"Great printer - after firmware update!"5.0 starson by bb-miler
Pros: Crisp color, good photo quality, great business features
Cons: Noisy fan, occasional banding, no native PS (but emulated PS in driver kit)
Summary: So - I got this printer with some hesitation after reading some internet user reviews - but I got it at a price I just couldn't refuse for a good business class printer (with duplexing, networking etc. etc.).
First of all - NO - you don't have to use the GIANT toolkit for the printer. Instead just download the 10MB "direct host" drivers from HP (and unzip it), and when you plug in the printer - just search for the drivers - and you are good to go.
Second - with the printer out of the box my initial impression was that the color reproduction - in particular black levels - was misreable. After looking more into the issue - it turns out that HP actually fixed it - but it required a quite complicated firmware update.
The firmware that came with the printer (presumably all the printers HP ships out of the factory) was "20060203 3.002.4" The update on HPs site is called "03.003.1 27 Sep 2006" - and after you apply it updates the internal firmware to "20060828 3.003.1" (note that even with a direct-connected printer - the only way I could get the firmware update to take place - was to share the printer with myself [i.e. \\MYCOMPUTER\HPCOLOR] and then apply the copy command that HP has in the ReadMe file. The "port" suggested method just doesn't work correctly).
So - after the tweaks - we now have a FANTASTIC color business printer - and it spits out 40-page Power Points speedily, that beat the output quality of our Dell and earlier HP color lasers.
Keep in mind that since it has no PS - you should connect it to a powerfull computer that will use the driver set to perform the native image conversion. And - other than being a tad noisy, it's feature set makes it a pleasure to work with. Also - the supplies are significantly cheaper than all the other color lasers in the office - so (while I haven't fully done the math) it looks like this will be the cheapest printer by far in the long run.
GREAT one if you can find it for $500 or so (and given HP's current promotion of $549 - you might be able to find a dealer who can give it to you for around $500 easily)