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-- by Cheryl Dominianni
Although inexpensive monochrome laser printers have been bumped out of the spotlight by their colorful ink jet cousins, they remain good choices for routine office printing needs. That's especially true as manufacturers continue to enhance performance and offer new solutions, like Hewlett-Packard's LaserJet 6L and Companion printer accessory.
HP LaserJet 6L
The HP LaserJet 6L is replacing the LaserJet 5L Xtra, a very popular 600 dot-per-inch monochrome desktop printer. The 6L boasts two significant improvements-faster print speed (from 4 pages per minute to 6ppm) and an increase in monthly duty cycle from 4,000 to 6,000 pages. And the 6L costs $399-as did its predecessor.
At 15.9 pounds and measuring 8.9 by 13.2 by 12.3 inches, the 6L can handle letter, legal, A4 and executive paper, as well as index cards, transparencies, labels, and both standard and custom envelopes. The space-saving design sports vertical input and output trays, each with 100-sheet capacities.
Installation is simple and straightforward. When printing, a status window appears on screen telling you how long the print job should take; it also alerts you to any problems. The 6L comes with 1MB of memory, expandable to 9MB.
In our tests, the 6L lived up to its rated speed of 6ppm. After a wake-up time of 28 seconds, the unit printed a 20-page text-only Word document at 600dpi in 3 minutes, 20 seconds-exactly 6ppm. Text was dark, sharp and crisp. A three-page monochrome mixed text-and-graphics file also printed at 6ppm with impressive quality-a judgment based on output characterized by easily distinguished shades of gray.
Replacing the printer's all-in-one microfine toner cartridge (toner, fuser and drum) will cost about $85; estimated output is 2,500 pages at 5 percent coverage (approximately 3.4 cents per page). Using the printer's EconoMode setting saves on toner, but the resulting output appears faded.
The LaserJet 6L comes bundled with the LaserJet Internet Publishing Kit, which includes Microsoft Internet Assistant, Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and a 60-day trial of Microsoft Publisher 97.
The LaserJet 6L offers larger on-board memory than the less-costly and highly qualified Brother HL-720 (1MB vs. 560KB). But the Brother's superior design, coupled with its true straight paper path, keeps it on our WinList of recommended products over the HP LaserJet 6L.
LaserJet Companion Printer Accessory
If you've ever wished your LaserJet could do more, then you'll like HP's new LaserJet Companion printer accessory, scheduled for release in October. Designed to work with all LaserJet 4, 5, 6P and 6L series printers, the scanner-like Companion enables convenience copying (through your printer), electronic document storage and distribution, PC fax input from paper copies and OCR.
Simply connect the Companion to your PC with the supplied interface cable and then connect the Companion to your LaserJet with the printer cable. The space-saving Companion, which offers 300dpi scanning capability, weighs 3 pounds and measures 7.13 by 12.44 by 4.09 inches (with the paper tray open). The device, with its multiple-page document feeder, is a convenient accessory for both your PC-it requires a minimum of a 486 processor with 8MB of RAM--and your printer. Companion software is provided on a CD-ROM; disks are also available.
To make a copy, insert the original and press the Companion's Printer button. Scanning is equally simple-press the Companion's PC button, and the image is scanned into your computer. The included PaperPort for HP software from Visioneer then provides a variety of options for handling the image, including enhancement, document storage and retrieval, and OCR features. The Companion is also compatible with most popular PC fax modems and software. With the Companion, you'll produce printed output that is sharp, dark and highly readable.
The HP LaserJet 6L and the HP LaserJet Companion make an attractive pair. For a combined price of less than $600, you get HP-quality printing, along with convenience copying, scanning and OCR.