The two-tone gray HP Color LaserJet 2600n measures a compact 16 by 18 by 15 inches (WDH). Two sturdy handgrips in its base make this 40-pound machine easy to move. In order to keep production costs down, HP cut corners in ways that are difficult to forgive. For example, the control panel on the top-right corner of the machine features a tiny two-line LCD that's hard to read because it's set at an awkward angle and lacks backlighting. The control panel provides buttons to move across the menus and drill down through them, but not to climb back up; so after setting a menu item, you have to jump back to the starting point. In other words, to save money on a plastic button, HP designed a control panel that accesses only one menu item at a time.
Still, HP got some of the 2600n's design elements right. The enclosed paper drawer at the bottom holds 250 sheets, and you can add a second 250-sheet drawer for $149--pricey but essential for a workgroup that prints a lot. Adjusting the paper drawer's width and length guides for A4 or legal paper was painless. The auxiliary tray for alternative media and envelopes includes a unique, easy-to-feed single-sheet bypass slot. The 2600n's front wall flops out on sturdy hinges to expose the four combination toner-cartridge and imaging-drum units, whose convenient handles make changing components easy.
HP deserves credit for not exaggerating the Color LaserJet 2600n's print speed. Its advertised 8 pages per minute (ppm) for black text was close to the poky 7ppm clocked by CNET Labs' tests. Color graphics printed at a more reasonable 6.3ppm. That's fast enough for most home offices, but not for any workgroup of more than a few people. (CNET tested the 2600n over a USB connection; Ethernet performance may vary.)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Color graphics||Color text||Black graphics||Black text|
In terms of print quality, our plain-text samples looked great, with a crisp black that few color lasers achieve, and sharp, clean letters, even at 2-point size. It also printed grayscale graphics well, with some blotchiness in areas but good detail, particularly on photos. The weakest area was probably color graphics: gradients made abrupt transitions, solid colors had odd mixtures of extra colors, and photos came out unpleasantly dark and brown, though they did preserve detail well.