The Windows printer driver offers all the usual features, such as multi-page per sheet prints, watermarks and overprints. Resolution is set automatically, depending on the type of image being printed and there is no manual setting in the driver.
Print speeds, given the price and market of the LaserJet 3550, are reasonable. We completed our five page text printed in just 40 seconds, which extrapolates up to a page rate of around 7.5 pages per minute. The text and graphics and high resolution full-colour photo prints took 24 seconds each, still giving over 2ppm. Even so, given the rated print speed of 16ppm, this is not a fast printer, even for a colour machine.
Print quality is good but not as natural as colour lasers such as the Konica Minolta Magicolor 5440DL, reviewed recently. Colours in our test photo print looked a little over-saturated, a bit like early, hand-retouched seaside prints. Blocks of colour in the business graphics and text page were clean with little dithering apparent, but some of the colour tones were slightly off from their intended use – blues in particular came out over-dark. Black text printed light and precise, as is usually the case with HP printers.
HP quotes the four colour cartridges, with their integral developer drums, as the only consumables, offering replacement fuser and transfer units as ‘maintenance kits’. Since these two each have service lives of 60,000 pages, we think they should be considered consumables, as they’re quite likely to be replaced during the service life of the printer. As such, we’ve included their costs in our running cost calculations.
Running through the figures gives a five per cent black page cost of 1.96p and a 20 per cent colour page cost of 8.47p. These figures sit pretty much in the middle of the range of running costs for colour lasers we've reviewed in the last year. Bear in mind though that, as with all laser printers, if you increase the toner coverage – for example by printing a photograph – the cost of printing the page will rise, too.
The Color LaserJet 3550 is a fair colour laser printer at a good price. It’s not that quick and, by default, its image quality can be bettered, but it’s easy to maintain, well-designed and comes with good software. The networked ‘n’ version is a worthwhile upgrade for workgroup use.