With a lower price than some ink jet printers, the HP Color LaserJet 2600n ($400 street) is well positioned to take over the ink jet slot on desktops and small networks. It's ideal for SOHO users wanting to move up to a laser, as well as anyone who has a personal printer in his or her office to augment the network printer down the hall.
The 2600n's most direct competition is the similarly priced Konica Minolta magicolor 2400W ($399 list). Compared with the 2400W, the 2600n is a touch smaller and lighter, at 16 by 14.6 by 17.8 inches (HWD) and 40.5 pounds. That makes finding room for it and moving it into position easier. But the actual setup is marginally more work, since you have to remove each of the four toner cartridges, pull out the restraining tape, and reinsert the cartridge--something you don't have to do with the 2400W. One of the extras in the 2600n is a network connection. Fully automated setup makes it as easy to install the 2600n on a network as it is to install the 2400W with its USB connection.
Output quality is more than acceptable, with an excellent rating for text, and ratings for graphics and photos just below the best available for color lasers. (All three ratings are the same for the 2400W.) Text quality is good enough for any purpose, with more than half of our test fonts easily readable at 4 points, and only one highly stylized font requiring 8 points. Graphics earned a rating at the high end of good, making them just good enough to use for potential clients you want to impress. The only problem worth mentioning is a tendency for white lines to show at the edges of objects, such as the slices in a pie chart.
Photos earned a good rating, with some qualifying as near photo quality. In one case, however, we saw obvious posterization (a tendency for sudden changes in gradients that should change gradually). We also saw a slight green shift in some photos and a reddish-brown tint in a monochrome photo. Overall quality is good enough for things like client newsletters, but the 2600n won't replace your ink jet for printing high-quality photos.
Color or Monochrome
Technology (for laser category only)
Maximum Standard Paper Size
Rated speed at Default Resolution (Mono)
Rated Speed at Default Resolution (Color)
Performance is reasonably good for the price. Comparisons are complicated, however, by the fact that the 2600n is the first low-price single-pass color laser, meaning that it prints all four colors at once instead of one at a time. That gives it the same 8-page-per-minute (ppm) rating for both monochrome and color. By comparison, the 2400W has a tremendous advantage for monochrome output, with a 20-ppm rating. But for color, it's at a disadvantage, rated at only 5 ppm.
On our business applications suite (timed with QualityLogic's hardware and software, www.qualitylogic.com), the 2400W left the 2600n far behind on the 50-page monochrome text file, at 2 minutes 40 seconds, compared with 6:06. But most of our test pages include color, so the 2600n beat, or effectively tied, the 2400W on 11 of the 13 individual tests. Total time on our print suite for the 2600n was 21:09, compared with 19:52 for the 2400W.
Which printer would be faster on your desk depends entirely on what you print. And given the equal quality ratings, either one could win out, depending on your mix of output. Even so, the included network connector on the 2600n gives it a slight edge, making it our new Editors' Choice.