HP, the father and mother of laser printing, still owns the lion's share of the market. The Color LaserJet 3550 sits in the middle of the company's small workgroup colour laser offerings and is designed to provide day-to-day colour printing for small businesses or workgroups.
This is a pretty massive printer, weighing in at 32.5kg, so it’s generally a two-person lift. It’s also physically big, given that it only takes A4 sheets, and its peculiar, curved bread-bin shape makes it look a bit like an old Gestetner duplicator. Surprisingly, given its size, it only has a 250-sheet paper tray, positioned under the machine, though there is a fold-out multi-purpose tray which can take another 100 sheets. An optional 500-sheet tray can be fitted under the machine.
Set into the rounded top cover of the printer is a six button control panel including a useful Cancel button which can interrupt a printing job, if needed. There's also a two line, 16 character display panel, though it unfortunately has no backlight.
It's daft not to illuminate this display, as the cost of fitting a backlight is so low and without it, even under good overhead lighting, messages are hard to read. And that’s a shame, as the messages are better than many provided on laser printers.
For one thing, the 3550 shows the name of any file being processed or printed, a useful feature if you’re sharing the printer in a workgroup – and most will be. The menu system, should you need to control the printer directly, is easy to use and the function of the tick button will be familiar to any Excel user.
At the back of the 3550 is a single USB 2.0 port - the only way of connecting this printer to the outside world. There’s a networked version of this machine, the Color LaserJet 3550n, available for an extra £70 or so and this is well worth the extra if you intend to share the machine as a standalone resource.
This is a linear colour laser, meaning the four coloured toners are built up on the paper in a single pass, rather than in the four passes that a carousel mechanism takes. When you fold down the front of the machine, you gain access to four slots, each of which takes a toner cartridge, complete with developer drum. They slide in easily and are the only consumables you need to deal with. This integrated approach makes the physical set up and maintenance of the Color LaserJet 3550 extremely simple.