HP Color LaserJet 3500 review: HP Color LaserJet 3500

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The Good Excellent monochrome and color text printing.

The Bad Space hog; limited expandability; add-ons can get expensive.

The Bottom Line The HP Color LaserJet 3500 is a good printer for a home office or a small business that needs quality printing but not expandability.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

Review summary

Whether you want to print in color or black and white, the Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet 3500 delivers high-quality text and graphics documents, and as a workgroup laser, the 3500 supports several HP network connectivity options. Its print speed, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Compared with other color lasers in its class, the 3500 is slow at monochrome printing but quite fast at producing color. Also, the extra cost to increase total paper capacity and the limited 64MB of memory (with no expansion options) are disappointing. If you want a midrange color laser printer that can keep pace with your business's growth, take a look at the Samsung CLP-500 instead. If you run a home office or a static small business, however, the HP Color LaserJet 3500 is a top-quality choice. The HP Color LaserJet 3500 is a space hog; the hardest part of setting it up is getting it out of the box and onto a work surface large enough to hold it.

Aesthetically speaking, the LaserJet 3500 is tall and looks like the top of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox. It's a monolithic, light-gray and pale-beige laser printer, with a gently curved front panel. While not nearly as tall as a mailbox, the LaserJet 3500 is 27 inches deep (with the multipurpose tray and the rear door open), 19 inches wide, and 17.6 inches tall, and it weighs a hefty 71.5 pounds.

The top of the LaserJet 3500 is flat and unadorned except for a recessed 150-sheet-capacity output tray. The control panel is on the left side of the front panel, topped by a three-quarter by two-and-a-half-inch LED that defaults to a graphical display depicting four little black boxes. Each black box indicates toner levels for and corresponds to the colored icons located beneath it (black, yellow, magenta, and cyan). A periwinkle blue, round button with a question mark on it demarks the help button, which explains printer messages and provides information about menu items, such as diagnostics and configuration. Above the three status-indicator lights are more buttons that let you bring up the Settings menu and scroll through menu choices. The Select/Resume Printing button is a huge plus, as it lets you quickly stop a print job. Overall, the control panel is thoughtfully designed, and it's easy to scroll through the menus.

A handle on the printer's front cover opens the LaserJet 3500 and brings the four toner cartridges forward for easy access. The front cover, which also holds the transfer unit and waste-toner receptacle, extends out from the printer's base and provides extremely convenient access to the consumables, but it adds quite a bit of depth to this already bulky LaserJet. For all its size, the HP Color LaserJet 3500 is a no-frills printer with limited options for memory expansion and paper capacity--a major shortcoming for a workgroup laser.

The LaserJet 3500 comes with 64MB of standard memory and no additional slots for more RAM. And since it holds only 250 sheets, the 3500's main paper tray can slow down a busy office with numerous print jobs. An additional, 500-sheet tray is available, but it costs an extra $299.

The printer's multipurpose tray, built right into the front cover, holds 100 additional sheets of paper, but in order to use it, you'll have to leave it open all the time. This is the only route available for alternative media, including envelopes, transparencies, and card stock, which proceed on a straight paper path through the 3500 and out its 150-sheet-maximum rear output door. Also, the LaserJet 3500 can print only 10 envelopes at a time, but to be fair, the Samsung CLP-500 has the same envelope capacity.

On the plus side, you can network the 3500 with any one of three different HP print servers: the $249 HP Jetdirect en3700, the $160 HP Jetdirect 175x, or the $240 wireless 802.11b Jetdirect 380x. The en3700 print server ships with the LaserJet 3500's sibling, the 3500n. The HP Jetdirect en3700 print server is a gray, wallet-size plastic box that links the 3500 to an Ethernet network via the printers USB port.

Print drivers for the 3500 installed quickly and smoothly in our tests. A particularly handy feature is the HP LaserJet Toolbox, a Web-based printer interface that lets you explore troubleshooting options and check on toner and paper levels from any PC networked to your printer.

The LaserJet 3500 has a USB 2.0 connection and is compatible with Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, Me, NT 4.0, and XP (32- and 64-bit), as well as Macintosh OS version 9.1 and later and Mac OS X version 10.1 and later. In CNET Labs' performance tests, the HP Color LaserJet 3500 delivered below-average monochrome print speeds but was decidedly quicker than other lasers in its class, such as the Samsung CLP-500 and the Minolta QMS 2300DL, at color printing. In neither category did the 3500 reach its advertised top speed of 12 pages per minute (ppm). Instead, the 3500 produced black text at the stately pace of 8.47ppm, much slower than the nimble 14.1ppm delivered by the comparably priced Samsung CLP-500.

The LaserJet 3500 performed slightly slower when printing colored text than it did on monochrome text, but at 7.02ppm, it easily bested the Samsung CLP-500's color-text speed of 4.61ppm. Likewise on color graphics, the 3500 printed at 8.83ppm, compared to the Samsung CLP-500's 4.53ppm, but its reasonable 8.68ppm monochrome graphics speed pales in comparison to the CLP-500's 14.63ppm clip.

The LaserJet 3500 more than makes up in quality what it lacks in speed. Both black and colored text looked excellent in CNET Labs' tests. Text characters were clear, well defined, and nicely saturated. The monochrome graphical elements printed by the 3500 looked overly dark, but the images were sharply defined. Colored graphics showed well-matched colors, smooth shadows, and just slightly uneven gradients.

At 5 percent coverage, the black replacement cartridge is rated for 6,000 sheets, and each color cartridge is rated for 4,000 sheets. The estimated street prices for replacement toner cartridges are $132.99 for black and $129.99 for each color, which works out to 2.2 cents per page for black and 3.2 cents per page for color. This is a pricey per-page cost, especially when compared to the Samsung CLP-500's per-page costs of 1.4 cents for black and 2.4 cents for color.

Color laser printer speed  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Color graphics (pages per minute)  
Samsung CLP-500
HP Color LaserJet 1500L
Minolta-QMS 2300DL
HP Color LaserJet 3500

Inkjet printer quality
•Poor   ••Fair   •••Good   ••••Excellent
 Printer  Text  Graphics
 HP Color LaserJet 1500L ••• ••
 Minolta-QMS 2300DL ••• ••
 Samsung CLP-500 ••• ••
 HP Color LaserJet 3500 ••• ••
Support for the HP Color LaserJet 3500 comes with the industry-standard one-year limited warranty. HP also provides free telephone support for basic technical assistance 24/7 via a toll-free number.

The 3500 comes with a minimalist start guide to help you get the printer up and running. The user guide CD-ROM that comes with the printer is much more informative and includes a good-size problem-solving section.

HP's Web site offers various forms of customer support, including a help center, called the Printing & Imaging IT Expertise Center, for its small and medium-size business customers. From there, you can address questions about printer problems via live online chat with HP's technical support staff from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. We tried the online chat support, and it was quick and very easy to use; we received an answer within a couple of minutes.

The Web site hosts a number of other useful tools; it lets you browse for drivers and learn troubleshooting techniques, and it tells you how to safely dispose of or recycle HP products.

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