HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw

The HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw ($449.99) monochrome laser multifunction printer (MFP) is capable enough to serve as a shared printer, but small and inexpensive enough to consider for heavy-duty personal use. It’s also one of the more impressive MFPs in its category, with fast print performance, excellent paper handling, a full set of MFP features, and extras like mobile and cloud printing. Its text quality is at the low end of what we consider typical for the breed, but it’s easily good enough for most business use. All this makes the M426fdw our Editors’ Choice monochrome laser MFP for heavy duty use in a micro office.

Among the M426fdw’s strongest competition are two other top picks: the Canon imageClass MF6160dw$406.22 at Amazon and the OKI MB471. All three of these printers offer similar paper capacities, with the M426fdw delivering the highest capacity, albeit by a meager 20 sheets. It’s also the fastest of the three on our tests by far, and it’s the only one with such conveniences as Wi-Fi Direct and single-pass duplex scanning.

Basics and Beyond
Basic MFP features for the M426fdw include the ability to print and fax from, as well as scan to, a PC, and the ability to work as a standalone copier, fax machine, and direct email sender (for sending scans as attachments directly, without having to send them to an email client on a PC first). In addition, it can both print from and scan to a USB memory key.

Paper handling for printing is suitable for up to heavy-duty use in a micro office or light- to medium-duty use in a small to midsize office. The printer includes a 250-sheet drawer, a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, and an automatic duplexer standard. You can also add a 550-sheet drawer ($139) for a maximum 900-sheet capacity.

For scanning, the M426fdw supplements its letter-size flatbed with a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) that can both scan legal-size pages and scan in duplex. Most inexpensive MFPs that scan both sides of a page use a duplexing ADF instead, which takes longer, since it scans one side, turns the page over and then scans the other side. As with most MFPs that can both print and scan in duplex, the combination lets you copy both single- and double-sided originals to your choice of single- or double-sided copies. Oddly, however, you can’t scan in duplex when faxing.

If you connect the M426fdw to your network, using either its Ethernet or Wi-Fi connector, it will also let you print through the cloud, as well as connect a phone or tablet through a wireless access point on your network for printing from and scanning to your mobile device. Connect the printer to a single PC via USB cable instead, and you’ll lose the ability to print through the cloud. Thanks to the printer’s Wi-Fi Direct, however, you’ll still be able to connect directly from mobile devices to print and scan. For phones and tablets with NFC, you can also establish a connection simply by tapping the device to the NFC logo on the top-front right of the printer.

Setup and Speed
At 28 pounds 6 ounces, the M426fdw is on the light side for its category. The Canon MF6160dw weighs 14 pounds more. However, it’s still heavy enough that you might want some help moving it into place. It’s also big enough, at 12.8 by 16.5 by 15.4 inches (HWD), that you probably won’t want it sitting on your desk, although you shouldn’t have trouble finding enough flat space for it, even in a small office. Setup is standard. For my tests, I connected it to a network using its Ethernet port and installed the drivers on a Windows Vista system.

HP rates the M426fdw at 40 pages per minute (ppm), which is the speed you should see when printing text files with little to no formatting. On our tests, I timed it (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) at a suitably fast 16.4ppm. In comparison, the Canon MF6160dw came in at 9.9ppm on our tests with its default duplex setting, and only 13.2ppm even for printing in simplex.

The OKI MB471 was even slower, at 9.5ppm on our tests. As yet another point of comparison, the Dell Mono Multifunction Printer – B2375dnf$269.99 at Dell Small Business was even slower, coming in our tests at only 5.9ppm. Quite simply, the M426fdw is fast for its price.

Output Quality
The printer’s output quality is typical for monochrome lasers across the board, which makes it good enough for most purposes. Its text quality is at the low end of the range that includes the vast majority of monochrome lasers, but that still makes it good enough to print highly readable text at 8-point size or smaller on our tests. Almost half of the fonts in our tests qualified as highly readable at 5 and 6 points.

Both graphics and photo output on our tests were a match for most monochrome lasers. For graphics, that makes the output easily good enough for any internal business use. You may also consider it good enough for PowerPoint handouts and the like, unless you have a very critical eye. For photos, it translates to being able to print recognizable images from photos on webpages, which is about all you can expect from a monochrome laser.

Conclusion
If you need top-quality text above all, you should consider the Canon MF6160dw or the OKI MB471. Between the two, the Canon printer offers higher text quality, as well as better speed, but the OKI model delivers better photo quality. That said, the HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw offers text quality that’s well within the expected range for a monochrome laser and easily good enough for most offices. It also adds excellent paper handling, notably fast printing, and features, ranging from duplex scanning to mobile printing, that help it stand out from the crowd and make it our Editors’ Choice for up to heavy duty use in a micro or small office.

