HP Colour LaserJet CM1017

The HP Colour LaserJet CM1017 MFP is a great choice for small offices that need a multifunction laser with excellent print quality.

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With prices dropping into the sub-AU$1,000 arena, laser printers -- even multifunction lasers -- are moving into the home, but the HP Colour LaserJet CM1017 MFP is too expensive for the average home user. It is, however, a good choice for the small or home office user who needs high-quality laser prints -- particularly graphics -- but not necessarily fast prints. For AU$999, you get a network-ready colour laser multifunction printer that prints, scans, and copies, and includes built-in media card readers, a rarity for laser printers. We think the CM1017 is a good choice for small offices that need great image quality from a laser, such as realtors and insurance agents.

The HP Colour LaserJet CM1017 MFP is a large printer better suited for an office than for a home. It sits 437mm by 508mm by 525mm, and it weighs nearly 22 kilograms. The top-mounted flatbed scanner and control panel sit atop the body like a flat hat. The flatbed scanner can hold up to A4-size originals, but the unit lacks an automatic document feeder, so it can't scan legal-sized documents.

Below the scanner unit is the output tray, which juts out from the front of the printer. The input tray pulls out from the bottom of the printer's front and can hold up to 250 sheets of plain paper. You can adjust the paper tray to hold legal-size sheets. The front panel of the paper tray houses a single-sheet manual feed slot for one-off prints. Adjustable paper guides let you smoothly feed anything from envelopes to full sheets of paper. If you need increased paper capacity, you can purchase a second 250-sheet tray.

The CM1017 serves up four media card slots on the right side of the printer. The slots accept most major types of cards. The printer's control panel resides next to the scanner bed. A 2.4-inch colour LCD flips up and can be tilted to optimise the viewing angle. Constantly displayed on the LCD are icons that indicate the toner levels, so you can avoid a last-minute dash to the office supplies store to finish a print job. A bevy of buttons let you initiate photo print, scan, and copy tasks without touching your PC, as well as navigate the printer's various menus.

Although multifunction laser printers are generally office-oriented, the Colour LaserJet CM1017 MFP lacks fax functionality, which may be a deal breaker for some offices. On the other hand, it does provide a feature that's relatively uncommon among laser printers: media card readers for printing photographs. You can print decent-quality photos on plain paper or on HP's laser photo paper, a feature that can be useful in certain industries such as real estate or insurance.

The CM1017 comes with a 300MHz processor and 94MB of RAM standard (upgradeable to 224MB). It sports an Ethernet port for networking, or you can attach it directly to a PC via USB 2.0. Duplex, or two-sided, printing is a manual operation, as the CM1017 lacks a built-in duplexer.

When scanning from the printer's control panel you have a couple of options: You can save the file to your PC in a number of different formats, including TIFF, JPEG, and PDF, or you can attach the file to an e-mail. Using HP's Solution Center software, you get more options, including the ability to scan into a selected program such Word, PowerPoint, and Photoshop. You can also scan a document using the bundled third-party optical character-recognition software, which will produce a text-editable scan.

The CM1017's copy features are basic. When scanning documents, you can adjust darkness and scale the size from 25 percent to 400 percent; when scanning photos, you can also colour balance and sharpen the image. One common feature we didn't find is the ability to make N-up copies, which prints two or more originals on one sheet of paper. You can, however, make N-up prints from your PC (you can find it under the Finishing tab in Printer Properties).

As we mentioned before, the ability to print straight from a memory card is an uncommon feature on laser printers. With the CM1017, not only do you get the ability to print photos, but you get a decent range of features to boot. You can preview the contents of your card on the colour LCD via a slide show or by manually clicking through the range of images. When it comes time to print, you can choose among a range of print sizes, paper sizes, and paper types, including HP's laser photo paper. You can even choose to print a range of photos (by photo number, not date).

And best of all, you can print an index sheet of all the images on your card or a proof sheet. The index sheet includes the photo number, the file name, and the date it was taken -- all great references. The proof sheet lets you bubble in the images you want printed, select your paper type (plain or glossy), and a select a layout (from one image per page up to six images per page). Then you simply scan the proof sheet, and the printer takes care of printing the images for you. These aren't photos you'll necessarily want to frame and hang, but the ability to print good-quality photos on a laser printer is a very useful tool for some offices.

Replacing spent toner cartridges is a simple task on the CM1017. Simply flip open the front panel and pull out the used cartridges individually.

It's difficult to make direct performance comparisons for the HP Colour LaserJet CM1017 MFP, as we haven't reviewed a colour laser multifunction in quite some time. Still, the numbers speak for themselves and what they say is, if you do a lot of printing and print speed matters, this is not the machine for you. HP rates this machine to print eight pages per minute in both mono and colour, so it's not intended to be a speed demon.

In our Labs' tests, it printed black text at 6.81ppm, black graphics at 6.31ppm, colour text at 5.91ppm, and colour graphics at 6.16ppm. It scanned a greyscale document at a rate of 3.39ppm and a colour document at 2.61ppm.

What the HP CM1017 lacks in speed, though, it makes up for in quality, at least with prints. Black text was everything it's supposed to be: dark, sharp, clean, and well-formed. The same applies to colour text. The cross-hatching that often plagues colour text from laser printers was minimal -- this is among the best colour laser text quality we've seen. The mono graphics print was also of high quality, especially the photo elements, which were mostly free of cross-hatching.

The only minor issue we saw was a tiny bit of compression in both ends of the greyscale. The colour graphics print quality was impressive too, though the colours tended to be a bit dark and skin tones looked ruddy. Otherwise, the prints were sharp and colours were nicely saturated. Although we didn't officially test the photo prints, we did make some prints off a memory card and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the prints. Again, these aren't prints that we'd frame and hang, but for a laser printer, the quality was impressive and definitely good enough for professional looking documents such as real estate fliers or insurance pictures.

Sadly, the same doesn't apply to the scan quality. While both scans were sharp and showed good detail, they were extremely faded, almost as though they were scanned with a layer of tracing paper over the originals.

Hewlett-Packard backs the Colour LaserJet CM1017 MFP with a standard one-year warranty, which is on par with the competition, but you can extend the warranty. While under warranty, you can get free, toll-free phone support 24-7. HP's Web site has downloadable drivers, software, and manuals; e-mail tech support; online chat with tech support; FAQs; and a troubleshooting guide.

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