The HP Color LaserJet CP1215 is a simple, single-function laser printer designed to fit comfortably in a small business work group. At AU$299, its unobtrusive footprint and excellent quality colour and black output would have made an excellent alternative to the pricier HP Color LaserJet CP2025n, but we can't recommend a printer this limited; on top of being incompatible with any Mac OS, all of our speed tests indicate a super-slow output speed, and a severe feature drought dries up our enthusiasm. If you happen to be on a Mac, or typically print a large volume of colour documents, take a look at the more cost-effective Dell 1320c, another colour laser that offers faster colour prints and even a single-sheet manual-feed slot.
Design and features
Like the HP CP2025n, there isn't much to say about this printer's looks, or lack thereof. The same grey-and-white shades cover the exterior, except this model is missing an LCD screen. Instead, HP includes a basic control panel on the side of the faceplate that contains all the buttons necessary to operate and troubleshoot the device: a Ready light, Resume button, Cancel button, Paper Jam light, Attention light, and a series of icons that glow to indicate low toner levels all make up the majority of the control panel, with Paper Feed and Power buttons rounding out the set. The notification lights work fine, but we found ourselves wishing for just a simple two-line LCD that could display specific troubleshooting help or detailed information about a print job.
In terms of size, the printer measures a manageable 39.9cm wide by 25.4cm tall by approximately 45.3cm deep. It weighs 17.6kg, which is considerably lighter than most laser printers, thanks to a lack of internal autoduplexing and networking hardware.
The rest of the printer is just as simple as the front, with a small Power button on the left side and a power plug on the lower back. All the paper handling and toner access takes place up front by way of several fold-out drawers. Looking from the top down, you'll find the output tray, toner drawer and input tray at the very bottom, which can only hold up to 150 sheets of plain paper. Most businesses, even smaller ones, prefer to use a larger capacity tray with at least a 250-page capacity that won't require constant refilling.
Installing the driver and establishing a connection with a computer is tangle-free, since this is a USB-only printer. Currently, you get no option to buy a networking attachment for the printer, so a direct connection is necessary. We'll also continue to applaud HP for the basic instructions that make it easy to set up; the driver even automatically runs an installation guide to help you along the way. Within the driver, you're given the option to change a few settings, but it's nowhere near as comprehensive as the CP2025n's customisation options. In fact, the printer is fixed at a 600x600dpi resolution for both black and colour. The manual colour options let you choose between four colours or black neutral greys to save ink, but there's no way to adjust the resolution of your prints. In addition, the drivers are formatted for all manner of Windows OS, but there's no support for Macs, which effectively eliminates a large number of potential buyers.
Manufacturers often strategically keep the price of budget printers down by shipping a "starter" set of toner cartridges with the device. These cartridges typically contain a fraction of the toner levels compared with those sold on the vendor website, so the surprise comes after you've already purchased the machine. Unfortunately, such is the case with the CP1215; all four toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) contain roughly half of the standard volume of toner. Luckily, the cost of the CB540 toner series compatible with the printer is about average: AU$126 for the colour cartridges that should yield 1400 pages, according to the website and AU$138 for 2200 pages of black toner. Using those figures, since no high-volume toner cartridges are available, our calculations come out to 9 cents for a page of colour and 6.27 cents per page of black — slightly more expensive than the CP2025n, but still affordable nonetheless. Finally, the CP1215's monthly duty cycle maxes out at 1000 pages. Compared with the CP2025n's 40,000 pages per month, this is definitely suited to a much smaller office with proportionally lighter printing responsibilities.
We were generally satisfied and slightly bored with the CP1215 until we tested its output speed, the results of which practically wrote the review itself. As you can see from the comparison chart below, this HP is drastically outgunned by the rest of the competition in almost all of our tests, with the exception of colour graphics and colour text — that unfortunate loss went to the Samsung CLP-315W. The HP CP1215 didn't do much better, though, registering only 5.36 pages of colour text per minute (ppm), in contrast to the HP CP2025n on the opposite end at 10.43ppm. The extreme difference in output speed is unacceptable, and you'll likely find yourself increasingly frustrated with waiting for this thing to spit out colour.
Output speed test in pages per minute
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||Colour text speed||
As usual, we have to congratulate HP on the quality of both colour text and documents. While the output speed leaves a great deal to be desired, HP still manages to present well-formed black and colour text with sharp edges and even shading across dense graphics. As is typical for a colour laser, the CP1215 could use improvement in smoothing out blotchy gradations, and we did see banding in some of the fine details, but the majority of the photo elements came out nicely saturated with natural colour. Overall, the HP LaserJet CP1215's print quality is definitely good enough for small offices that mainly print out text with an occasional presentation thrown in, but larger offices with heavier photographic workloads might prefer the quality that only an inkjet printer can provide.
Service and support
In addition to HP's comprehensive two- or three-year On-site Exchange warranty, HP's website also contains downloadable drivers, software and manuals, email tech support, FAQs, and a troubleshooting guide.