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The HP LaserJet 1020 is an inexpensive monochrome laser printer for home users with light printing needs. Its print speeds and quality aren't stellar, but at $180, it's hard to fault it too much. For that price, you get a very basic and compact printer that does a serviceable job. If you can spare an additional $20, however, the Lexmark E250d comes with a duplexer, while the Samsung ML-2571N is network-ready. Both also offer better print quality.
The compact LaserJet 1020 measures just 14.6 inches wide, 9.5 inches deep, and 8.2 inches tall, and weighs a light 11 pounds. The front panel folds open to reveal a 150-sheet input tray and a single-sheet manual input tray, both of which have adjustable paper guides. The output tray resides on the top of the printer and includes a fold-out paper support.
It comes with a 234MHz processor and just 2MB of onboard memory, far short of the 32MB offered by the Samsung ML-2571N. It has just a USB connection, so it's better for single users than a multiuser environment.
The LaserJet 1020's diminutive size is due to the fact that it's a mono printer, and therefore contains only one toner cartridge. You can access the cartridge by popping open the printer's top panel. Replacement cartridges cost $70 and are good for up to about 2,000 prints, which comes out to about 3.5 cents per page--not bad for a budget laser printer and in line with the Samsung ML-2571N's 2.6 cents per page and the Lexmark E250d's 3.8 cents per page. The recommended monthly duty cycle is 5,000 prints, so the LaserJet 1020 is best suited for home users with low to moderate print needs.
The HP LaserJet 1020's speed and quality are not the best among its competition, but not terrible, either. It printed text at a rate of 12.52ppm (pages per minute) and graphics at a rate of 12.61ppm. The Samsung ML-2571N was faster at both tasks, while the Lexmark E250d was much faster with graphics but slower with text.
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The LaserJet 1020's text quality was excellent, though not perfect: upon very close examination, we noticed that some characters had edges that weren't perfectly sharp and, overall, the text could stand to be a bit darker. Again, we were looking very closely. The graphics print didn't fare as well as the text print, though. Solid blocks of toner showed a blotchy quality that we didn't see with the Lexmark E250d or the Samsung ML-2571N. The photo elements on the page weren't as smoothly rendered as we would've liked. We preferred the quality of both the Lexmark and Samsung printers over that of the HP, but overall, the HP LaserJet 1020 is good enough for casual home users.
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HP backs the LaserJet 1020 with a standard one-year warranty, which is on par with the competition. While under warranty, you can get toll-free phone support 24-7, at no cost. HP's Web site has downloadable drivers, software, and manuals; e-mail and online chat tech support; FAQs; and a troubleshooting guide.