Brother HL-L6200DW

The Brother HL-L6200DW ($249.99) delivers a balance of speed, paper handling, and running costs that make it a solid pick for any home, micro, or small office that needs a monochrome laser printer for moderate to heavy-duty use. Its weakest point is text quality that’s near the low end of the range for monochrome lasers. But even subpar text on a laser printer is easily good enough for most business use. More important is the overall balance of features that makes this printer worth considering.

What keeps the HL-L6200DW$169.95 at B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio from being our Editors’ Choice for its category is not that it lacks something, but that there are other printers that offer just a bit more. In particular, Brother’s own HL-6180DW$299.99 at Walmart.com and the Dell B2360dn$189.99 at Dell Small Business—both top picks for small-office monochrome lasers for up to heavy-duty use—match the HL-L6200DW or come close in most key areas, with the Brother HL-6180DW also offering notably better text quality in our tests, and the Dell printer offering faster speed.

Basics and Beyond
That said, the HL-L6200DW’s particular mix of features could still be the better fit for your office. Its paper handling is easily suitable for up to heavy-duty use in a small office or workgroup, with a 520-sheet drawer, 50-sheet multipurpose tray, and duplexer standard. If that’s not enough, you can add up to three optional 250-sheet drawers ($179.99 each) to boost capacity to as much as 1,320 sheets, or up to two 520-sheet drawers ($209.99 each) for a maximum 1,610 sheets, or one of each size drawer for 1,340 sheets.

As is typical for any printer with this high a paper capacity, the HL-L6200DW is big enough so you probably won’t want it sitting on your desk. With the standard capacity, it measures 11.3 by 14.7 by 15.3 inches (HWD), with the height growing by 4.8 inches for each additional 250-sheet drawer, or by 6 inches for each additional 520-sheet drawer. Even with just the standard tray, the height makes the printer imposing enough that you might not want to share a desk with it. However, the footprint ties up a smaller area than many inkjets, so you may want to keep it near your desk if not on it.

Connection choices include USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi Direct. If you connect the printer to a network via either Ethernet or Wi-Fi, you can also print to it through the cloud, as well as connect to it through an access point on your network to print from a mobile device. If you connect it to a single PC via USB cable instead, you’ll lose the ability to print through the cloud, but can still print from a mobile device by connecting directly to the printer using Wi-Fi Direct.

Setup, Speed, and Output Quality
At 26 pounds 6 ounces, the HL-L6200DW is light enough for one person to move into place. For my tests, I connected it to a network using its Ethernet port and installed the drivers on a Windows Vista system. Setup is standard for the breed.

The speed in our tests was a little slow for the 48 pages-per-minute (ppm) rating, but acceptably fast for the price. I clocked the printer on our business applications suite (timed with QualityLogic’s hardware and software), at 12.7ppm. That makes it faster than the Brother HL-6180DW, at 10.7ppm, but significantly slower than the Dell B2360dn, which came in at 15ppm in our tests despite its slower engine, rated at 40ppm.
As another point of reference, the HL-L6200DW was also slower in our tests than the Dell Smart Printer S2810dn$179.99 at Dell, which Dell rates at only 35ppm, but we clocked at 13.4ppm when printing in simplex. Even in its default duplex mode, which adds time to turn over each page to print on the second side, the Dell S2810dn was only slightly slower than the HL-L6200DW, at 11.8ppm.

Output quality for the HL-L6200DW is a mixed bag. Text is subpar, with the quality falling at the bottom of the range for the category in our tests. However, monochrome lasers handle text so well that even the lowest rung on the laser-quality ladder is good enough for almost any business use. As long as you don’t have an unusual need for small fonts, you shouldn’t have any complaints.

Graphics quality in our tests was typical for a monochrome laser, which makes it good enough for any internal business need. It’s also good enough for PowerPoint handouts or the like, unless you have a critical eye. Photo quality is better than typical. The photo output in our tests was basically a match for the high end of newspaper photo quality.

Conclusion
Offices that need somewhat better text quality than the Brother HL-L6200DW delivers should consider the Brother HL-6180DW, the Dell B2360dn, or the Dell S2810dn. All three are roughly matched for text quality, with the Brother HL-6180DW offering the highest paper capacity, and the Dell B2360 offering the fastest speed in our tests. For offices that don’t need the step up in text quality, the HL-L6200DW offers the highest paper capacity in the group, the best photo quality, and faster speed in our tests than the Brother HL-6180DW.

HP LaserJet Enterprise MFP M527dn

The HP LaserJet Enterprise MFP M527dn ($1,799.99) is a fast workhorse monochrome multifunction printer (MFP) for small to midsize offices. The M527dn’s speed, good paper handling, and a low running cost are key strengths, although it’s pretty much neck and neck in all these areas with the Dell B3465dnf Multifunction Laser Printer$1,099.99 at Dell Small Business. What keeps the Dell B3465dnf as our Editors’ Choice monochrome MFP for heavy-duty printing in up to a midsize office are its lower price and the inclusion of fax capabilities, which the M527dn$998.99 at Amazonlacks.

