Setting up the $399 LaserJet 1200 is a breeze. The CD-ROM and Getting Started leaflet lead you through every step of the process (including how to manage the tricky cable connections). The printer has both parallel and USB ports; you can even hook up two PCs--one through the parallel port, one through the USB--to the LaserJet 1200 without going to the trouble of networking the printer. The machine is compatible both with PCs (Windows 3.1x, 95, 98, Me, 2000, NT 4.0) and Macs (OS 8.6, 9.0). There's no Adobe PostScript upgrade available, however, just an emulation of PS level 2. The standard 8MB of RAM is upgradeable to 72MB.
The LaserJet 1200's bundled software includes scanning and copying programs, as well as ReadIris Professional OCR, for turning scanned documents into editable text files. The printer's driver includes some unusual features, such as the ZoomSmart function, which works just like the zoom on a copier, and the question-mark icon, which explains when certain driver settings are unavailable (for example, no N-up printing is available when the zoom is set for 400 percent).
Offices seeking a multifunction's versatility might also appreciate the LaserJet 1200's copier/scanner attachment option ($149). This device, which sits on top of the output tray, adds important office functions to the machine, so you won't have to buy separate machines.
Faster, better-looking output
The LaserJet 1200 bested its predecessor on all of CNET Labs' tests. It clocked 10.5 text pages per minute (ppm) at 600 dots per inch (dpi). While this speed is only about two-thirds of HP's maximum claim of 15ppm, it's nevertheless the fastest of any personal laser CNET's tested to date. The LaserJet 1200 slowed down to about 8.3ppm when printing mixed text and graphics, but it was still among the fastest we've tested.
Output quality was even better than output speed. Text samples we printed looked excellent at 600dpi, with crisp, solid black lines on both serif and sans-serif fonts. At three- and five-point font sizes, letters had a slightly moth-eaten quality, but this is unlikely to be an issue for everyday usage, and increasing the resolution to 1,200dpi solved the problem. On graphics tests, the LaserJet 1200 is only the second monochrome laser printer that CNET has tested to receive a score of excellent (the other printer is the HP LaserJet 2100TN). The LaserJet 1200 did a fine job on the line drawings, gradients, and tricky grayscale photographic elements in our test document.
The HP LaserJet is also economical. A 2,500-page replacement toner cartridge costs $62.50, which works out to about 2.5 cents per page--about the norm for personal laser printers. HP plans to offer a 3,500-page cartridge for $64 starting in July 2001.