The Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 4200 offers a simple, no-nonsense design. Measuring 16.4 inches wide by 16.9 inches deep by 14.4 inches high, it is an approximate cube. At 45 pounds (minus toner cartridge and paper), it still takes two people to move it around, but it's 10 pounds lighter than the hernia-inducing Xerox Phaser 4400N.
The printer's connectivity is as basic as it gets for an office printer. It comes with the old standby, an IEEE 1284-compatible parallel interface; no cable is included, though HP will sell one to you. It also lacks the USB port that you can find on other printers in this class. The LaserJet 4200 has room for up to two network cards, also not included; an Ethernet upgrade costs $320, while a token-ring connection costs an additional $600. An optional HP high-capacity hard drive costs $600.
|Front-panel controls are as straightforward as the three indicator lights marked Attention, Data, and Ready.|
|The LaserJet 4200's parallel port requires a Centronics 36-to-25-pin cable rather than the more common 25-to-25-pin version.|
Controls on the front panel are simple: One button pauses, and the other button cancels a job. Two arrow buttons let you scroll through menu options, such as paper handling, configuring the device, checking diagnostics, and so on. A third button lets you make a choice, and a fourth lets you undo it, moving back up a menu level. For questions about menu selections, there's even a question (?) button. The power control is on the printer's left side. There are three indicator lights marked Attention, Data, and Ready.
We don't recommend placing the LaserJet 4200 directly next to a workstation. It emits a soft, low-pitched hum when powered but inactive, but during a print job, the sheet-delivery mechanism becomes very noisy.
The LaserJet 4200 comes with basic features and room to add on. For example, the 48MB of standard RAM should be able to juggle a small-office print queue, but if you need more memory, you can expand it to 416MB.
The included software is compatible with Windows 95 and later, as well as Macintosh OS 8.6 and beyond. We had no installation problems on our testbed with Windows XP, but our attempt to load the software on Win 98 froze our system four times in a row. Fortunately, we were able to contact HP technical support and download an appropriate driver from Hewlett-Packard's Web site that allowed us to bypass the CD-based software completely.
The 4200 comes with a 100-sheet multipurpose input tray.
The LaserJet 4200's basic-but-expandable paper handling starts with a 500-sheet main input tray that sits underneath the printer and conveniently slides out from the front. The main output tray sits atop the printer and can take up to 250 sheets. A 100-sheet multipurpose input tray folds out from the front and handles envelopes, index cards, and other thick media, as well as regular paper. It sends its prints to a 50-sheet output tray that unfolds from the back of the printer. The 4200's capacity and convenience is roughly comparable to the Xerox Phaser 4400N's. It can also take all of the paper-handling options that are available for the product line, including a 1,500-sheet input tray ($499), a 75-piece envelope feeder ($249), and a duplex unit ($275).
We don't expect any printer to hit its vendor-specified engine speed in real-world tests, but the LaserJet 4200 got closer to its 35 pages per minute (ppm) rating than most--except in one case. It easily surpasses all of the competition in CNET Lab's text-printing test, with a speedy time of 24.2ppm--almost twice as fast as the Brother HL-5040's 13.9ppm. Unfortunately, the mixed text/graphics test presented quite another picture: the LaserJet 4200 crawled to the finish line at 7.7ppm compared to 12.5ppm for both the Xerox and the Brother models. Offices that print a lot of presentations or brochures may want to steer clear.
The LaserJet 4200's output quality is very good across the board. Printed text is extremely crisp in a variety of fonts, sizes, and shadings. Graphics exhibit well-defined edges.
Laser printer speed (personal and workgroup) (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Laser printer quality|
The LaserJet 4200's documentation can be challenging. It's multilingual--English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish--but instead of dividing the manual into discrete sections for each language, HP printed each language on the same page. The font is legible, albeit small, and the diagrams that accompany the instructions are very useful, but sifting through each page for your language is tiring. Also, the written content occasionally lacks detail. For example, the fact that the printer takes a 36-pin parallel connector instead of the newer 25-pin is buried in a parenthetical comment.
Technical support is available via a toll-free phone number Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Throughout our repeated calls, the service was fast, exceedingly courteous, and thorough. You can also e-mail tech support or chat with a technician online. HP's extensive online resources include an IT-oriented knowledge base, a subscription service so that you can stay updated on technical issues and updated drivers, and an extensive forums system for IT professionals. All of these options require free registration.