Design and Features
Although somewhat small for a heavy-duty laser MFP, the M527dn is still big enough that you will want to set it on a table or a bench of its own. It measures 19.6 by 19 by 19.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 48 pounds. It has an 8-inch color touch screen that tilts forward, and an easy-to-use menu system. This machine can print, copy, and scan (but not fax, which is available as a $299 option). It can scan to a folder, to email, to Internet fax, to an FTP site, or to a USB thumb drive (and print from a thumb drive as well).

Standard paper capacity is 650 sheets, split between a 550-sheet main tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose feeder. Up to three optional 550-sheet paper trays ($199 each) are available, for a maximum paper capacity of 2,300 sheets. The printer comes with an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper.

Built for heavy-duty printing, the M527dn has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 150,000 pages and a recommended monthly duty cycle of up to 7,500 pages. This matches the paper capacity of the Dell B3465dnf, although the latter has a higher recommended monthly duty cycle of up to 15,000 pages, with the same 150,000-page maximum.

For scanning, the M527dn has both a flatbed and an automatic document feeder (ADF). The latter fits up to 100 sheets, and can scan both sides of a document on a single pass. This compares favorably with the Dell B3465dnf, whose ADF holds up to 50 sheets and must flip each page over for two-sided scanning.

The M527dn is the base model in HP’s M527 series of monochrome laser MFPs. The HP LaserJet Enterprise MFP M527f ($2,099.99) adds fax capability, plus a 500GB secure hard drive. Although you can buy a fax module ($299) separately for the M527dn, you’re better off getting the HP M527f instead, because for the same money you in effect get the hard drive thrown in for free. The HP LaserJet Enterprise Flow MFP M527z ($2,599.99) adds workflow solutions, such as a pull-out keyboard and HP’s EveryPage ultrasonic scanning double-feed protection, plus Wireless Direct and NFC capabilities.

This MFP can connect to a computer via USB, and to a network by Ethernet. I tested this printer over an Ethernet connection with drivers installed on a computer running Windows Vista. Drivers include PCL 6, PCL 5 (available as a download), and HP’s PostScript emulation.

Print Speed
The M527dn is speedy, though not unusually so. I timed it on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing), at 14.8 pages per minute (ppm). This is in line with its 45ppm rated speed that’s based on printing text documents without graphics or photos—our test suite includes text pages, graphics pages, and pages with mixed content. The speed is just short of the Dell B3465dnf, rated at 50ppm, which we timed at 15ppm. Some other printers are considerably slower, such as the OKI MB562w$699.99 at Amazon, rated at 47ppm, which we tested at 8.4ppm.

Output Quality and Running Cost
Output quality for the M527dn is typical for a monochrome laser, with text, graphics, and photo all falling in the average range. Even average text quality for a laser is very good, though, and suitable for any business use short of demanding desktop publishing applications that use very small fonts. With graphics, the M527dn did well in displaying thin lines, but performed poorly in differentiating between similar tones in several test illustrations. Graphics should be fine for in-office use, and basic PowerPoint handouts. Photo quality is okay for printing out images from webpages and the like, but not for marketing materials.

Based on HP’s prices and yields for consumables, the M527dn has a running cost of 1.6 cents per page. That’s reasonably low, matching the OKI MB562w’s cost, and a tenth of a penny more per page than the Dell B3465dnf.

Conclusion
The HP LaserJet Enterprise MFP M527dn is a strong choice as a monochrome laser MFP for heavy-duty printing in a small to midsize office, provided that you don’t need your MFP to send and receive faxes. The Editors’ Choice Dell B3465dnf has similar specs, but comes in at a lower price and includes fax capabilities. That said, the M527dn can do most anything else the Dell B3465dnf can, and has a more capable scanner. It’s a good workhorse MFP to handle the printing, scanning, and copying needs of a busy workgroup or office.

HP Color LaserJet Pro M452dw

BY M. DAVID STONE

The HP Color LaserJet Pro M452dw ($499.99) should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for a color laser printer for your micro or small office. It’s a little too big to share a desk with comfortably as a personal printer, but it’s small enough to find room for in an office. Its text quality is slightly subpar for a color laser printer, but more than good enough for most business use, and its graphics quality was notably better than most laser printers can manage. Add in its speed, and the M452dwBest Price at Amazon delivers enough to make it our latest Editors’ Choice color laser printer.

The M452dw is a large step up from the HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw$249.99 at HP, our top pick for personal or light-duty micro-office color lasers. The higher price buys you significantly faster speed on our tests and much better paper handling, with two trays rather than one, plus a manual feed, and twice the capacity. However, it’s also a significantly bigger and heavier printer. So despite both being appropriate to some extent for shared used in a micro office, the HP M252dw is the obvious choice for personal use, and the M452dw is the better fit for a micro or small office.

