HP Color LaserJet CM1312nfi MFP (Used)

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    ver wish for a color laser all-in-one (AIO) that will fit into your small office or home office and give you all of the features you need at a price you can justify spending? The HP Color LaserJet CM1312nfi MFP ($499.99 direct) may be just what you've been waiting for. It's not perfect, but it's impressive enough to easily earn our Editors' Choice.
    Despite its low price, the CM1312nfi doesn't skimp on features. It works as a standalone fax machine and color copier, includes a network connector, and can both scan to a PC and fax from a PC over a network. And you can conveniently scan and e-mail by launching your PC's e-mail program to open a new message with the scanned document attached.

    Even better, the 50-page automatic document feeder (ADF) makes multipage documents easy to handle and also scans legal-size pages, which you can't do on the letter-size flatbed. You'll also find memory card slots on the front. The CM1312nfi can print photos from memory cards and scan directly to memory cards in JPG format.
    Not so incidentally—and somewhat amazingly, given the price—the CM1312nfi is the high-end model of the CM1312 series. If you don't need faxing, a network connector, an ADF, or memory card slots, HP will happily sell you the HP Color LaserJet CM1312 MFP for $399 (direct). I installed the CM1312nfi on a Windows XP system for my tests, but HP says it also comes with a full set of drivers and related software for Windows 2000, Server 2003, and Mac OS 10.3, 10.4, 10.5, and later. The two models are otherwise identical, so most of the comments in this review should apply to both. Keep in mind, however, that if you need to scan multipage documents or legal-size documents, the ADF alone more than justifies the CM1312nfi's additional cost.
    Most color laser AIOs are big enough to make finding room for them in a small or home office a challenge. The CM1312nfi measures a relatively small 19.1 by 19.6 by 19.3 inches (HWD). It's also relatively light, although, at 54.5 pounds, you may still want help moving it into place.

    Setup is typical for a small color laser AIO. Remove the packing materials, snap in the ADF input tray, plug in the power cord and cable, load paper, and run the automated setup.

    I ran into one minor issue. When network setup finishes, everything works except the ability to give a scan command from the front panel. HP says the feature is set up automatically if you're connected through a USB port, but, ironically, if you're close enough to connect by USB cable, there's little need for the feature. It's most useful for a network AIO, since it lets you take a document to the AIO, scan, and bring it back to your desk in one step.
    I'd argue that not setting up the feature automatically on a network is a design flaw. But at least HP uses the front-panel LCD to help minimize potential frustration. Try scanning from the front panel after the automated installation and you'll get a message telling you that you can find instructions in the user guide for setting up the feature. It also helps that the setup is easy, once you know how.

    The CM1312nfi offsets this setup issue by letting you scan directly to a memory card. Simply scan to the card, carry the card back to your computer, and copy the JPG files to your hard drive. This isn't as universally useful as being able to scan to a USB key, but if you have a memory card reader on your PC, it will serve the same purpose. I'd prefer having the option of scanning to PDF format instead, but JPG will do.
    Not surprisingly, given its price, the CM1312nfi is on the slow side for a laser, with an engine rating of 12 pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome and 8 ppm for color. On our business applications suite (timed with QualityLogic's hardware and software, www.qualitylogic.com) it took a relatively long 20 minutes 47 seconds. As a point of comparison, the Brother MFC-9440CN—the fastest sub-$1,000 color laser AIO we've tested to date—took just 11:25.

    A more telling comparison is with the inkjet-based HP Officejet Pro L7680 All-In-One, which costs less than the CM1312nfi and is meant to compete with inexpensive color laser AIOs. The L7680 took just 15:35 on the laser version of our business applications suite. Keep in mind, though, that the L7680 is an extraordinarily fast inkjet. The CM1312nfi is still faster than the vast majority of inkjets, and certainly fast enough for the kind of light-duty printing it's meant for.
    In any case, whatever the CM1312nfi lacks in speed, it makes up for in output quality. Text quality is just a half step short of the best available. More than half of the fonts on our text tests qualified as well formed and highly readable at 4 points, and only one highly stylized font with thick strokes needed more than 8 points to pass both tests. The CM1312nfi should be able to handle any text you need to print.

    Graphics, similarly, are easily good enough for any business need up to and including printed matter like trifold brochures and mailers. I saw a slight unevenness in large fills, and some visible dithering in the form of graininess, but nothing I'd call seriously objectionable.
    Photo quality was at the high end of what I expect from a laser printer. A close look shows dithering, as with graphics, but most of the photos could pass for true photo quality at arm's length. I wouldn't hesitate to use the CM1312 for output like client newsletters with photos or for marketing materials on glossy laser paper (although you'll have to change the driver from its default settings to get the best-looking output).

    The CM1312nfi even does a credible job of printing what HP calls business-quality photos on HP's 4-by-6 laser photo paper. I'd call them near photo quality, despite their coming out of the printer with a significant curl on my tests. By whatever name, they're good enough for uses like photos on postcards for business mailings, or for, say, a real estate office to print photos of houses for prospective buyers.

    The one place where I wish HP hadn't cut back is paper handling. The CM1312nfi's capacity is limited to 150 sheets, with no duplexing and no upgrade options. If between printing, faxing, and copying, you output more than about 30 pages per day, you may find yourself adding paper often enough for it to become annoying. On the other hand, the low capacity is appropriate for the light-duty printing typical of a small office, home office, or personal AIO, so it's not a killer flaw, by any means. And even with this economy measure, for the moment at least, the HP Color LaserJet CM1312nfi MFP delivers far more AIO for the price than any of its competitors.

    Check out the HP Color LaserJet CM1312nfi MFP's test scores.

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