The HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color M251nw (which retails at £220) is both a perfectly capable colour laser printer and an awkward fit for either of its two most likely uses. As a personal printer, it's a little big to share a desk with. As a shared printer in a micro office, it comes up a little short on paper handling. It can certainly do its job well enough in either situation, however, which makes it a reasonable, if not particularly compelling, choice.
Much like the similarly-priced Samsung CLP-415NW, the M251nw offers a fast printing speed and above par output quality as two of its key features. It also adds attractive conveniences including a touchscreen control panel, the ability to print directly from a USB stick, and Wireless Direct – HP's variation on Wi-Fi Direct – for easy connection to smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
Further extras include support for printing over Wi-Fi, using Apple AirPrint or HP's own mobile print app, and both printing through the cloud, if you connect the printer to a network by Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and taking advantage of HP's online print apps via touchscreen commands.
Unfortunately, the printer's a little weak on paper handling, with a single 150-sheet input tray, no manual feed, no automatic duplexer, and no additional options available. If you don't print much, that won't be a problem, but for a shared printer the paper handling makes it suitable for light duty printing only, even by micro office standards.
Setup and speed
Despite a paper capacity which is a black mark against the M251nw as a shared printer, the size and weight make it hard to argue that it's a personal printer. At 400 x 450 x 265mm (WxDxH), it's a little big to share a desk with comfortably, and it's heavy enough, at almost 19kg, that you might want some help moving it into place. That said, it's small enough so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding room for it, and once in place, setup is typical for the breed. For my tests, I connected the printer to a network using its Ethernet connector, and installed the driver on a Windows Vista system.
HP rates the M251nw at 14 pages per minute (ppm) for both mono and colour. On our business applications suite (timed with QualityLogic's hardware and software), I clocked it at an effective 5.1 ppm, which is a respectable speed both for the rating and the price. In comparison, the aforementioned Samsung CLP-415NW managed 6.0 ppm, so it’s a little nipper still.
The printer's output quality is above par overall, thanks largely to excellent text quality. The text output is at the high end of the quality scale even for lasers, making it easily good enough for any business use, even if you have an unusual need for small fonts. Most people would also consider the quality suitable for desktop publishing.
Graphics quality is a match for most colour lasers, which makes it easily good enough for PowerPoint hand-outs or the like. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, you may consider it good enough for marketing materials like one-page hand-outs or trifold brochures. Photo quality is at the low end of par for a colour laser. Once again, depending on your level of perfectionism, you may consider it good enough for marketing materials, client newsletters, or the like. It's certainly good enough for anything short of that.
There’s a lot to like about this HP printer, with its reasonably fast speed, conveniences like touchscreen controls, and high quality output, particularly for text. If the paper handling is sufficient for your needs, and particularly if you need excellent text quality, the HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color M251nw is a more than reasonable choice. However, for most micro/home offices, the similarly priced (very slightly cheaper, actually) Samsung CLP-415NW, with its slightly faster speed and better paper handling, will be the better fit.
Manufacturer and Model
HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color M251nw
Direct Printing from Cameras
Manual with guidance
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono)
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Colour)
Color or Monochrome
Technology (for laser category only)
USB, Ethernet, Wireless