The HP Officejet Pro 251dw Printer is a definitive step up in HP's Officejet Pro family from the Officejet Pro 8100 ePrinter. It offers essentially identical paper handling and speed with noticeably better looking text and graphics plus support for PCL and Postscript. If you use an application that requires one of these print languages, having them is a critical addition. But even if you don't need them, the higher quality output makes the 251dw a better fit than the 8100 if you care more about output quality than initial cost.
As with the 8100, the 251dw's balance of paper handling, speed, and network support makes it an obvious fit for a micro office or small workgroup with medium to heavy duty print needs. It can also serve as a personal printer for particularly heavy duty use. However, given the size, at 494 x 460 x 238mm (WxDxH), you may not want to share a desk with it.
The 251dw comes with a 250-sheet tray and duplexing as standard, which should be enough for most micro or small offices. If you need more capacity, however, you can add a second 250-sheet tray for a total 500-sheet capacity. Connection options include both Ethernet and Wi-Fi for easy sharing.
The 251dw also offers much the same mobile printing capabilities as the 8100, with support for printing through the cloud and for Apple AirPrint, and the HP ePrint App for printing from iThings and other devices. Keep in mind that you can't print through the cloud without connecting the printer to a network that's connected to the Internet.
However, the 251dw takes a step beyond the 8100 by adding support for Wireless Direct, HP's equivalent to Wi-Fi Direct. Even if you don't have a Wi-Fi access point on your network, Wireless Direct will let you print from mobile devices, using a direct connection to the printer.
Setup and speed
For my tests I connected the 251dw to a wired network and installed the drivers on a Windows Vista system. Setup was absolutely typical. The fast speed of the printer, however, was a pleasant surprise.
On our business applications suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing) I clocked the 251dw at 6.0 pages per minute (ppm), making it effectively tied with the 8100, which hit 5.9 ppm. This is impressive and well into laser territory for speed. The laser-class Dell 1350cnw, for example, managed only 4.9 ppm. It's also fast for photos, averaging 49 seconds for a 4 x 6.
What makes the speed for business applications even more impressive is that the 251dw also did well on output quality for text and graphics. Photos on photo paper weren't in the same class, but were easily good enough for office needs.
Text output doesn't offer quite the crisp edges for characters that you would expect from a laser, and I wouldn't use it for a resume or for serious desktop publishing. However, it's easily good enough for almost any business use. It's also surprisingly water resistant. In my tests, it didn't smudge at all when I rubbed it with a wet tissue.
Graphics quality, similarly, is good enough for any internal business need, up to and including PowerPoint hand-outs. Even in the default quality mode, most of the pages in our test suite were impressively high quality. Most people would consider them good enough for output going to an important client who they wanted to impress with a sense of their professionalism.
Photos on photo paper weren't in the same class as the text or graphics. They qualified as true photo quality, but at the low end of the typical range for an inkjet. Fortunately, this isn't much of an issue for a printer meant for office use.
One last point that demands a mention is the 251dw's running cost, at a claimed 1.6 cents (1 pence) per mono page and 7.2 cents (4.6 pence) for a colour page, the same as for the Officejet Pro 8100. More importantly, however, is that this is significantly lower than the running cost for most inexpensive colour laser printers, making the 251dw a lot less expensive to run than a low cost colour laser printer.
If your main concerns are speed and paper handling, you can save some money by choosing the HP Officejet Pro 8100 ePrinter. However, the HP Officejet Pro 251dw delivers essentially the same speed and paper handling, and adds better than par output quality plus PCL and Postscript. If you need any of those extras, it's well worth the extra cost.
Manufacturer and Model
HP Officejet Pro 251dw
Direct Printing from Cameras
Color or Monochrome
USB, Ethernet, Wireless