Laser printers have several advantages over inkjet printers…but, at the same time, there are certain advantages that ink jet printers have over laser printers. The HP LaserJet Pro M404n is a perfect example.
Is the M404n right for you? We shall see………. UNBOXING & INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Many companies have switched to “environmentally-friendly packaging” (cardboard, as opposed to Styrofoam), including HP in many of their lower-end printers.
Unfortunately, HP still uses (a lot of) Styrofoam in packaging their higher-end printers. While it does keep the printer ‘safe’ during shipping, the impact to the environment will last for several human generations.
As for cables, the ONLY cable included is the power cord…there are no USB and/or Ethernet cables included. On the ‘bright’ side, the printer’s toner cartridge comes pre-installed. SETUP: This was both simple, and difficult.
The physical setup, as well as installing the drivers & software, were a breeze. Setup consisted of plugging in the power cable, connecting the Ethernet cable (the printer can be connected directly to a single computer, via USB, if you don’t want/need network printing capabilities), powering the printer up, and answering a few simple questions on the printer’s 2-line LCD display.
For driver/software installation, you have two options – you can download the HPEasyStart file (6. 43MB), or you can download the full-install package (111. 5MB). The first option is the easier, and smarter, way to go, as it will only download the components needed for your specific setup, and will walk you through every (well, almost every, as I later discovered, and will explain, below) step of the install/configure process.
As mentioned, there is a slight problem in configuring everything, that being that, while configuring the EWS (Embedded Web Server settings, the ‘Internet connection’ is not automatically connected. After installation is complete, if you go to the “Web Services” tab, on the ‘Summary’ page, under ‘Internet connection’, it will indicate “Not Connected”…even though ‘Web Services Status’ shows “Enabled”, and ‘Printer connection to HP Connected’ indicates “Connected”.
As discovered during a phone call with HP’s tech support, the printer’s Network connection needs to be set to a static IP, as opposed to the dynamic IP setting configured during the setup. You do this in a 2-step process.
First, on the “Network” tab, under ‘General’, click on ‘Network Protocols’, and change it to “Enable IPv4 only”, then click. Next, go to ‘Wired’ (“Network” tab), then ‘IPv4 Configuration’, and change the IP Address Configuration from “DHCP” to “Manual IP”.
If everything is working as it should, your previously auto-assigned IPv4 information should automatically be filled into the ‘Manual IP’ & ‘DNS’ boxes. To finish, just click. If you go back to the “Web Services” tab, under ‘Summary’, the Internet connection line should now read “Connected”.
Needless to say, a relatively minor problem, but a bit of a PitA in regards to getting the info needed to fix it (the HP tech support person didn’t provide the solution…it was jointly discovered during the phone call.
PRINT QUALITY AND SPEED: This is one area that laser printers greatly excel over inkjet printers. Print quality IS OUTSTANDING…the blacks are “black”, grayscale is “grayscale”, text & images are sharp…no more, and no less, than what I would have expected.
HP claims a maximum print speed of 40ppm, and it’s quite accurate…and not accurate. Using a 42-page document, I ran three tests, although the first two tests produced almost-identical results. First, I printed one page, from the printer in “Sleep Mode”, then one page with printer ‘awake’, and finally the remaining 40 pages, also with the printer ‘awake’.
Whether the printer was ‘asleep’, or ‘awake’, it made no difference, which I’ll explain. With an inkjet, printing is, essentially, a 1-step process – you click , the computer sends the print data to the printer, and it prints whatever was sent.
With laser printers, on the other hand, it is a 2-step process. Step 1 consists of clicking , which sends a command to the printer that a print job is about to start, the laser printer “warms up”, and finally the printer sends back a command that it’s “ready to receive the print data”.
The second step consists of said print data being sent to the printer, and the printer printing what it received. In ALL three tests, the first step took approx 1. 5 minutes (+/- 4 seconds). In the first two tests, the printer completed the second step in approx 10 seconds.
As such, while the “printing” took only 10 seconds, the total printing process took approx 1 minute, 40 seconds. Moving onto the final test, the second step took 62 seconds. So, in essence, this does prove that HP’s claim of “printing” up to 40ppm is accurate…however, when combining the time of both steps, the total printing process took just under 2.
5 minutes. While the “total printing process” might be much longer than HP’s 40ppm claim, that’s still faster than most inkjet printers. Considering that the printing was done at the ‘Normal’ setting, an equivalent print job on an inkjet might have taken considerably longer (even if printing “black only”).
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: HP lists the LaserJet Pro M404n as having two paper trays…and, in a matter of speaking, it does…but, not entirely. What is labeled as ‘Tray 2’ is actually your primary tray, located at the bottom of the printer, and capable of holding up to 250 sheets.
Before I cover ‘tray 1’, I will mention that you can purchase/install an additional paper tray (which becomes ‘tray 3’), and has a 500-sheet capacity. Getting back to ‘tray 1’, this is accessed by opening the front panel, and manually loading (up to 150 sheets) the paper (a flip-up extender allows it to accommodate legal-length paper), or envelopes.
While you could, technically, leave ‘tray 1’ loaded all the time, its real use is in temporary usage. If you want two different paper-types loaded on a regular basis, I would highly suggest/recommend purchasing the 500-sheet ‘tray 3’.
Also, the 2-line display could be better. At minimum, a 3-line display should have been included. Better yet, a color touch-screen display, as seen in almost off of HP’s other LaserJet printers (including less-expensive models, wouldn’t have been too much to ask for.
Looking at all their LaserJet printers in the same general price-range ($200-399), there are 9 different ‘series’, 5 of which have touch-screen displays, including two models that are up to $100 cheaper than the M404n.
THE GOOD: • Excellent print quality • Extremely high-speed printing • Easy to understand/use software • (Mostly) Simple to set up • Compact size (for a business-oriented laser printer) THE BAD: • Getting the printer “internet connected” isn’t automatically accomplished, requires manual settings • No auto-duplex printing THE UGLY: • For the price, HP could have easily included a touch-screen display FINAL VERDICT: If you’re only printing a few pages at a time, then an inkjet printer is probably your best bet.
If you need to print in color, I stand by that same comment. Lastly, if your monthly printing is fairly low (say, less than 50 pages/month), then you should ask yourself if you REALLY need a laser printer.
However, if you have any need for printing high-volume print jobs and/or you print over 100pages/month and/or you need printouts to be waterproof (inkjet prints are NOT waterproof, and WILL bleed if gotten wet), then a laser printer will fit your needs.
The are less expensive laser printers (from HP, as well as from other manufacturers), but they will have less features/functions, slower print speeds, and (typically) only a single tray). There are also laser printers with lots more features/functions (including fax capability), faster print speeds (up to 60ppm w/ HP), and multiple trays (up to 5 w/ HP), but they can cost into the thousands of dollars.
If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced black-only laser printer, with a reasonable number of features/functions, that also prints fast, HP’s M404-series of LaserJet printers will fit the bill. There are five models to choose from, with the M404n being the middle-of-the-pack.
Disclaimer: This product was provided free, or at reduced cost, for the purpose of reviewing the product. Nevertheless, the above review, be it positive, negative, or anywhere in-between, is a 100% honest review, and the price paid played absolutely no part in my review.