GCN LAB REVIEW

HP Color LaserJet CM3530

PROS: Fast print times; great graphics.
CONS: Slightly yellow spots appear on all text documents; our quick start guide was not in English.

Features: A
Ease of use: A-
Color accuracy: A+
Text quality: C+

30-page black-and-white text print time: 1:10
30-page color print time: 1:41

VALUE: B-
PRICE: $2,499

Hewlett-Packard’s Color LaserJet CM3530 is an extremely speedy MFP in the midprice range. It’s designed to be fast and tough and has an estimated duty cycle of 75,000 pages per month.

In this report

The GCN Lab tested tests eight multifunction printers suitable for small, midsize and, in at least one case, even large workgroups.

Lead story: Colorful language
HP Color LaserJet CM3530
Oki Data C5550n MFP
HP Color LaserJet CM2320
Brother MFC-9450CDN
Lexmark X872e
Panasonic KX-MC6040
The ink option
Xerox Phaser 6180MFP/N

Graphically, it’s the best printer in our roundup. When you perform color matching, everything you want to be a certain shade of green actually is, with almost no deviation from the source document. The printer handled even some of our trickiest tests, such as printing letters over graphics, with aplomb. We were equally pleased with the quality of scanned images, which the CM3530’s flatbed scanner can do at resolutions as high as 600 dpi.

The text printing time of 1 minute, 10 seconds for our 30-page text document is close to the theoretical maximum achievable using current print technology, and the time of 1 minute, 41 seconds to complete our 30-page graphical file was among the fastest in our review.

Our biggest problem with the CM3530 is that “invisible” dots used to track users’ documents are clearly visible on all text printouts. We found the dots accidentally while using a 2x magnifying glass, which is not as strong as some prescription eyeglass lenses, when examining output for text quality. Every page is covered in yellow dots. Once you’re aware of them, it’s easy to spot them without magnification.

We did a quick Internet search and learned that the dots are part of a government program to track documents — and, presumably, counterfeit money — back to the originators. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was the first to discover the spots, figured out how to read the codes. For an explanation of the program and how to read the secret codes, go to w2.eff.org/Privacy/printers/docucolor.

I will refrain from commenting on the logic or appropriateness of a private company letting the government set up a secret spy program on its printers, but as a reviewer, I have to object when a secret program harms the quality of the printer’s output, which it does in this case. Whether or not you agree with the program, if you don’t want yellow dots on your printouts, don’t buy a CM3530.

Incidentally, we searched for the same dots on printouts from every other MFP in the roundup and couldn’t find them, not even on documents from the second HP unit we reviewed. Either the other printers don’t participate in the program or their secret codes are hidden better.

Hewlett-Packard, 888-999-4747, www.hp.com

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