Basics and Beyond
For paper handling, the M452dw offers a 250-sheet main tray, a 50-sheet multipurpose tray, and a duplexer. This should be enough for most micro or small offices or workgroups, but if you need more, you can get an optional 550 sheet tray ($149.99) for a total of 850 sheets. Both the standard and maximum capacities are a step up from their equivalents for the Xerox Phaser 6500/DN$331.49 at Pricefalls.com, another top pick. The Xerox model comes with a 250-sheet tray plus a one-sheet manual feed, and the option to add a second 250-sheet tray.

Like more and more printers today, the M452dw also supports mobile printing. Connect it directly to a network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and you can connect to the printer through an access point on the network to print from Android, iOS, and Blackberry phones and tablets. Assuming the network is connected to the Internet, you can also print through the cloud.

If you connect to a single computer via USB cable instead, you’ll lose the ability to print through the cloud, but can still take advantage of the printer’s Wi-Fi Direct to connect directly from your phone or tablet to print. If your mobile device supports NFC, you can also establish the connection simply by touching the device to the NFC logo on the top left of the printer.

Setup and Speed
The M452dw measures 11.6 by 16.2 by 18.5 inches (HWD), which is why you probably won’t want it sitting on your desk, and it weighs 41 pounds 11 ounces, which is heavy enough that you might want some help moving it into place. Setup is standard fare. I connected it to a network using its Ethernet port for my tests, and installed the driver on a Windows Vista system.

Print speed is one of the M452dw’s best points. HP’s rating for the printer—which is the speed you should see with text or other documents that need little to no formatting—is 28 pages per minute (ppm) both for black-and-white and for color pages. On our business applications suite, I clocked it (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software) at 9.8ppm. That counts as impressive for both the price and the rated speed. The Xerox 6500/DN looks pokey next to the M452dw, with a speed of 5.4ppm on our tests. Similarly, the OKI C331dn$299.99 at Amazon, which is one of the faster models in this category on our tests, managed only 6.8ppm. Interestingly, I clocked the HP M252dw at a close second to the M452dw, at 8.3ppm.

Output Quality
Output quality is uneven. Text quality on our tests was slightly worse than most color lasers manage, graphics quality was far better than most of them offer, and photo quality was at the high end of a range that includes the vast majority of color lasers. The good news about text is that most color lasers offer such high quality that even being slightly below par is more than good enough for most business use. As long as you don’t have an unusual need for small fonts, you shouldn’t have a problem with the output.

The graphics quality is among the best I’ve seen on our tests for a color laser, making it easily good enough for marketing materials like tri-fold brochures and one-page handouts. Photos were nearly true-photo quality. However, colors were a little dark on our test output, and I saw some subtle banding on a black-and-white photo.

Conclusion
If text quality is a key concern for you, consider the HP M252dw as a light-duty option, or the Xerox 6500/DN, which offers  a step up in paper capacity and the option to add a second tray. Both deliver better text quality. If you don’t need unusually high-quality text, however, the HP M452dw’s balance of speed, paper capacity, and output quality is enough to put it well ahead of the competition and make it our Editors’ Choice.

HP LaserJet Pro M402dw

BY M. DAVID STONE

Aimed primarily at a small office or workgroup, the HP LaserJet Pro M402dw ($349.99) is a strong candidate as a workhorse monochrome laser printer. Its claimed cost per page is a touch high and its text quality a touch low compared with its closest competition, but it still delivers a balance of speed, paper handling, output quality, and running cost that’s suitable for medium duty in a small office. It’s also small enough to place on a desk, making it an attractive choice as a heavy duty personal printer.

Among the M402dw’s$247.68 at Amazon direct competitors are the Dell B2360dn$189.99 at Dell and the Brother HL-6180DW$502.58 at Pricefalls.com. These two models are so closely matched that both are Editors’ Choice monochrome lasers for heavy-duty personal to medium-duty small-office use. The key differences between them are that the Brother model offers a somewhat higher paper capacity and lower cost per page, while the Dell printer delivered significantly faster speed on our tests. Unfortunately for the M402dw, it comes in behind both in two key areas, with lower text quality than either on our tests and a higher claimed running cost, at 2.2 cents per page.

That said, the M402dw comes in a close second (or third) to both top picks. It falls between the two for paper capacity, and it had better graphics and photo quality than the Dell printer on our tests, and was faster than either one. What’s more, its claimed cost per page is only 0.2 cents more than that of the Dell B2360dn.

Basics
The M402dw’s paper handling is easily suitable for moderate to heavy-duty use. The printer includes a 250-sheet drawer, a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, and a duplexer. That’s enough for most small offices, but for heavier-duty use, you can add an optional 550-sheet drawer ($139.99) for a total 900-sheet paper capacity.

