There's a reason Hewlett-Packard dominates the market for business-class laser printers. The company knows what business users want: solid performance, no-fuss design, good manageability, and solid tech support. The HP LaserJet 1320, a compact home and office monochrome printer, may not be the cheapest small-office laser available, but it delivers on the essentials and then some. It prints sharp, clean black letters and good graphics that suit professional manuscripts. And unlike modest lasers such as the Brother HL-5140, which costs half the price, this HP offers options your growing business will need, such as a built-in duplexer, a high maximum resolution for grayscale graphics, and the option to buy a model with wired or wireless networking preinstalled. Aside from the single-user 1320, which we reviewed, you can pick from three networkable versions, including the 1320nw with bundled 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. The HP LaserJet 1320 makes a great business investment, whether you work in a one-person shop or a corporate office. The design of the HP LaserJet 1320 screams "made for your cubicle," from its two-tone gray casing and teal- and salmon-colored buttons to its compact, cubic shape, which makes it look like a massive workgroup laser shrunk down to desktop size. Given the clutter on most desks, we appreciate the self-containment of the toaster-shaped 1320. Printed pages come out of the top panel of the printer, and the 250-sheet input drawer slides neatly into the printer's body. This machine has a 14-by-14-by-10-inch (WDH) footprint and weighs 25 pounds.
The 1320 also features a single-sheet multipurpose input tray, which you can access through a door on the front panel to quickly print letterhead or envelopes one at a time. In case you're printing on heavy media and need a straight paper path, just open the output door on the back panel, and your prints will exit there without curling.
The HP LaserJet 1320 includes both a contemporary USB 2.0 port and an old-fashioned parallel port, but as usual, you'll have to buy the cables separately. If you need to share the printer in a workgroup, you should either pay $100 more up front for the network-ready 1320n or consider the 1320nw, which at $549 (as of the review date) introduces a wireless 802.11b/g print server.The HP LaserJet 1320 merits applause for including a feature that's rare in such a small machine: its built-in duplexer lets you print on both sides of a page without making you flip over the sheets one by one. Given that the advent of e-mail and the Internet have ironically created more paper waste, duplexers are a cost-effective, environmentally friendly must-have for any office. You'll be hard-pressed to find a duplexing desktop laser printer in this price range. The similarly priced Samsung ML-2152W, for one, includes a duplexer but eats up more space on your desk. And whereas most duplexers are noisy, slow, and bulk up the printer's rear end, the 1320's uses a unique approach to cut down the clatter and clutter. Once the machine finishes printing on one side, you'll see the paper slide halfway out of the machine, then get sucked back in for side two.
This printer comes with a 250-sheet input tray, but for another $150 you can add an extra 250-sheet tray for a total input capacity of 500 sheets. You can feed this machine paper up to legal size as well as card stock, envelopes, and transparencies. The HP LaserJet 1320 includes 16MB of RAM, which you can expand to 144MB.
You can hook this printer up to computers running Windows 98 on up or Mac OS 9.1 and above. Installing the 1320 on one computer is simple. The printer also comes with the option to create and deploy a custom-installation utility across the network. The utility can put the drivers on an office intranet so that users can hook themselves up to the printer. You won't use this unless you add a print server or buy one of the network-ready 1320s, but the option is there. The 1320 also comes with HP's Toolbox software, which uses a Web interface to troubleshoot problems and manage the printer's status, configuration, and supplies. This program will even send you e-mail alerts if something goes wrong.
The 1320 has the control languages HP PCL 5e and HP PCL 6 for basic printing tasks and PostScript Level 2 emulation for users who create or work with more complex desktop-publishing and graphics documents.Quality
The HP LaserJet 1320 printed sharp, bold, black text in CNET Labs' tests. Text became faint and spidery at 2.5- and 3-point font sizes, yet the letters didn't glob together. The text looked excellent at normal, readable sizes. At the default setting of 600x600dpi, our grayscale-graphics test document produced impressively smooth, evenly stepped shading from dark to light. The graphical and photo elements of our test document were short of perfect--a little grainy and lacking in detail. We noticed extraneous white dots on the border between a dark gray object and its black background, but when we bumped the quality setting up to ProRes 1200 (with a high 180 lines per inch), the finer halftone dots greatly improved the detail and clarity of photos and graphics.
The HP LaserJet 1320 performed well in CNET Labs' tests, averaging 17.4 pages per minute (ppm) for text and 13ppm for graphics. While it didn't rip ahead of every laser machine, the 1320 ranked among the top small laser printers in its class, such as the Brother HL-5140, which printed text at 15.97ppm and graphics at 16.46ppm. We found no glitches with the reliable and quiet performance of the HP LaserJet 1320.
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Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.HP offers excellent service and support options that reflect the pacing and the needs of the business environment. Before you buy the HP LaserJet 1320, you can call or chat online with an HP representative or even take a quiz that will help you choose the right printer for your needs. Such prepurchase support is unusual.
In addition to a one-year warranty, you get 24/7, toll-free phone support for the length of the warranty. If that's not enough, HP offers a number of warranty and service upgrades for business users. These include four-hour, same-day, or next-business-day onsite service and a budget-oriented offsite return service. You can also chat live with a technician weekdays between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET, ask questions via an e-mail form on HP's Web site, or visit online support forums to consult with other users. The Web site features an array of neatly organized options that help you pick and execute a task, such as troubleshooting, toner recycling, or performing printer maintenance. The site's self-help options include FAQs, manuals, and sign-ups for driver-update alerts.
Like most companies, HP buries its tech-support phone number and e-mail forms deep in its support site, thereby encouraging you to visit the FAQs before contacting a service rep. Still, the Web site is so comprehensive and clear that the chances are pretty good you'll find an answer before needing to pick up the phone.