Essentially a printer-only version of the Editors’ Choice HP Officejet Pro X576dw Multifunction Printer, the HP Officejet Pro X551dw Printer delivers all the same strengths for printing. Like its MFP cousin, it’s actually an inkjet, but it looks and performs like a laser, and it can easily fill the slot a color laser would otherwise take for light to moderate-duty printing in a small to medium-size office. It is, in short, a laser-class printer that competes head-to-head with lasers. It also comes out ahead in most ways, and that’s enough to make it Editors’ Choice.
The X551dw is built around HP PageWide Technology, which uses a printhead that goes from edge to edge across the page (although there’s a 0.17-inch non-printable margin on each side, similar to what you’ll get with a laser). This lets the printer print the entire width of the page at once, and print from top to bottom in one sweep, instead of shuttling the printhead back and forth to print each line.
The same basic idea shows up in laser-class solid-ink printers like the Xerox ColorQube 8870DN as well with Memjet printers (which aren’t available in U.S. at this writing). In all three variations, the edge-to-edge printhead allows much faster speeds than traditional inkjets can manage.
For the X551dw, “much faster speed” translates to a 42 page-per-minute (ppm) rating, which actually turned out to be a touch slower than I measured for printing a text document with the printer’s default setting. In its faster—and only slightly lower quality—setting the printer hit 66 ppm, definitively blowing away the rule that inkjets are slower than lasers.
Along with fast speed, the X551dw offers an appropriate level of paper handling, with a 500-sheet drawer, a 50-sheet multipurpose tray, and a duplexer (for two-sided printing) standard, plus an optional 500-sheet drawer ($199 direct) if you need more capacity. As with a laser, the paper comes out face down in the output tray, so documents don’t have to print in reverse order for page one to be at the front of the stack.
HP has added some noteworthy conveniences to the X551dw, including the ability to print from a USB memory key. A 4.3-inch color touch-screen control panel lets you preview images on screen before printing and also makes it easy to change settings and give commands.
If you connect the printer to a network that’s connected to the Internet, the X551dw also lets you print with HP’s online print apps using the touch-screen menus. It can also print through the cloud, and if you have a Wi-Fi access point on the network, you can print using Apple AirPrint or HP’s own mobile print app. And because the printer also supports Wireless Direct—HP’s version of Wi-Fi direct—you can connect to it directly from a smartphone, laptop, or tablet to print even if it’s not on a network.
Setup and Speed
As you might expect just from the paper handling capability, the X551dw is relatively big, at 15.0 by 20.3 by 15.7 inches (HWD) and 39 pounds. Physical setup is easy, however, consisting of removing a lot of packing tape, and then sliding the four ink cartridges into place, without having to do anything to prepare the cartridges. Network setup is standard. For my tests I connected the printer to a wired network and installed the drivers on a Windows Vista system.
On our business application suite (timed with QualityLogic’s hardware and software) the X551dw came in at an effective 9.2 pages per minute (ppm), essentially tied with the X576dw. More surprising—and more impressive—is that it’s tied with or faster than almost every other color printer we’ve tested. One of the few exceptions is the Editors’ Choice Epson B-510DN. However the B-510DN, which is also an inkjet, didn’t do very well on output quality, so it’s not fully comparable to the X551dw. Also note that that the X551dw scored well for photo speed, averaging just 26 seconds for a 4 by 6 on photo paper.
Output Quality and Other Issues
Output quality is another plus for the X551dw. Colors on plain paper weren’t fully saturated, so colors were a little dulled down and black text and black fills were a touch grayish, but the output was impressively good otherwise.
Text and graphics quality were dead on par in my tests for color laser or laser-class printers, making both easily good enough for any business use, including for output going to important clients or customers who you want to impress with a sense of your professionalism. Also important is that the output does a good job resisting smearing if it gets wet, at least with the ColorLok plain paper we use for testing. Depending on how critical an eye you have, you may well consider the output good enough for do-it-yourself marketing materials like trifold brochures.
As with the X576dw, photo quality on photo paper is the one area where the X551dw has more in common with standard inkjets than with lasers, with much better output quality than lasers. I saw some banding on a black and white photo, but all the color photos in my tests qualified as true photo quality, although no better than the low end of what I expect from drugstore prints.
One last strong point the X551dw shares with the X576dw is a low claimed cost per page, at 1.3 cents for a mono page and 6.8 cents for a color page. No other printer in this price range comes close to matching it, especially for color pages. The HP LaserJet Pro 400 color Printer M451dw, for example, is more typical, with a per page claim of 2.3 cents for mono and 15.5 cents for color.
Given its balance of speed, output quality, paper handling, low cost per page, and additional features like mobile printing, it’s hard to find a good reason not to pick the HP Officejet Pro X551dw Printer over any of its direct competition. The closest it comes to having a weakness is its print quality. If you need top-tier print quality suitable for high-end desktop publishing applications, you’ll need to look elsewhere. For most offices, however, the HP Officejet Pro X551dw Printer hits all the right marks, making it a convincing pick as Editors’ Choice.
More Printer Reviews:
|Direct Printing from Cameras||No|
|Maximum Standard Paper Size||Legal|
|Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono)||42 ppm|
|Rated Speed at Default Settings (Color)||42 ppm|
|Color or Monochrome||1-pass color|
|Technology (for laser category only)||Page-wide Array|
|Connection Type||USB, Ethernet, Wireless|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc