HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color Printer M451dn full review

The £378 HP LaserJet Pro 400 M451dn colour laser printer produces extremely nice output - including photos - and is very speedy for a model in this price range. It also has an automatic duplexer, a feature missing from the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color M451nw that we recently reviewed. It sounds great - until you examine the toner costs, which are steep for a relatively high-volume printer.

The controls on the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color Printer M451dn are minimal but adequate. A two-way rocker button lets you navigate the two-line LED; the panel also has a warning light, along with the usual OK, cancel, and back buttons. Software installation is easy via either USB or ethernet, and the printer dialog procedure is well thought-out.

Paper-handling features include a 250-sheet bottom main tray, an automatic duplexer, a 150-sheet output tray, and an optional bottom-mounted, 250-sheet auxiliary paper feeder. With a monthly duty cycle of 40,000 pages and a recommended actual monthly print volume of up to 2000 pages, the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color Printer M451dn can handle a fair amount of printing.

In terms of access, the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color Printer M451dn is extremely well designed. From the front you can fold out a small part of the panel to reveal the 50-sheet front multipurpose tray, or you can move a larger part of the panel to access the paper path and the slide-out toner tray. A pop-off panel on the right side of the printer makes it easy to upgrade the standard 128MB of memory to 384MB.

That brings me to the Achilles' heel of this printer: toner costs. The standard black toner cartridge costs £87 and lasts 2200 pages, or 3.9p per page. A high-yield black cartridge, available for £106, lasts for 4000 pages, reducing black costs to 2.6p per page. The costs are a little higher than average compared with those of other colour lasers we've tested - and incidentally, some business inkjets have significantly cheaper consumables. See Tech Savings.

HP offers no high-yield option for the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color Printer M451dn's cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges, so if you print a lot of colour pages, this is not the printer for you. The standard sizes cost £123 each and last for 2600 pages, working out to just under 4.8p per page per colour. Next to other standard-size cartridges, these costs are a little cheaper than average, but compared with high-yield toners, they are far more expensive than average. The starter-size cartridges that ship with the printer last approximately 1400 pages. See also: Group test: what's the best colour laser printer?

If you can hack the toner costs, the output of the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color Printer M451dn is impressive and arrives quickly. Text is dark and sharp, and colour photos are very good for a colour laser at this price. Our full-page test photo showed a cool colour palette and nice details. Text pages rendered at 11.4 pages per minute on the PC and 11.0 ppm on the Mac. Normal-size photos printed at 3.2 ppm to plain paper and 1.5 ppm on glossy paper. Full-page photos printed at about 0.8 ppm.

Output quality and speed are the HP LaserJet Pro 400 Color Printer M451dn's strong suits. If you need the Wi-Fi connectivity that it lacks, its otherwise identical cousin, the M451dw, is only a little more.

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