An MFP for Most Seasons

AirPrint support puts HP's LaserJet Pro M1536DNF one up on the competition.

Every office needs a workhorse, and HP's LaserJet Pro M1536DNF is a solid multifunction printer that will allow users to take advantage of the latest in printing technology-Apple's AirPrint for iPad and iPhone. The M1536 is ideal for small office and workgroup environments where wired connections to Ethernet and telephone are available.

The printer is rather fast; it's rated at up to 26 ppm under sustained printing, and the time between submitting a job and output of the first page is said by HP to be less than nine seconds. It's economical, too; HP lists the printer at $299.99, and the duplex printing option-a standard feature-allows users to save a significant amount of paper on lengthy print jobs.

The LaserJet Pro M1536DNF includes a 35-page automatic document feeder, and will scan documents up to U.S. legal size; these can be saved as BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG or TIFF images, or as a PDF document. For scanning, it's pretty sharp; with hardware resolution of up to 1200x1200 dpi and optical resolution of up to 1200dpi, it's already capable of fine-grain imaging. With software-based enhancement, resolution can climb to 19,200dpi. OCR software is included in the box as well. As a copier, the M1536DNF will resolve up to 600x600 dpi for black-and-white text, and 1200x1200 dpi for black-and-white graphics or color text and graphics. I did not evaluate the fax capabilities of this device.

The M1536DNF was a breeze to set up and configure. At just under 26 pounds, it's fairly easy to unbox and get into place. Much of the basic configuration, including network functions, is entered at the machine's front panel, and a built-in Web-management server can be used for advanced device configuration. As with HP's other networked printers, the Web Jetadmin utility can be used to provide centralized remote management of multiple printers.

The printer upon which my testing was based required a touchup to its firmware before it would be usable with AirPrint. Although the printer was available for network printing; I found it necessary to use a direct USB connection to the printer in order to install the updated firmware. The bright side to this is that HP made update installers available for both Mac and Windows machines, and, once installed, I found it to be no trouble at all to point an iPad and an iPhone at the printer, in much the same way as if I were emailing a document or image from them. AirPrint exposes a limited, but useful, subset of the printing functions, and is included in the iOS 4.2 update released by Apple in late November.

Although the printer's maximum duty cycle is rated at 8,000 pages per month, HP recommends that monthly usage fall between 500 and 2,000 pages. This makes it a good choice for smaller offices and workgroup scenarios, where average users print a few pages a day.

It's not easy to get excited about a printer, but the LaserJet Pro M1536DNF looks interesting, if only because of its support for AirPrint. Although cloud-based printing services such as HP's own iPrint are useful avenues for outputting documents from a mobile device, the combination of the LaserJet Pro and AirPrint manages to be both simple and effective.