HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw review: Fast print jobs for home or small businesses

Hardware Reviews / Reviews / Tech
HP-Printer-FI

With the MFP M281fdw, you’re getting added security behind each remote print, fast printing, an affordable price, and an app that’ll let you print directly to this printer.

TA-ratings-96Every now and then, people need a new printer for the house or a company needs to purchase multiple printers for the entire office. That’s where HP’s Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw comes in. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but it does make up for the ridiculously long name with print times as fast as 10.3 seconds for black prints while color prints are as fast as 11.7 seconds. The size itself isn’t so big where it’s going to take up that much room on a desk or counter and that’s what people may be looking for in a printer. It even works with mobile devices via an app, so if you’re not at home, you can print from your phone or tablet and get your prints at a later time. Read on for our full review!

Specifications

  • Functions: Print, Copy, Scan, Fax
  • Display: 2.7-inch color touchscreen
  • First page out (ready) black: As fast as 10.3 sec
  • First page out (ready) color: As fast as 11.9 sec
  • Print Technology: Laser
  • Resolution (black): Up to 600 x 600 dpi
  • Resolution (color): Up to 600 x 600 dpi
  • Number of print cartridges: 4 (1 each black, cyan, magenta, yellow)
  • Monthly Due Cycle: Up to 40,000 pages
  • Recommended monthly page volume: 150 to 2500
  • Minimum system requirements
    • Apple® OS X Sierra(v10.12), El Capitan (v10.11), Yosemite (v10.10): 1.5 GB HD, Internet required, USB
    • Windows® 10, 8.1, 8, 7: 32-bit or 64-bit, 2 GB available hard disk space, CD-ROM/DVD drive or Internet connection, USB port, Internet Explorer.
    • Windows Vista®: (32-bit only), 2 GB available hard disk space, CD-ROM/DVD drive or Internet connection, USB port, Internet Explorer 8.
    • Windows® XP SP3 or higher (32-bit only): any Intel® Pentium® II, Celeron® or 233 MHz compatible processor, 850 MB available hard disk space, CD-ROM/DVD drive or Internet connection, USB port, Internet Explorer 8.
    • Windows Server support is provided via the command line installer and supports Win Server 2008 R2 and higher.
  • Dimensions: 16.5 x 16.6 x 13.2 in
  • Weight: 41.2lbs

What’s in the box

  • HP Color LaserJet Pro M281
  • Introductory HP LaserJet Color cartridges (~700 color composite (C/Y/M) page yield and ~1400 page yield black)
  • Power cord
  • USB cable
  • Printer documentation and software on CD-ROM
  • Installation guide

Design

This definitely isn’t an HP Envy printer with a smaller form factor, rather this HP LaserJet printer is more on the medium-range form factor in my book. It stands at 16.5″ in height and 16.6″ in width, making it much shorter and skinnier than industrial printers you may find in offices these days. That’s not to say it doesn’t have all the perks of a bigger printer such as a fax machine and scanner. The sheet feeder sits at the top so you can fax any documents to anyone who still uses faxes in this day and age or scan them to your computer. You can also access the scanner by lifting the indented lid up. Like all scanners, it consists of a glass plate that you put the paper on and close it back up and then scan what needs to be scanned. To the left of the scanner is the touchscreen control panel. This lets you choose to scan, fax, email, find and modify settings, and so on. The screen size is 2.7 inches and responds pretty well. Underneath the touchscreen is an easy access USB port so you can scan documents to the USB drive and export them over to a PC at any time. To the right of the touch panel and USB port is where the paper feeds to the output bin. The output bin can hold up to 100 sheets of paper.

HP-Printer-Front

The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw printer.

Moving down from there is the front plate where the ink toner cartridges are inserted. On the bottom left and right sides of the plate is an opening that will allow you to open the front, slide out the ink toner cartridges, and switch them out whenever ink is running low. The power button is also located on the front plate at the top right. In the middle of the front plate and the second tray is a bed you can pull out for feeding a single sheet of paper for printing. The second tray, where the bulk of your paper is placed, is underneath the first plate and to open is going to the same way to reach the toner. The left and right-hand sides have an opening that will allow you to pull forward the paper tray.

