Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Hewlett-Packard Australia Color LaserJet 2840
- Direct media card printing, colour images look quite good
- Many PC-only functions, slow scanning, poor quality scans
The media card slots and the extensive image software make the 2840 attractive for offices that print lots of photos, but its slowness and mediocre image quality will incline many prospective buyers to steer clear.
Price$ 2,099.00 (AUD)
HP's Color LaserJet 2840 has a stylish, grey-and-black design. It also has a few nice features and networking capabilities, but otherwise it's a mediocre performer in most respects.
One attractive feature is the inclusion of flash media slots, so the user can print photos directly from a flash memory card via the front panel, without having to go through a PC. Media card slots are common on inkjet MFPs but rare on laser-based machines.
The HP Color LaserJet 2840 can be connected to a network in a peer-to-peer environment, where the software is installed on each client, or it can be set up in a client-server environment.
Regardless of how the unit is set up on a network, HP's software needs to be installed on each client PC to take full advantage of the unit's network capabilities. Once the 2840 is plugged into the network and drivers and software are installed, each client can configure the MFP using its Web-based configuration tool, HP Toolbox.
The 2840 offers a strange mix of onboard and PC-only controls. For example, the scan button on the unit's front panel sends the image to a pre-scan view, but the user must work from their PC to zoom in and out, rotate picture, auto-correct, resize, lighten/darken, sharpen, adjust colour on a colour wheel, and set saturation and resolution.
When tested, the 2840 took 37.7 seconds to scan a colour document--which was very slow when compared to other laser MFDs (colour or monochrome). The scanned results were hardly worth the wait: documents and images looked oversaturated and much too red.
The 2840 also dawdled as a printer, printing text documents at 7 pages per minute and colour graphics at just 1.3ppm. On the other hand, text looked clean and sharp, and greyscale graphics had a smooth texture and little banding--though the test pages were too dark. Colour graphics were generally good, with realistic hues that were just a touch too bright. Blues looked a bit oversaturated, but images had smooth transitions and good contrast. Test images printed on photo paper appeared vibrant but somewhat pixelated.
Copying documents via the front control panel was a breeze. The user can copy in black-and-white or in colour directly from the console; copies of monochrome text pages emerged in just 3.2 seconds per page. Copies weren't as dark and sharp as the original, but seemed generally accurate.
HP includes media card slots for CompactFlash, Secure Digital xD-Picture card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, SmartMedia, and MultiMedia Card with the 2840; and it capitalises on these by offering a number of photo-specific features more typical of photo-centric HP printers. For example, it can print a proof sheet containing thumbnails of all of the photos on a memory card. The 2840 goes beyond printing a contact sheet: the user can take that proof sheet, mark photos directly on the page and scan it back into the machine. The MFP will then print all of the chosen photos.
The included Image Zone software--HP's excellent image organiser and editor--organises images in a Windows Explorer-style menu. Image Zone allows adjustments such as changing brightness and contrast, removing redeye, cropping, and adding colour effects such as black-and-white or sepia tones. A user can also create panoramas, CD labels, photo albums, calendars and gift cards using the software. A "share" section helps them send photos in an email message or upload them to the Internet. Image Zone is part of the HP Director software suite, which can be used to scan a picture or text document, transfer images from a card or send a fax.
Though it can handle more than one user over a network, the 2840 has little paper-handling flexibility. It comes with a 250-sheet main paper tray and a 150-sheet multipurpose tray, but there are no optional paper trays. The 2840 accepts sheets of paper up to legal-size.
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