HP Officejet Pro K5400 series
The HP Officejet Pro K5400 is a low-cost, high-quality color inkjet printer targeted at small- and medium-size businesses. The no-frills base model starts at a reasonable $150, and print costs are low, too. Many of the inkjets we've examined in at this price are multifunctional and print a bit slower than the K5400, but they do more overall, which makes if difficult to compare this printer to others in its class. For just a bit more money, you can get a monochrome laser printer--the type of printer most commonly found in offices--that prints faster and produces better text prints than the K5400, but you'd be hard pressed to get color for that price, and a low-cost laser printer certainly won't produce photographs. Despite its odd-duck status, we found a lot to like about this office inkjet printer. It's reasonably fast, its text and graphics prints are impressive, and the ability to print photographs (though not stellar ones) is certainly a bonus. And it definitely fills a small niche. We recommend it for small offices on a tight budget that don't need certain features, such as copying or scanning, and prefer an inkjet printer over a laser one because of the ability to produce photographs. It's also a decent choice for college students who need high-quality text prints and can afford more than a superbudget printer. On the other hand, for very small businesses looking to spend roughly $200 for an office workhorse in the form of a monochrome laser printer, we recommend the Samsung ML-2571.
The HP Officejet Pro K5400's black-and-white body looks sleeker and more stylish than HP's usual putty color scheme, but it still looks stern enough for an office. The body is bulky, especially for a single-function inkjet printer; it stands 19.5 inches wide, 15 inches deep, and 8.1 inches tall, and weighs a little more than 19 pounds.
A single paper tray sticks out from the front of the printer and serves as the paper-handling center. On the bottom is the 250-sheet input tray with adjustable paper guides. Atop the input tray sits the output tray, which has an extendable arm that helps keep long prints from floating to the ground.
The control panel is limited to four LEDs that correspond to the individual ink tanks and three buttons: power, cancel, and feed. A front-mounted door to the left of the paper tray opens to reveal the four ink tanks. Instead of attaching directly to the printhead, as is common in most inkjet printers, the tanks sit in their small corral, and tubes siphon the ink from the tanks to the printhead. An advantage to this setup is that it makes changing the ink tanks even easier; you don't have to open up the body of the printer and wait for the printhead to move into position, and you can change the ink tanks when the printer is off. HP offers standard- and high-capacity tanks. A standard black tank costs $20, and a standard color tank (cyan, magenta, and yellow) costs $15. The high-capacity versions cost $35 and $25, respectively. HP estimates print costs to be 1.5 cents per page for black and 6 cents per page for color. Those per-page costs are low for an inkjet printer, especially for one this inexpensive to start.
Four preset versions of the Pro K5400 are available: The K5400 is the base model, as described above. The $200 K5400tn includes built-in networking and adds a second, 350-sheet paper tray. The $250 K5400dtn builds on the K5400tn by including an autoduplexer for double-sided prints. Finally, the $200 K5400dn, exclusively through Staples, offers the duplexer and built-in networking but not the extra paper tray. If none of these configurations works for you, you can customize the base model. The duplex unit costs $80, the paper tray costs $100, and the print server costs $300. If you need a wireless print server, that will set you back $200. All of the models, including the network-ready ones, can be connected directly to your PC via USB 2.0.
HP advertises two sets of print speeds for the Pro K5400: 36 pages per minute (ppm) for black and 35ppm for color, in draft mode; 12ppm (black) and 10ppm (color) in best-quality mode. HP calls the best-quality mode "near laser." In CNET Labs' tests, black text printed at best quality scored 10.16ppm, which isn't too far from HP's advertised speed. For comparison, the $150 Canon Pixma MP510 multifunction printed text at a rate of 6.37ppm, and the $180 Samsung SCX-4200 multifunction laser printed text at 13.42ppm. The Pro K5400 cranked out a PowerPoint presentation at a rate of 6.11ppm and a page of graphics at 6.21ppm. When printing a single 4x6 photo, it scored 1.42ppm, but when printing a job of 10, 4x6 prints, it averaged a higher 1.84ppm (processing time is split among the photos). The Pixma MP510 printed a single 4x6 photo at a rate of 1.26ppm. We were impressed by the K5400's print speeds, quite fast for an inkjet printer.