- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2003

Those who have people working for them know the cliche of ideal employees: They’re always on time, always agreeable, always get the work done, and never take a break, a sick day or vacation.

While a bit unreasonable to expect from a person, it’s not too much to ask from a computer printer these days. The new LaserJet 1300 from Hewlett-Packard, at about $399, is the kind of indefatigable worker one hopes to find. Compared with its predecessor models, the HP LaserJet 1200 and 1000, the LaserJet 1300 offers more features and greater flexibility, not to mention faster printing speeds.

The LaserJet 1300 series printers — one has built-in Ethernet networking; the other doesn’t — deliver fast, high-quality output, churning out text at up to 20 pages per minute (ppm), with a “first-page-out” in less than eight seconds with HP’s “Instant-on Fuser,” a system for, well, fusing the toner to the page.

The LaserJet 1300 I tested was the stand-alone, non-Ethernet version. It’s relatively lightweight, making it easy to move around an office, and very easy to set up. There’s a paper tray in front, plus a “manual input slot” that holds up to 10 pages of letterhead. The manual slot also handles envelopes easily. Paper tracks around to feed out of the top of the printer into a tray, but the back of the unit can flip open to handle heavier card stock.

The unit is equipped with 16 MB of RAM, enough for most printing jobs to quickly “spool” into the printer, freeing up the computer for other tasks. It works with most flavors of Windows and Linux, as well as Apple Mac OS X. However, print speeds under OS X take a bit of a hit when the print job involves Web pages, at least from Apple’s Safari Web browser.

I know Safari is still “beta” software, and perhaps there’s something to be worked out there, but one could wait several minutes for the LaserJet 1300 to begin printing a Web page from a Mac. Perhaps adding more memory or using other software would help. Printing from other Mac applications, including, oddly enough, Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Photoshop Elements, was very fast indeed.

I also tested the LaserJet 1300 with a Windows system running Microsoft Office 2003, again “beta” software, and here, too, printing was fast. The printer has parallel as well as USB ports so that it could, theoretically, print directly from Macs and PCs. However, I chose a different route in my office, a necessary one since the PC I was using didn’t have a parallel port. So, I hooked up an HP JetDirect wireless print server to take advantage of the PC’s 802.11b networking capability. The JetDirect server clamps onto the parallel port and can work with just about any 802.11-based device, and included a software CD with drivers for the PC.

Of course, adding a $200 peripheral to a $400 printer quickly moves the LaserJet 1300 into a rather pricey range of machines; a $49 2x1 USB Peripheral Switch from Belkin Corp. (www.belkin.com) and a pair of extra USB cables ($19 each, or less, also from Belkin) can allow you to connect two computers to the printer for much less money. But the JetDirect solution can be useful in other ways, not the least being a lessening of cable clutter on your desk. HP also advertises Bluetooth printing modules for the 1300, but I did not test one.

Other options for the HP printer include extra memory to boost printing speed and capability, and an optional 250-sheet paper tray, good for those who typically print big jobs.

And while I wouldn’t want to have 10 persons depending on a single LaserJet 1300 for their daily needs, this is a printer than can serve the needs of one or two persons without hassle. It’s stylish, quiet and fast in almost every case, and well worth considering if you are in the market for a new laser printer.

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