HP LaserJet Pro M1536dnf

The Hewlett Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) LaserJet 1536dnf is a multifunction monochrome laser printer aimed at small workgroups and home offices. It offers USB 2.0 and 10/100 Ethernet connections, an automatic document feeder, automatic duplex printing, as well as copier and fax functionality. Its also the first non-Wi-Fi printer we’ve looked at to support Apple’s iOS 4 AirPrint feature.

The black 1536dnf was easy to set up, but to use AirPrint and HP’s own ePrint, you’ll need to download and install a firmware upgrade. The unit has a 250 sheet input tray and a 35-page automatic document feeder, making it easy to scan, fax and copy multi-page documents. In addition to HP’s own print drivers and HP Scan software, the 1536dnf also comes with Read IRIS Pro 12 for Mac and Windows. It comes with a low capacity starter toner cartridge, but the standard replacement cartridge costs $78 and claims to be able to print 2,100 pages, which comes to about 3.7 cents per page.

All of the other AirPrint compatible HP printers I’ve tested have had Wi-Fi, so connecting my iPhone 4 or iPad to the same network and printing was never a problem. I’ll admit that at first I was a bit confused at how this feature would work on a system without wireless connectivity, and there isn’t much documentation on Apple or HP’s Web sites to help. I tried connecting the printer via both Ethernet and USB to my iMac, connecting the Mac to a wireless network, and then using OS X’s Sharing preferences to share the printer over the network, but it wouldn’t show up as an available AirPrint device. I then connected the printer directly to the wireless router using an Ethernet cable and, voila, AirPrint started working.

This is also the first ePrint compatible printer that I’ve used without a touchscreen. Unlike other ePrint devices, this supports only the remote printing via email feature. Printing apps, like those that let you download and print Disney colouring pages and scan directly into Google Docs, are not supported in the 1536dnf. To use ePrint, download the firmware update and restart the printer. You can turn on the service using the printer’s on-board menu–a small monochrome, single-line text display. Once you do, a page will print that gives you your printer’s e-mail address. Simply send your printer an e-mail and it will print out, though I’ve found that the prints can take awhile to come through.

In our lab tests, we found the 1536dnf to be a slightly above average performer, at least in terms of speed. It took just about 8 seconds to print the first page of document, 28 seconds to print a 10-page text document in Microsoft Word, and 13 seconds for a 3-page Word newsletter document. As far as print quality goes, the LaserJet earned a Superior rating for its text printing prowess, while its graphics quality earned a Fair rating, with a rough quality to the images and some jaggy curved lines.

Scan times were a mixed bag. An 8-by-10, 600-dpi photo took 51 seconds to scan, after performing a 10 second preview scan. Times were unchanged whether scanning over Ethernet or USB 2.0. Scanning a 4-by-6 photo at 1200 dpi took 138 seconds after the 10 second preview scan over the network using Image Capture. Curiously, it wouldn’t work when connected over USB. I tried both Image Capture and HP Scan applications, but neither would work. The HP Scan software would display a yellow exclamation point, warning about the large file size. Image Capture would just report a communication failure after about a minute. Granted, an small office monochrome MFP isn’t likely to be required to perform such large colour scans, but I don’t see a why, if the scanner claims to offer 1200 dpi, it can’t complete the scan. Scanned output was described by one editor as being “from a prior era” with dark cast, ruddy colours and a loss of fine details. A line art scan did earn a Good rating with text becoming fragmented at just about the 4-point size and good vertical, horizontal and diagonal line sets.

Macworld’s buying advice

If you’re looking for an affordable, monochrome multifunction laser printer, the LaserJet 1534dnf offers a couple of special features like AirPrint and ePrint while delivering quick prints and scans of decent quality.

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