HP makes some very capable, feature-rich color laser multifunction printers. The HP Color LaserJet Pro M177fw isn't one of them. It actually has impressive output quality, however, its low purchase price brings compromises in speed, features, and toner costs. Unless you print very little, you will come to spend far more on this product than you'd probably like.
Design and Features
The M177fw may be attached via USB, 10/100 Ethernet, or Wi-Fi. Setup was easy in my hands-on and the driver dialog is nicely laid out with the ability to create shortcuts for your most often used settings. The HTML management pages for checking on the printer across the network were also easy to use. HP provides capable software for all the MFP basics, as well as the now-usual array of remote and Internet printing options.
The M177fw has a 3-inch touchscreen display that makes it easy to operate. Paper capacity is limited (though in line with the low-volume, 250- to 950-page recommended monthly usage for this product). There's a 150-page, open-faced input tray, a 50-page output tray, and a 35-page automatic document feeder (which was very noisy on our test unit). There's no automatic duplex copying, printing, or scanning. HP provides assistance for manual-duplex printing, but none for two-sided scanning or copying.
The scanner lid doesn't telescope, even slightly. Even most non-telescoping lids have slight give in their hinges, but the M177fw's lid canted upward even when scanning a mere 100-page magazine.
Output Quality and Performance
The M177fw's overall output quality is a highlight. Photos are rendered exceptionally well for a laser printer, with little graininess and a cool, but still attractive palette. Text and monochrome graphics are equally outstanding — sharp and black. An econo-mode which saves a lot of toner, but still produces legible text. When you see the toner costs, you'll see the need for it.
The M177fw has the slower performance that's typical of low-cost color lasers. Text and monochrome pages exit at 9.9 pages per minute on the PC, and 7.7 pages per minute on the Mac. Snapshot-sized, 4-inch by 6-inch photos print at just under 2 per minute to plain paper, and 1.5 per minute to glossy laser stock. A full-page photo exits in about 55 seconds. Copies proceed at about 4 per minute, and scans speeds are equally acceptable.
With most office printers, higher-capacity cartridges can save you money. Not so with the M177fw. The only available supplies are the $55, 1300-page black and $58, 1000-page 130A series, forcing you to live with 4.2-cent black pages, and 21.6-cent four-color pages. The latter is a real ouch. The M177fw ships with 500-page starter cartridges, so you'll be feeling the pinch sooner, too.
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