Connectivity options include Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Connect the printer to a network with either one, and you can print through the cloud, as well as print from a mobile device by connecting to the printer through an access point. If you connect it to a single PC via USB cable instead, you won’t be able to print through the cloud, but you’ll still be able to use the printer’s Wi-Fi Direct to connect to it directly and print from a mobile device. You can also take advantage of the built-in NFC support to connect to the printer simply by tapping ta compatible phone or tablet to the NFC logo on the top right of the printer.

Setup, Speed, and Output Quality
At 8.5 by 15 by 14.1 inches (HWD) and 18 pounds 14 ounces, the M402dw is small enough to share a desk with easily and light enough for one person to move into place. For my tests I installed it on a network using its Ethernet connector and ran the tests from a system running Windows Vista. Setup is standard for a monochrome laser.

Speed is a strong point. HP rates the M402dw at 40 pages per minute (ppm). Even better, it came in faster on our tests than most printers with the same or similar ratings. I timed it on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) at 17ppm. That makes it a bit faster than the Dell B2360dn, which managed 15ppm on our business applications suite, and a lot faster than the Brother HL-6180W, which managed only 10.7ppm.

Output quality on our tests was acceptable for most business use, but not impressive. Text output was at the low end of the range that includes the vast majority of monochrome lasers, making it good enough for most business use, as long as you don’t need small fonts.

Graphics and photo output were both at the low end of average for our tests for a monochrome laser. For graphics, that translates to being easily good enough for any internal business need. Most people would also consider it good enough for PowerPoint handouts or the like. Photos with our test files were unusually grainy, even for a monochrome laser. However, the quality was good enough to print recognizable images from webpages and the like, which is about as much as you can expect from the category.

Conclusion
The HP M402dw gets lots of points for its fast speed, but misses out on being our top pick in its category because its claimed cost per page is on the high side. That’s still enough to make it a strong contender. The Dell B2360dn and the Brother HL-6180DW remain our Editors’ Choice picks, as they have better text quality and a lower claimed cost per page. For heavy-duty printing, take a close look, in particular, at the Brother HL-6180DW, with its higher paper capacity.

Brother HL-L5100DN

BY TONY HOFFMAN

The Brother HL-L5100DN ($199.99) is a very capable mono laser printer for a micro or small office or a workgroup, and offers very good value for its price. It is lightning fast, prints high-quality text, is capable of heavy-duty printing, has good standard and optional paper capacity, and a low running cost. The HL-L5100DN$159.99 at Amazon lacks the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct found in its near-twin, the Editors’ Choice Brother HL-L5200DW$205.15 at Amazon, but is a top-choice in its own right.

Design and Features
Other than connectivity, the HL-L5100DN has the same feature set as the Brother HL-L5200DW. I discuss the features in detail in the latter printer’s review, linked above, but I’ll present an overview here. The HL-L5100DN measures 10 by 14.7 by 15.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 23.5 pounds. Standard paper capacity is 300 sheets, between a 250-sheet main tray and a 50-sheet multipurpose feeder. Optional trays are available, up to a maximum paper capacity of 1,340 sheets. An auto-duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper is standard. The maximum monthly duty cycle is 50,000 pages.

The HL-L5100DN connects to a PC via a USB cable, or to a network via Ethernet. It lacks Wi-Fi or WiFi Direct connectivity, although you could print to it via Wi-Fi provided that your network has a wireless access point.

Printing Speed
I timed the Brother HL-L5100DN on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) at 15 pages per minute (ppm), a good speed especially considering its 42ppm speed rating. (While rated speeds are based on text-only printing, our test suite includes text pages, graphics pages, and pages with mixed content). The Editors’ Choice Dell B2360dn$189.99 at Dell, rated at 40ppm, also turned in a 15ppm speed. It was effectively tied with the Brother HL-L5200DW, rated at 42 ppm, which tested at 15.3ppm, with just one second separating their total timings. It was faster than the Brother HL-L6200DW$178.88 at Amazon, which tested at 12.7ppm despite its 48ppm rated speed.

Output Quality
Overall output quality for the HL-L5100DN, based on our testing, was slightly above par, with above-average text, slightly subpar graphics, and average photos. Text should be good enough for any business purpose except for ones requiring tiny fonts.

Graphics are good enough for internal business use and perhaps for PowerPoint handouts, depending on how picky you are. It had trouble differentiating between similar shadings in one illustration, and couldn’t print one page that shows dark text against an even darker background. Photo quality, which I would categorize as newspaper quality, is typical of mono lasers, good enough for printing out images from Web pages or files.

The HL-L5100DN has the same running cost, based on Brother’s price and yield figures for toner and drum, of 1.8 cents per page, which is shared by both the Brother HL-L5200DW and HL-L6200DW. The Dell B2360dn’s running costs are a touch higher at 2 cents per page, while the Canon imageClass LBP151dw’s costs are higher yet, at 3.5 cents per page.

