M401 review:

HP LaserJet Pro M401

Once you're connected to the Web, you can also set up your custom ePrint address that lets you output 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.

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 (Energy Star qualified), and it's fairly quiet during operation. It also features an auto-duplexer on the back that automatically flips a page for double-sided printing.

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Adding up the cloud-computing features and Smart Install still doesn't add up to $399, however, especially when competing devices like the Brother HL-5450DN have the same 300-sheet paper input capacity for half the cost. It cuts costs by omitting a touch screen in lieu of an LED-based notification system on top, but if all you're looking for is a simple monochrome laser printer for medium output, you can still get networking and a duplexer for far less than the HP, with similar performance results to boot.

Compared with its similarly priced competitors, the HP M401dw stays ahead of the pack with exemplary results in black graphics prints, edged out of the fastest position by its own sibling, the compact HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn. It trailed behind the budget priced Brother HL-5450dn yet still registered quick marks overall.

The HP's print quality is equally serviceable for small offices and work groups alike. Black text samples exhibit excellent quality with true black text and dark photos on the graphics page, although some elements need sharpening and come off as a shade of gray rather than solid black. The HP aced bar code patterns as well, handling blocks of lines with accurate detail and saturation, certainly worthy of professional handouts.

Service and support
HP backs the LaserJet Pro 400 M401dw with a standard one-year warranty that includes 24-7 toll-free phone support and live Web chat during weekdays. HP's Web site also contains downloadable drivers, software, and manuals.

Smart Install takes the pain out of a typically tedious process by storing drivers on the printer to speed things along, but an overly ambitious price tag and a sloppy arm holding up the superfluous touch-screen display mars its usability. Home offices and small businesses can get equal performance without the touch screen from competitors for half the price.

Printer performance scores (in ppm)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Black graphics  
Black text   
Brother HL-5450DN
HP LaserJet Pro 400 M401dw
HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn
Brother HL-2270DW
Canon imageClass MF3010

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