Help me buy a laser printer?


We need to buy a new laser printer for my office, but there are a bewildering range out there… I’m confused. We print around 40 pages a day on average, but some days we’ll need to do 100 or so. Most jobs are just one or two pages. There are six people in the office, so it’ll need to be networked (not attached to a PC, attached to the LAN). We’re using mostly WinXP, with a few Win98 machines.

We need it to be reliable and solid - we’re not after a home printer, we want something strong (and reasonably fast).

It’s just text docs that we are printing, and it’s not really presentation stuff, so quality has to be good, but not amazing.

My biz partner has had a HP in his office before, and says it was very reliable, and pretty much exactly what we need. That was five years ago (and it’s still going strong!), so we cannot get that model any more. HP seems to have a good rep, tho.

Price is not critical, as in, we don’t want the cheapest solution, but nor do we need the most expensive.

How much RAM do I need, and what does that affect (real world) anyway? The docs we print are 100 to 500Kb, so why the heck do we need 16Mb of RAM?!

Is there much deference between brands for models of a similar price?

Anything I should steer clear of?

Currently, we have a Brother MFC9810, which is ok, but not natively networkable. We got one of those things that you plug into the parallel port, and plug a network cable into that, and while it works, the software we needed to install on each client has some exceedingly annoying side-effects, and it’s really a home-office machine anyway, not up to the rigors of a medium sized office.

Whatcha got?



damnit, i forgot to add, that I have been looking for sites on the web that comprehensively review printers, similar to how sites like review digital cameras, ya know?

I found a few generaic PC hardware sites that have wishy-washy reviews, but none comprehensive (bredth or depth). I thought Amazon might have some “reader reviews”, but no luck there.

All the other matches on Google seemed to go to sites for shops that sell the stock, and so their reviews are obviously weighted.


On the networking issue, have you considered installing the printer on one of the PCs and just sharing it across the workgroup? - There is the obvious disadvantage that the host PC has to be up and running for others to print, but on the plus side, there are no special networking drivers to install on any of the machines.

You should probably be asking this in IMHO, but anyhoo…

  • Check out toner prices and availability first. You don’t want to be scammed into the ink-jet style free-printer/gold-plated toner situation.
  • Sounds like you want something networkable and medium duty (those two usually go together…)
  • Laser printers are pretty cheap now. I got a very nice Brother 1440 for $200 CAD a few months ago… not that you care.
  • Unless things have changed while I wasn’t looking, Lasers need to have the whole page in RAM before they can print it (they can’t stop/restart like inkjets can). Note that I can save a .gif or .jpg in a very small format, but it’s gonna have to be expanded to get printed. Your 50k document will come out to well over a meg in printer RAM. Ask someone who knows about this specifically… I don’t think you’d need more than 4M, but if it’s an office situation, it can’t hurt to get more.
  • I don’t use printers very often, so I can’t suggest anything specifically… try a site like perhaps.

What I would do is visit a place like Office Depot or Staples & ask them what they would suggest. I wouldn’t try Costco because they don’t have any customer service in computers it seems.
Dell is having a one day sale on a
Minolta Magicolor Color Laser Printer For $499.10 Shipped After Rebate , but toner is usually pricey.

Handy, the minimum-wage grunts at Office Depot or Staples are probably just going to recommend whatever they happen to have in stock.

Trust me on this one:

You want an HP. You’re best, and cheapest bet would be an HP 4 or 4+, with a JetDirect Card.

Cheap ($125 Canadian), easy to refill the cartridge = cheap toner, an absolute WORKHORSE, a cinch to fix, easy to get parts…

Well, you get the idea.

I wouldn’t throw a 5 outta bed either (I have 4 HP IIP’s and a 5M)

Watch out tho. HP fiddled with their Numbering: A 4P or 4L is NOT what you want. The 4’s and 5’s I recommended are boxy… cubic… The l’s and p’s are shorter.

Go to to check out the various models.

There usually are places in every city that fix lasers. These guys usually have a few printers for sale, reasonably cheap, with a warrantee. They know which break down fast and which don’t.

I have a home office and my 13-year-old workhorse HP LaserJet III is getting creaky, so I’ve also been out looking at new printers.

Trying to find a good price point between ppm and cost is a toughy. I get 8 ppm now, so there’s no point in upgrading until I can at least triple that. In an office I’m sure you’ll want that kind of speed even more.

But my printer only has 1 or 2 megs of RAM, and that is often insufficient to print out a full page from my scanner. Even the low price HPs have something like 32 megs these days. Get all you can: it’s a sunk cost and will be worth it in the future.

My HP has been so geat for so long that I’ll probably go back to HP. I’ve been warned, though, by people who do computer repairs that nothing - including HP - is as good and solid as it used to be. Prices are too low to build in that kind of quality.

Moved to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

I got 4 HP LaserJets from thrift shops for free to $10. I saw a HP 5L a few days ago in a rummage sale for 50 cents. But they all need the paperfeed correction kit, which is free from HP.

Some printers can’t serve as network printers so be sure the one you buy can.

For several years now, I’ve had an HP 2100, and it has performed like a champ. It won’t blind you with its speed, but it’s plenty fast for my purposes, it does Postscript, and it has the interfaces I need (infrared printing was kinda fun while it lasted; my new OS apparently doesn’t support it anymore). You can add an external paper tray so you won’t have to refill it as often. For the networked model, look at the 2100TN.

I just upgraded the memory in mine, from 8 to 24 megs, because some large graphic files I printed would occasionally print a blank page; the problem hasn’t reoccurred since the upgrade. The upgrade was easy, and it only cost me about $20.

Thanks for your help guys.


I would recommend an HP too. I like the boxy ones that have the horizontal paper trays. At work they use a lot of these and they are the #4 series. They print fast, hold a lot of paper and you can recycle-refill the cartridges. I don’t like the 5L-6L series, mine here is not that reliable.

Here ya are, but price is for today only I guess:

HP LaserJet 4200n Printer

* 1,200 x 1,200 dpi resolution
* 35 pages per minute; 150,000-page per month duty cycle
* 2 input trays, 600 sheets
* HP Jetdirect 10/100Base-TX printer server
* Parallel interface; PC and Mac compatible

If you’re a small business, have you checked out Xerox? They’ve got a program where they provide you with a free color laser printer. You have to print a certain number of copies a month and buy supplies from them.

I haven’t looked at supply costs and TCO, but at least one of the offices I work with thinks it’s a good deal.