Conclusion
The Brother HL-L5100DN is a strong choice mono laser printer for up to heavy-duty printing in a small or micro office. Among its strengths are blazing speed, good output quality with above-par text, good standard and excellent optional paper capacity, and low running costs. The Editors’ Choice HL-L5200DW is the same printer but with Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct added to the mix. If you don’t need to connect wirelessly, you can still get a highly capable mono laser for less money with the HL-L5100DN.

Canon Color imageClass MF726Cdw

BY TONY HOFFMAN

One of two small-office color laser multifunction printers (MFPs)being introduced to replace the Canon Color imageClass MF8580Cdw$589.95 at Amazon, the Canon Color imageClass MF726Cdw ($549) offers solid performance and a good feature set, including several mobile printing choices. The MF726Cdw$549.49 at Amazon lacks some of the drivers included with its near-twin, the Canon Color imageClass MF729Cdw, but unless you need to print with PostScript, you probably won’t miss them.

Design and Features
This off-white MFP measures 18.9 by 17 by 19.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 68 pounds with the toner cartridges in place. The MF726Cdw needs a table of its own, and you will definitely want two people to move it. It has a good range of MFP features. It can print, copy, scan, and fax both single- and double-sided documents. It can also print from a wirelessly connected mobile device, and can print from or scan to a USB thumb drive. The MF726Cdw can also scan to a network folder or a PC. Lastly, it can work as a standalone fax machine or send faxes from a PC.

Its front panel features a 3.5-inch, color touch screen, an alphanumeric keypad for entering fax numbers and other information, and buttons identified by both words and icons, including Home, Back, Color (scan), Black (scan), and Stop. Although we’ve seen much larger touch screens, the one on the MF726Cdw is easy to use, responsive, and has a good menu system. A spot on the front panel is labeled NFC, and you can print from a compatible mobile device placed in close proximity to it. A port for the USB thumb drive is on the front of the printer to the right of the output tray, just below the front panel.

A 250-sheet main paper tray and a 50-sheet multipurpose feeder are standard, as is an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. The printer is set by default to two-sided printing as a paper-saving measure. An optional second 250-sheet paper tray ($199) is available from Canon. The 50-sheet duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF) lets users copy, scan, or fax both sides of multipage documents at up to legal size. It first scans one side of a document, flips it over, and then scans the other side.

The MF726Cdw’s range of connectivity choices, both wired and wireless, counts as a plus. It has Ethernet, USB, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It also offers two ways to make a direct, peer-to-peer connection with a compatible device: Wi-Fi Direct and NFC. Mobile protocols and services supported include Apple AirPrint, Mopria Print Service, Canon Print Business, and Google Cloud Print.

The only driver included is Canon’s host-based (UFR II) driver. For those businesses that rely on PostScript printing, which requires a PostScript driver, the Canon MF729Cdw is almost the same as the MF726Cdw, except that it adds PCL5e, PCL6, and PostScript drivers. If you don’t need those extra drivers, you can save some money by sticking with the MF726Cdw.

Printing Speed
I tested the printer over an Ethernet connection with its drivers installed on a PC running Windows Vista. In its default duplex mode, for which it is rated at rated at 10 pages per minute (ppm), the MF726Cdw printed out our business applications suite (as timed with QualityLogic’s hardware and software) at 5ppm, a good speed for its rating. Note that rated speeds are based on text-only printing, while our test suite includes text documents, graphics documents, and documents with mixed content. Not surprisingly, its speed matched the Canon MF729Cdw. The Editors’ Choice OKI MC362w$251.15 at Amazon turned in a speed of 5.9ppm, while the Brother MFC-L8850CDW$546.47 at Amazon, rated at 32ppm, zipped through our tests at 8.6ppm. Although our official timings are done in an MFP’s default printing mode (in this case, duplex), I also did ad-hoc testing of the MF726Cdw in simplex mode, where it turned in a speed of 6.6ppm.

Output Quality
Overall output quality is average for a color laser, with slightly above-par text, graphics that are a bit subpar, and average photo quality. The MF726Cdw’s text should be fine for any business use except ones requiring tiny fonts.

With graphics, colors are bright and well saturated for the most part. One test illustration meant to show a gradation in tone displayed very little change between different zones. The MF726cdw did poorly in printing very thin, colored lines. One illustration showed some misregistration, a slight misalignment between two graphic elements. The graphics should be okay for most internal business use, but I’d hesitate to use them for formal reports. Photos are fine for printing out images from webpages.

Running costs for the MF726Cdw, based on Canon’s prices and yield figures for toner and other consumables, are 2.9 cents per monochrome page and 16.7 cents per color page. The OKI MC362w’s running costs are 2.8 cents per monochrome page and 13.9 cents per color page.

