Printed text is crisp and clean, with little sign of splatter or poorly formed characters in its 600dpi output. Colour print is also clean, but there's a slight fuzziness with black text on coloured backgrounds. This is a little surprising, as the printer uses HP's much heralded ColorSphere toner, which should offer ‘better flow onto the page’. Colour rendition is fair, though colours still looked too intense in our photo test piece and there was loss of detail in darker areas.
HP claims the printer is particularly quiet and we wouldn't argue with this, measuring it at a peak of 58dBA and an average below 55dBA. It makes few of the clunks and thumps which many entry-level laser printers, including earlier HP models, produce.
So, to the all important running costs. The Color LaserJet 1600 takes four drum/toner cartridges and HP considers the transfer belt a lifetime component. The cartridges are rated at 2,500 pages for black and 2,000 pages each for cyan, magenta and yellow and cost around £50 each, depending on source. Amazon was the cheapest source we could find.
This gives print costs of 2.49p for a black page and 10.60p for colour. Comparing that with other colour lasers in the same price range, the Color LaserJet comes out higher than either the Canon LaserShot LBP5200 or the Samsung CLP510. In the case of the Samsung, it costs nearly 3p more per colour page. This puts it near the top of the cost bracket for sub-£250 colour lasers. You might expect consumables to drop in price as a printer moves further into its sales life (this is the first UK review of the Color LaserJet 1600), but this printer uses the same consumables as the Color LaserJet 2600, which has already been around for a while.
This is an inexpensive colour laser printer to buy and is easy to maintain and use. It prints quietly and with a minimum of fuss, but colour output is not as natural as with some others and you may need to tweak the software to get the tints you want. It's also quite costly to run, with page costs at the upper end of the bracket for this class of colour printer.