Priced at around £250, the HP Color LaserJet 2550L is a real bargain. Although it prints slowly and boasts little in the way of initial connectivity or paper capacity, the HP Color LaserJet 2550L's output is impressive. Given that you can always add a networking module and optional paper trays after purchase, the 2550L is an excellent choice for a small business that does volume colour printing and has big plans for future growth.
The boxy HP Color LaserJet 2550L looks like your average workgroup laser printer, with a curvy, two-tone grey casing; a 125-sheet paper-output tray on top; and the usual cluster of buttons and indicator lights on the top control panel. For a colour laser, however, it's very lightweight, weighing only 21.7kg, and compact, measuring 482 by 325 by 452mm. Its economy is due in part to the space-saving carousel configuration of its four toner cartridges.
The top control panel buttons include Power, Cancel Print Job and one that rotates the toner carousel, along with indicator lights that show, among other things, which cartridge is on top or which is low on toner. Notably absent is a control-panel LCD; you'll have to make all adjustments to printer settings on your PC through the 2550L's software. Those who plan to do high-volume or complex printing may want to opt for a higher-end model with an LCD, such as the HP Color LaserJet 3500.
We reviewed the base model of HP's 2550 series, which includes only a 125-sheet multipurpose tray that flips open from the front panel of the printer. You can add either a 250-sheet input tray or a 500-sheet input tray, both available from HP. The back panel of the HP 2550L also flips open to create a straight paper path for printing heavier paper stocks.
For connectivity, the HP 2550L provides only a parallel port or a USB 2.0 connection (cables not included). If you want internal networking, you should buy either the HP 2550Ln or HP 2550n models. If you don't need networking now, but suspect you might in the future, the 2550L is compatible with several HP Jetdirect external print servers. The printer comes with HP PCL 6 and HP PostScript 3 emulation built in, so documents print looking the same as they do on your computer monitor.
As we mentioned earlier, the HP Color LaserJet 2550L has no control panel LCD. To change print settings, you'll need to use HP's LaserJet Toolbox, software that installs on your computer along with the drivers. Toolbox uses a simple Web browser interface and gives you or your network administrator access to printer status information (including toner levels and usage data), troubleshooting tips and demos, and an alerts feature that you can set to send email.
The 2550L's drivers are quite basic and easy to use. A series of tabs control such settings as paper size and orientation, document scaling and the ability to print all text as black. The colour tab lets you change the composition of neutral grays between black and four-colour as well as half-toning, RGB colour and edge control. For colour experts, such as designers and photographers, the 2550L's colour settings may be a bit rudimentary compared with those offered on the Samsung CLP-550, but the average user should be satisfied with the available tweaks and the printer's native colour-matching capabilities.
The HP 2550L's printing costs are quite reasonable. New 4,000-sheet cyan, magenta, and yellow toner cartridges cost £57. A 4,000-sheet black cartridge costs £46. Estimating 5 percent coverage, this works out to 1.2p per page for black ink and about 1.4p per page for colour -- about average for a colour laser printer.
Overall, the HP Color LaserJet 2550L was a smooth performer in our tests. The test unit was also very quiet during operation.
For monochrome printing, the HP Color LaserJet 2550L performed well, averaging 12.1ppm (pages per minute) for text and 9.8ppm for graphics. These scores are above average for a bargain colour laser printer. In colour printing, on the other hand, the HP was rather disappointing. It averaged only 3.9ppm for text and 3.1ppm for graphics, making the HP Color LaserJet 2550 the slowest in our charts -- a surprise, since one of our fastest colour laser printers is the HP LaserJet 3500, with a score of 7ppm for colour text and 8.8ppm for colour graphics.
Making up for its less-than-great speed, however, the HP Color LaserJet 2550L offers excellent monochrome print quality. Both text and graphics looked perfect in our tests, with very few flaws. The colour print quality, though not perfect, was very good as well. Our only nitpick was the contrast, which was a little too soft in colour text and a little too harsh in colour graphics.
The printer was tested at the factory default settings, which you can adjust to improve the output and performance.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.
Edited by Robert Vamosi
Additional editing by Nick Hide