The HP LaserJet Pro M1217nfw is a midrange monochrome multifunction laser printer with copy, scan, and fax functionality in addition to standard print features. It also includes a number of incentives to attract small offices shopping for a new printer, including wireless networking and HP's Smart Install feature that makes installation as easy as connecting a single USB cable to a host computer. Priced at a reasonable $250, the environmentally conscious will lament the M1217nfw's lack of autoduplexing (double-sided printing), but its speedy performance, compact size, and simple design make it a worthy choice for the business crowd.
Design and features
The HP LaserJet Pro's M1217nfw is compact and exceptionally lightweight for a multifunction laser printer, measuring 12 inches tall, 17 inches wide, and 10.5 inches deep, and weighing 18 pounds with all accessories attached. Its relatively narrow footprint won't hog space on your desktop, and HP also includes two wide cutouts on the bottom of each side to use as handles when transporting the unit around an office. As unfortunately is the case with many multifunction printers, HP does not include the USB or Ethernet cord necessary to make a hardwired connection.
Once you acquire a cable, HP's Smart Install app makes it simple to establish a connection and start printing. The new design embeds the communication drivers directly into the printer itself, so all you have to do is plug the power cable into a wall, connect it to your PC (via USB), turn on the printer, and the two machines will take over and do the rest. Unfortunately for Mac users, Smart Install only works with Windows machines, so HP also throws a standard installation disc in the box.
Setting up the printer with an Ethernet cable is nearly as easy as setting up a direct connection. As with USB installation, you can use either the included CD or Smart Install. We opted for the latter. First, you must print out a configuration report using the printer's control panel by pressing the setup button (the one with the wrench icon), using either of the arrow keys to select "Reports" from the Main menu, and then selecting "Config report." The printer will then spit out two pages of configuration details, one of which has the printer's IP address. Type the address into the browser of a PC on your network, and on the resulting Web page, click the HP Smart Install tab. From there, click the green Download button to install the software. After a quick download, the printer will print out a test page confirming it's connected to your network.
The process for connecting to a wireless 802.11b/g/n network is similar to Ethernet, except that you have to enter your SSID and password to start the process. Once the printer finds your router, a physical Wi-Fi button on the front control panel will confirm the connection and print out an information sheet to confirm it, and you're set. HP makes all three of the connectivity options a breeze to install, and after you get the LaserJet set up, you'll find it's a considerate office mate: it doesn't waste energy, thanks to its Energy Star qualification, and it's fairly quiet during operation. Our only environmental complaint is that it has no option to automatically flip sheets of paper to print on both sides--also called autoduplexing--although we appreciate HP's effort to keep costs low by asking you to simply do it manually.
The LCD status display console is small but well-equipped, offering all the necessary buttons to operate the machine. A number pad sits below the two-line display, and you also get two buttons down below to start and stop a job, as well as a host of setup buttons to adjust the darkness of your prints or start a copy or fax job. Unfortunately, you don't get an autoscan button, so you'll have to start the scanning process on your computer first and return to the machine to finish the job.
A 150-sheet paper input tray folds out of the bottom of the printer, and a 35-sheet auto document feeder (ADF) takes care of hands-free scanning of document stacks on top of the printer. Larger offices may feel confined by the 150-sheet maximum storage capacity, so look to a model like the HP LaserJet Pro 1606dn that can store up to 250 sheets at a time.
HP cites the printer's monthly duty cycle (maximum pages per allotted time) as 8,000 pages with a recommended volume of 250 to 2,000 sheets. A replacement toner cartridge for the LaserJet M1217nfw costs $68 and lasts approximately 1,600 pages, which factors to a budget-friendly 4.2 cents per sheet. A common practice with office printers is to include an "introductory" laser cartridge that doesn't reach the standard capacity to push the initial hardware cost low, so please note that the introductory cartridge included with the M1217nfw will run out faster than the average replacement. Large offices looking for a shared workhorse will need to spend more for a more robust machine, with a higher duty cycle, higher-capacity toner, and lower cost-per-page figures.