Conclusion
The Canon Color imageClass MF726Cdw is a solid color laser MFP with a good feature set and a wide range of mobile-printing choices. It lacks the Canon MF729Cdw’s PCL and PostScript drivers, but unless you need to print PostScript files, this shouldn’t be a problem. The MF726Cdw is a good, cost-effective addition to a small office or workgroup with light- to medium-duty printing needs, including printing in color.
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Canon Color imageClass MF628Cw

BY M. DAVID STONE

Based on price alone, the Canon Color imageClass MF628Cw ($399) is an obvious candidate if you need a color laser multifunction printer (MFP) for your micro office or for personal use and want one that can print, scan, copy, and fax. It’s a little larger than most MFPs aimed primarily at micro offices, which may force you to look elsewhere if space is tight. But if you have enough room in your office, it can be worth a look.

The biggest argument against the MF628Cw$249.99 at Amazon is that it’s not hard to find competition that delivers significantly more capability for only a little more money. Most notably, the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dwBest Price at Amazon, our Editors’ Choice light-duty color laser MFP for SoHo use, matches or beats the MF628Cw in most ways—including offering faster speed and somewhat better text quality. It’s also smaller and lighter. If you don’t need the extra capability, however, the MF628Cw’s lower price will make it the more attractive choice.

Basics
Basic MFP features for the MF628Cw include printing, copying, scanning, and faxing—including scanning to and faxing from a PC—as well as standalone copying and faxing. In addition, it can print from or scan to a USB memory key, and it offers support for mobile printing and scanning.

Connect the printer to your network by Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and you can connect to it though an access point from iOS and Android phones and tablets to print from or scan to your mobile device. Assuming the network is connected to the Internet, you can also print through the cloud. If you connect to a single PC via USB cable instead, you won’t be able to print through the cloud, but you can still print to or scan from the printer using a mobile device by taking advantage of the built-in equivalent to Wi-Fi Direct, which lets you connect directly to the printer.

Paper capacity for the main tray is limited to 150 sheets. That matches the HP M277dw’s capacity and is one of the key design choices that make both printers best suited to light-duty use. It’s enough for most personal printing, but it’s on the meager side for a shared printer in a micro office.

One welcome extra is a single-sheet manual feed to let you print one- or two-page documents on a different paper stock without having to swap out paper in the main tray. Unlike the HP M277dw, however, the MF628Cw doesn’t include automatic duplexing for two-sided printing.

Another extra is a 3.5-inch, color touch-screen control panel. In addition to being large enough to make it easy to hit the command you’re aiming for, the backlit screen is highly readable, and it offers well-designed menus. When you’re printing files from a USB key, however, it doesn’t let you preview the files onscreen before printing them.

Setup and Speed
At 52.9 pounds without its toner cartridges, or 57.3 pounds with them, the MF628Cw is heavy enough that moving it is a two-person job. The printer is also big enough, at 16.9 by 17 by 19.1 inches (HWD), that you might have trouble finding room for it in micro or home office. Assuming you have enough flat space, however, setup is standard fare. For my tests, I connected it to a network using its Ethernet port and installed the drivers on a system running Windows Vista.

I clocked the MF628Cw on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) at 4.4ppm. That’s within the typical range for its rating of 14 pages per minute (ppm) for both color and monochrome pages. It’s also faster than some of its competition, including the Samsung Multifunction Xpress C460FW$180.99 at Amazon, at 3.3ppm. However it’s a lot slower than the HP M277dw, at 8.4ppm.

Interestingly, the MF628Cw was slower in our tests than the Canon Color imageClass MF624Cw$279.99 at Amazon, which managed 5.5ppm, even though Canon says both are essentially identical except for the addition of fax capability in the MF628Cw.

A close look at my results shows that the difference in speed comes entirely from the MF624Cw’s better speed for the first page of each print job. If you count only the time after the first page comes out (which is how engine speeds are timed), and ignore single-page documents, both printers delivered the same speed on our tests. In practical terms, that means there’s only a few seconds difference with single-page documents, and the more pages you print at once, the less of a difference you’ll see in pages per minute. In short, the difference won’t matter much in real-world use.

Output Quality
The MF628Cw’s output quality for text is as the low end of the range that includes the vast majority of color laser MFPs. Fortunately, laser text quality is good enough in general for even the low end of the range to be suitable for any business use, as long as you don’t have an unusual need for small font sizes.

Overall graphics output is one step above most of the competition. Almost all of the individual images in my tests were good enough to use for marketing materials. There was one exception, however, with 1-pixel-wide lines against a black background nearly disappearing. That suggests you should check each individual image carefully before you use it in a situation where top quality matters.

Photo output is one step down from average. The majority of color laser MFPs offer near-photo quality. The MF628Cw’s output quality in my tests was just enough below that that I wouldn’t use it for, say, a real-estate handout or marketing materials. However, they’re good enough for anything less demanding than that.

