HP LaserJet 1300

SAN FRANCISCO (10/08/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: Hewlett-Packard Co.'s LaserJet 1300 prints text at a speedy 15.2 pages per minute when connected to a single PC via USB--certainly fast enough to justify the printer's higher-than-average US$399 price tag. PC World tests all SOHO printers over USB, but note that you can attach the 1300 to an ethernet network with an optional $200 card. We liked the 1300's clean, smooth text, which didn't look patchy or broken-up despite its somewhat light cast. The 1300 also printed narrow parallel lines distinctly. Getting the printer running was easy even without HP's cartoonish setup poster--we just plugged it in and dropped the CD into the CD-ROM drive. The on-screen documentation provides great detail on everything else about the printer.

WHAT'S NOT: We don't expect many people to print photos on a monochrome laser printer, but if you plan to do so, be forewarned that the LaserJet 1300's grainy, posterized grayscales will disappoint you. Also, we can't fathom why the 1300's driver devotes a whole tab to letting you activate and deactivate features that duplicate the controls available on the other tabs.

WHAT ELSE: HP sells just one paper-handling option for this printer: a 250-sheet paper feeder that doubles the printer's capacity for a reasonable $150. The company's toner is less of a bargain, ranging from 2.3 cents to 2.88 cents per page, based on HP's toner yield estimates, and depending on which cartridge you buy.

UPSHOT: The LaserJet 1300 makes sense as a high-performance personal printer, and it could pinch-hit for a small network.

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