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November 1996 Reviews TOC

11/96 Reviews HW: HP LaserJet 5L Xtra

A Beauty on All Counts

By James E. Powell

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but most everyone who sees the HP LaserJet 5L Xtra-Hewlett-Packard's replacement for its LaserJet 5L-will agree that it's a stunner in every way.

Measuring 9 by 13.2 by 12.3 inches (14.6 inches high with letter-sized paper loaded) and weighing 15.7 pounds, this 600x600-dot-per-inch laser printer offers high-quality monochrome output for about 2 cents per page at a rated speed of 4 pages per minute (the first page is ready in about 20 seconds). At 5 percent paper coverage, HP says the toner cartridge should last for 2,500 pages. You can drop the cost to a penny per page by using EconoMode to save toner, but the output will look faded.

All input and output slots are vertically positioned, but you can also route paper out the front-which is good for envelopes or special paper. The 100-sheet paper tray at the rear of the printer and the 20-sheet front input slot can accommodate paper sizes from 3 by 5 inches to 8.5 by 14 inches, as well as transparencies, card stock, postcards, labels and custom sizes. There's one annoying quirk: You can't add paper to the input stack without first removing paper that's already loaded.

Three lights on the front panel indicate when the printer is ready, when data is being received and if an error has been detected. A button lets you print any data still in the queue if a print job is interrupted. With no power switch, the printer slips into sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity, but wake-up is almost instantaneous.

Installing the printer was simple under Windows 95. Besides the 1.32MB driver, you can install a help file, additional fonts and drivers for HP PCL 5. The system's built-in 1MB of memory (upgradable to 9MB) is effectively doubled with the Memory Enhancement technology so you can quickly regain control of your application.

A pop-up status window tells you when a print job begins and graphically shows the estimated time to completion. During setup you can toggle the resolution enhancement feature (to reduce jaggies) and set brightness, contrast and toner density. One setup tab offers tips such as how to load letterhead and envelopes, but a graphic would be more helpful.

The "Xtra" part of the package includes a CD-ROM with Netscape Navigator Personal Edition 2.0, 101 Professional Letters, Label Pro and HP's generic PIM, plus trial versions of PageKeeper, QuickBooks, Visio 4 and ACT!

But the 5L Xtra, stunning as it is, can't surpass the excellent value of the Brother HL-720 or the exceptional feature set of NEC SuperScript 860, our Recommended List choices for printers in this class. The HP is more expensive ($479 vs. $349.95) than the faster Brother unit, and in this arena a $130 price difference is significant. And the 5L's "Xtra" software can't really match the print-centric bells and whistles of the NEC, from more than double the HP's print performance to exceptionally high-quality output.

Still, the HP LaserJet 5L Xtra offers quiet, reasonably faster performance and excellent output, making it a very good choice for business or home use, especially if you need the bundled software. Give it a lower price and it'll blow the competition away.1/3 vertical

--Info File--
HP LaserJet 5L Xtra
Pros: Excellent 600dpi quality; quiet operation
Cons: Input and output trays limited to 100 pages
Platforms: 3x, 95
Hewlett-Packard Co.
800-752-0900, fax 800-333-1917
WinMag Box Score 4.5

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