Thursday, January 27, 2011

HP M1536dnf MFP

I have had an HP 4100 MFP for about six or seven years now--a fine machine, especially because it was free.  At the time, HP had a "home loan" policy by which one could take various printers home for "familiarization."  These were generally printers that had been used by in-house testing, often early production models that could have been sold to a customer.  The 4100 MFP was, for its time (many years back), a pretty impressive machine.  The printer part was a 25 page per minute monochrome, 600 dot/inch printer. 

The MFP part was a scanner and copier gadget that sat on top of the printer.  It was not spectacularly high resolution, as scanners go, but as long as you were not trying to use it for photographs, it did pretty darn well.  One nice feature was that you could tell it to scan pages to either JPG or PDF. 

During research for my books, I usually made lots of photocopies--enough that I ended up with several feet of notebooks from my research.  With the 4100 MFP, I would put a stack of pages into the document feeder, and tell it to send the PDFs to my email address.  (There did not seem to be any way to just have the documents load directly into the attached PC.)

This worked very well; I ended up putting several feet of documents into a couple of CDs worth of PDFs.  You can see some of them on my website, especially in the right to keep and bear arms decisions and gun scarcity areas.  Nicest of all, when HP laid me off, I tried to return it to them, and they insisted that I keep it, along with a nice flat screen monitor, and a small but very fast notebook computer that they had declared obsolete and insisted that I keep.

The 4100 MFP, like all good things, cannot last forever.  I have had some intermittent problems with the automatic document feeder.  I had a former HP guy out to fix it--but this unit is old.  It has printed at least 400,000 pages, and now I can't even buy genuine HP toner cartridges for it anymore.  There are aftermarket ones available, but on top of the automatic document feeder not working, I decided that it was time to replace it.  This semester, I have started to scan in all the Scantron forms that I use for multiple choice tests in my history classes, primarily to make sure that I can verify that a student did not change his answer after I returned it to him.  Having a working document feeder at home is now quite important.

When I first started looking for a replacement for this several years ago, everything that was even close a 4100 MFP was very expensive--or missing some useful features.  I have an HP Photosmart C6280 All-in-One that prints color photographs--but like all inkjets, it is a bit expensive to operate, and even in monochrome mode, not very fast.  It scans nicely--and even has some nice OCR software bundled with it--but no document feeder.  Trying to scan in multiple page documents is no fun.

I really wanted a duplex printer--not one where I turned the pages over and ran them through again.  I really wanted the document feeder.  I really wanted a laser printer for the operating costs.  I really wanted color, but the price for a color MFP was just too high when I only occasionally need to print in color. 

The M1536dnf MFP seemed to give me everything that I wanted and hit the right price point.  It was a monochrome Laserjet that also copies, scans, it prints 25 pages per minute, with the first page out in about nine seconds from a standing start.  The document feeder, while not as fast as the 4100 MFP, seems to be much more reliable (although I am comparing it to a pre-production version with a lot of miles).  The ReadIris software that comes with it does a marvelous OCR job, and unlike the 4100 MFP, it can read directly into my PC.  And all of this cost $211 with shipping and sales tax!

Okay, it probably isn't going to last as long as this 4100 MFP, which was intended as a small business or workgroup shared printer.  And part of how they get the price down is that it comes with a "starter" toner cartridge, good for about 1000 sheets.  While growling slightly at the cheapness of this, I also realized that this is not just about getting the sale price down.  It is also about the fact that a fair number of these printers are going to get sold, and returned within a week or two.  HP can refurbish the packaging on the printer cheaply and prepare it for resale--but replacing a 10,000 page toner cartridge would be expensive--while replacing a 1,000 page toner cartridge is not so bad.


Anthony said...

HP still makes good hardware, but the driver packages that come with their hardware are outrageous. I have an older HP scanner (which I don't use very much). The fairly nice software which came with the scanner broke with an IE upgrade. The driver upgrade required about a 300MB download, and never actually ran on my computer. Now I use the built-in Windows generic scanner driver. The IT person at my job has banned new HP equipment because he's had similar experiences all too often.

What happened to HP?

Clayton said...

HP drivers have been problematic for a number of years. It seemed at times as though HP had become a little too enamored of making sure that every possible feature and capability of their printers was available to the user (which is a good thing) but I often found myself frustrated that the drivers were sufficiently unusual that they created problems like you describe.

I never did meet anyone at HP responsible for these drivers. It was a very big organization. At times, it seemed like the Seventh Fleet in terms of its power and the capabilities of people; at times, it seemed like a Technosaurus.

So far, the Photosmart and this new Laserjet are giving me no driver problems!