This single-function Officejet, based on HP’s new PageWide inkjet technology, prints speedily, in excellent quality, and at the lowest cost per page for color pages we've seen. It has SMB stand-alone color laser printers square in its crosshairs.
Of all the kinds of gadgets we’ve reviewed over the past five or so years, we’ve seen the fewest substantive breakthroughs in printers. Both lasers and inkjets—how they function at the core—have seen few notable changes to the mechanisms inside them.
Lasers draw, or “image,” pages onto print drums, which in turn attract toner particles and fuse them to paper, while the printheads in inkjet printers travel back and forth across the page, micro-spraying ink as they go. Granted, we’ve seen incremental advances in print speed and quality over the years, and all kinds of convenience add-ons, such as automatic two-sided printing and scanning, as well as fancy color LCDs for facilitating PC-free printing. But the way these devices print just hasn’t changed much—until now.
A few weeks ago, we looked at—and lauded—an innovative multifunction inkjet, the Officejet Pro X576nw Multifunction Printer, based on HP’s PageWide technology that debuted in February 2013. PageWide printers differ from standard inkjets in that, instead of relying on printheads that travel back and forth across the page, printing one row at a time, the printhead is stationary. Paper passes under the print nozzles in one swift pass, similar to how pages pass over the print drum on laser devices, resulting in laser-like speeds from an inkjet machine. The result—blazingly fast inkjet devices—is a clear-cut breakthrough.
We should stop here and point out that the PageWide debut was not the first time we’ve seen stationary printheads on inkjet printers. A similar technology, called Memjet, showed up at CES 2011, and we were impressed enough that we gave it our Best of CES 2011 award. Since then, Memjet has showed up in some office-grade printers from LG Electronics, Lenovo, and Lomond—but they're sold only in Asia and Europe. HP’s iteration of a stationary inkjet printhead technology, PageWide, is the first to be mass-introduced on North American soil.
Today, we're looking at the Officejet Pro X576dw’s sibling, the Officejet Pro X551dw, a $599-list single-function version of the printer. In all, HP offers four printers built around the PageWide mechanism, two of them multifunction models and two single-function ones. (During our research for the X576dw Multifunction Printer review, HP told us there were six models planned, but the company was offering only four on its Web site at the time we wrote this.) The other single-function Officejet X is the Officejet Pro X451dn, which lists for $449. For the $150 savings, you get a machine rated by HP at 55 pages per minute (ppm), opposed to this more expensive model’s 70ppm, and a lower suggested monthly duty cycle (500 to 2,800 pages per month, versus the X551dw's 1,000 to 4,200). The X451dn also lacks wireless connectivity.
Instead of the color touch-screen LCD on the X551dw, the lower-priced X451dn’s control panel consists of physical buttons and a monochrome LED, and it has no USB port for PC-free printing from thumb drives. In addition, the less-expensive model doesn’t support the wide range of cloud-printing and HP printer-app options that the X551dw’s control panel does. On the whole, the less costly Officejet X451dn is designed to print primarily from networked PCs. Still, if all you need is the ability to print from the computers on your wired network, it might still be a good fit, despite the slightly lower speed and volume ratings.
The X551dw is a decided step up from the $449 model. Like on the multifunction X576dw, the print quality on the single-function X551dw is excellent, and, when printing photographs, it's better than most midrange laser printers we’ve reviewed. And it’s at least as fast—in some instances, faster. But what we like most about these new PageWide devices is their extremely low per-page cost of operation, which we’ll discuss in the Setup & Paper Handling section later in this review. The X551dw is cheaper to use, especially when printing color pages, than the high-end business inkjet printers we’ve seen, and it beats nearly every color laser printer we know of, too.
On the whole, this is an exceptional printer if you don't need the flexibility of a multifunction machine. During our evaluation, we didn’t find any reasons not to recommend it. Like its multifunction sibling, this single-function Officejet easily earned our Editors' Choice nod.