Back when monochrome laser prices were well into four figures, a lot of people called the ink jet—then a fledgling technology—the poor mans laser. I havent heard that description in a long time—not since ink jets shoved dot matrix printers into a nearly forgotten niche. But with ink jets like the HP Officejet Pro K5400dtn Color Printer ($249.99 direct), it may be time to take the phrase out of retirement.
The K5400dtn is part of the K5400 series, which is built around the base model K5400 ($149.99). The other models are the K5400tn ($199.99) and the K5400dtn that I tested. The "tn" model adds a network connector and a 350-sheet input tray to the 250-sheet tray in the base model; the "dtn" model also adds duplexing to print on both sides of the page. Since all the models are basically the same printer with different options added, all of our quality and performance results apply to all three models.
My overwhelming conclusion from our tests is that the series can stand toe to toe with color lasers in the sub-$500 range. The K5400dtns speed is well into laser territory. Its output quality is comparable with that of lasers. The paper capacity for the two models is higher than for most sub-$500 lasers. At 1.5 cents for a black-and-white page and 6.0 cents for a color page, the claimed cost per page is extraordinarily low for an ink jet or inexpensive laser. All of this makes the K5400 series the . . . ahem . . . poor mans color laser, and a good choice for a small office or busy home office.
Setup is straightforward, but a little more involved than with most ink jets. The K5400dtn comes with the second tray, a duplexer unit, four ink cartridges (with cyan, yellow, magenta, and black inks) and two print heads. Each print head handles two ink colors and is designed to last for the life of the printer. The size and weight, including the duplexer and tray, are 11.7 by 19.5 by 19.1 inches (HWD) and 26.5 pounds.
To set up the K5400dtn you first remove the packing materials, snap the duplexer into the back of the printer, set the 350-sheet second tray in place, and stack the printer on top of the tray. You then open a door in the front of the printer to install the ink cartridges, and open the top to install the print heads. Then you plug in a network cable and power cord, load paper, let the printer run through its alignment routine, and, finally, run the automated installation program.