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-- by Cheryl Dominianni
You can't keep a good printer manufacturer down. Just when it looked like Hewlett-Packard might lose ground in the mid-range laser printer market, along comes the LaserJet 6P.
HP's previous entry, the 5P, was a popular, highly regarded printer that began to show its age before HP finally upgraded it. In addition to greater speed and improved gray-scale images, the 6P increases the infrared data-transfer rate to 4Mb per second over the 5P's speed of 113Kb per second. The 6P also now allows wireless printing performance comparable to that of a standard parallel-port cable connection.
Though it uses HP PCL 6, the newest version of the company's printer command language, the 6P is fully compatible with existing LaserJet printers. However, if you want to use Adobe PostScript Level 2 software, you'll pay another $150. The LaserJet 6P comes with 45 scalable typefaces built in and an additional 65 on disk. The printer provides 128 levels of gray for smooth transitions and photo-realistic images.
Measuring 17.5 by 15.8 by 7.9 inches and weighing 24.5 pounds, the LaserJet 6P won't clutter your desktop. It handles a wide variety of paper types (up to 44 pounds) and sizes, including envelopes, transparencies, card stock, postcards and labels. Two paper trays allow you to easily switch between plain paper and custom media. The bottom cassette holds 250 sheets and adjusts to B5, executive, letter, A4 and legal page sizes. On top is a 100-sheet multipurpose input tray. By opening the rear output tray, you can choose a straight-through paper path that's useful for envelopes, labels and heavy paper.
Installation and setup was straightforward. The LaserJet 6P comes equipped with two serial ports on the back (one standard and one C-size), and an IRDA-compliant infrared port on the front to enable wireless printing from a portable PC. You can install the printing software via the included CD or disk. A well-written user's manual walks you through the installation process and provides plentiful reference material.
The 6P's streamlined control panel consists of two buttons (one for job cancel, the other for go) and three lights for status information. Three other lights on the unit's front alert you to paper outages and wireless printing status. When a jam or paper outage occurs, an on-screen pop-up menu appears.
Software utilities handle other printing. In Windows 95, you bring up the toolbox by left-clicking on the printer icon in your taskbar; in Windows 3.x, you access the controls through Print Setup/Options/Printer/Features. Controls include printer status, "How Do I?" pop-ups and troubleshooting choices, as well as all the printer's fonts and samples of each with the HP FontSmart section. Right-clicking on the printer icon brings up a pop-up menu that includes Properties, giving you access to various additional features like print quality (where you can change print density), page setup and trial pages.
The LaserJet 6P promises printing speeds of 8 pages per minute (up from 5ppm with the 5P) and provides true 600x600dpi resolution. During my tests, print speed didn't quite measure up to the promised 8ppm. An eight-page Word document required a 15-second wait before printing began, and only seven pages printed in the next 60 seconds. I had the same results with an Excel document. Graphics slowed down the printing process. The same Word document with an inserted bitmap image required a 25-second wait before printing began, and only six pages printed in the next minute.
As expected, the LaserJet 6P's print output is excellent, delivering well-defined, dark, crisp and very clean text. To test its photo-realism capability, I printed two scanned, high-quality photos-one color and one black and white. The results were impressive. The images were superior to those printed by the Okidata OL810e/PS (replaced on our Recommended List by the 6P), with smoother gray transitions and better definition.
The printer's expandability and connectivity options offer an added attraction. The LaserJet 6P has three industry-standard SIMM slots that you can use for additional memory (to a total of 50MB), other printer languages and various customizing options. It comes with 2MB of print memory; HP's Memory Enhancement technology effectively doubles that number, allowing you to print complex pages and scanned images at true 600x600dpi.
While the LaserJet 6P is noteworthy as a personal laser printer, it can also be shared. By virtue of the dual serial ports, it can easily accommodate two users and, if used with the HP JetDirect EX Plus (an external print server that retails for approximately $349), it can be shared over a network.
If you're looking for a laser printer for your home or small office, and don't want to worry about outgrowing it, the LaserJet 6P is an excellent choice.The LaserJet 6P's great print quality, along with expandability and connectivity options, make this laser printer hard to beat.
Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.