Conclusion
If you don’t need a fax capability, consider the Canon MF624Cw, which is less expensive than the Canon Color imageClass MF628Cw and a bit faster on our tests as well. If you need to fax, the HP M277dw costs a little more than the MF628Cw, but offers substantially more capability and is smaller and lighter as well. If you have room for the MF628Cw, however, don’t have the flexibility in your budget to spend any more than you have to, and need fax support, then it may appeal to you with its particular mix of speed, output quality, MFP features, and price.

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Canon Color imageClass MF624Cw

BY M. DAVID STONE

The $349 Canon Color imageClass MF624Cw $349 color laser multifunction printer (MFP) delivers a mix of features and capabilities—most notably a low price and low paper capacity—that make it appealing for personal use or for use in a micro office. However, it’s big enough to look like it should be in a small office or workgroup. Whether you consider it a good (metaphorical) fit for your light-duty use will depend largely on whether it can physically fit in however much space you have available.

The MF624Cw$279.99 at Amazon is in the same category as the more expensive, but far more capable, HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dwBest Price at Amazon, our Editors’ Choice light-duty color laser MFP for SOHO use. However, it’s more directly competitive with the smaller and lighter HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M177fwBest Price at Amazon, which is the next step down in HP’s line.

All three printers offer a similar paper capacity, with a 150-sheet main tray, which is enough for most personal use, but limits all of them to light duty for shared use. Both the MF624Cw and the HP M277dw add single-sheet manual feeds, so you can print small print jobs on a different paper stock without having to swap out the paper in the main tray. However, the more expensive HP M277dw is the only one of the three that adds automatic duplexing for easy printing on both sides of the paper.

The MF624Cw falls somewhere between the two HP models in other key features as well. It did better on our tests for speed and text quality than the HP M177fw, but didn’t do as well as the HP M277dw. One clear disadvantage for it, compared with both HP MFPs, is its bulk. It’s bigger than either, and it’s the only one of the three that’s heavy enough that moving it into place is best done by two people.

Setup and Basics
The MF624Cw measures 16.9 by 17 by 19.1 inches (HWD) and weighs a hefty 52.9 pounds without the toner cartridges or 57.3 pounds with them. Assuming you have enough room for it, however, and preferably have someone to help you move it into place, setup is standard fare.

Basic MFP features are limited to printing, scanning, and copying. In addition, it can print from or scan to a USB memory key. The highly readable 3.5-inch color touch-screen control panel offers both well-designed menus and a large enough size to make it easy to hit the command you’re aiming for. However, you can’t use the LCD to preview files before printing them.

Also going beyond the basics is support for mobile printing and scanning. If you connect the printer directly to your network using either Ethernet or Wi-Fi, you can connect to it though an access point on the network to print from or scan to it using iOS and Android phones and tablets. Assuming the network is connected to the Internet, you can also print through the cloud.

If you choose to connect to a single PC via USB cable, you’ll lose the ability to print through the cloud. However, you can still use the MF624Cw to print from or scan to your mobile device by connecting directly, thanks to its built-in equivalent to Wi-Fi Direct

Print Speed and Output Quality
For my tests, I connected the printer to a network by Ethernet and installed the drivers on a system running Windows Vista. On our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing), the MF624Cw came in at 5.5 pages per minute (ppm), which is fast for both the price and the 14ppm rating for monochrome and color. In comparison, the HP M177fw is slower, at only 2.9ppm, but the HP M277dw is significantly faster, at 8.4ppm.

Interestingly, the MF624CW was also faster in testing than the Canon Color imageClass MF628Cw$249.99 at Amazon at 4.4ppm, even though Canon says both are essentially identical except for the addition of fax support in the more expensive printer. Canon also rates both at the same speed. A close look at my results showed that the speed advantage for the MF624Cw comes entirely from being able to print the first page of each print job faster. If you start timing after the first page comes out (which is how engine speeds are timed), and ignore the results for one-page documents, both printers delivered the same speed.

Output quality for the MF624Cw is at the low end of typical for color laser MFPs for text, one step above most for graphics, and one step below most for photos. For text, that translates to being easily good enough for any business use, as long as you don’t have an unusual need for small font sizes.

Most graphics output is good enough even for marketing materials. However, you might need to check your images carefully before you decide to use them. In one particularly demanding test image with 1-pixel-wide lines against a black background, the lines were hard to see. Photos are best described as not-quite-near photo quality. I wouldn’t use them for a real estate handout or marketing materials, but they’re good enough for anything less demanding than that.

Conclusion
If you need a color laser MFP for a micro office or personal use, be sure to consider the HP M277dw. It costs a bit more than the Canon Color imageClass MF624Cw, but it delivers substantially more capability—including fax support, print duplexing, and better-quality text. Also consider both it and the HP M177fw if you don’t have much space available. Compared with the Canon model, either one will be easier to find room for. The MF624dw’s balance of speed, output quality, and price makes it a more-than-reasonable choice, however, if size and weight aren’t an issue, and you don’t need the extra features in the HP M277dw—or can’t afford it.

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