Looking at the sides of the printer, you won’t see anything as they’re both blank but the back is home to the power port on the left while the right side is home to the Ethernet port and fax port. In the top center is a lever you can pull up that will bring down another single paper feeder.

HP-Printer-Scanner

The scanning bed.

Setup

Setting up a printer in Windows 10 isn’t that difficult but every printer is different in that sense. With the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw, all you need to do is plug it in and let it load up. Once the printer is loaded up and ready to go, head to the settings on your PC and choose “Devices”. Click on the “Printers & Scanners” tab, then the + (plus) button. It’ll then start searching for printers. Once the HP printer name shows up, tap on it and add the device. Once added, you’ll be able to start printing, scanning, or faxing. Of course, each operating system will have slightly different ways of setting it up but on Windows 10 is was super easy.

Ease of Use

We all know how to use a printer to print things off but with one that has different uses, it can get confusing at first. For printing a picture or document you’ve found or need for work, hold down Ctrl + P for windows and command + P for Mac to pull up the printing page. Choose the HP Color LaserJet MFP M281fdw printer and click on print. The printer will start to do its thing and give you the printed page(s) you as asked for.

Scanning is just as easy too. Place the paper on the scanning bed (or in the sheet feeder), close the top and choose “scan” from the touch panel. It’ll ask where you want to scan it to such as a USB drive, email, make copies, or network folders. After you choose your option, the scanner will start.

Faxing is equally as easy and printing and scanning. Place all documents in the fax feeder at top of the printer, choose “fax” from the touch panel, enter the phone number, and the documents will start to feed through the printer and send off once finished. You will get a confirmation page if you’ve set it up to receive one.

Software

While you can do things manually from the printer, things are much easier if you install the HP desktop software for Windows. This will allow you to adjust print settings, scan, and fax right from your computer.

If you’re on the road with your mobile device or laptop, but need to print something off and have it go to the HP Color LaserJet printer, you’ll want to download the HP Smart application. It’ll allow you to print off documents or photos from anywhere. You’ll also be able to monitor the printer from anywhere and purchase more toner if you’re starting to run low direction from the application. Also included with the app is the ability to take photos from the camera of the mobile device and save as PDF or JPG, then share to your printer, email, or securely to the cloud to print off at a later time.

Performance

In this day and age, faster is better so you may definitely want the fastest printer out there letting you print x amount of pages per minute or per second. Well, HP has heard you. HP claims that one page can be printed out in a mere 10.3 seconds if you’re using the only black ink. If you’re looking to print things in color, it’ll take 11.9 seconds. Keep in mind that’s all on one side of the paper. If you plan on doing double sided, it’ll take a few more seconds. HP also says that it can print out 22 pages per minute of letter size with one print job of color and that’s not bad if you’re looking to print off a bunch of pictures. If you’re looking to print off A4 size, you’ll end up getting 21 pages per minute using colored ink.

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A color printing of BB-8 had fairly good color accuracy.

When actually testing the performance of each print, black and colored ink, it didn’t seem like it to 10.6/11.9 seconds. It seemed to print out much faster even with some pages full of words or a full picture set to the page. If you’re going to be printing pages regardless of how much time it takes, I think you’ll be pleased with how fast it prints out, especially if you’re in a rush.

Photo Quality

At one point or another, you’re gonna want to print off a picture that you’ve taken or one you’ve found online and put it up somewhere in the house or the office and you’re wondering how the printing quality is on photos. In all honesty, photo quality is alright with the printer’s maximum 600 x 600 dpi. It was hit or miss on a few photos I’ve printed out. One of BB8 printed out in color just like it was on the monitor, but when I printed off a picture of my daughter, the colors came out dark though the picture was much brighter on my phone and PC. Two other pictures printed out just fine when comparing them to the PC, but both can’t really be compared in exact color detail.

However, I did print each picture on specific card stock such as normal printing paper (20lb), 24lb paper, 28lb, and 32lb paper. Each one printed out just fine when it came to documents or anything with text in it, but pictures worked much better with the 28/32lb paper since that is meant more for printing pictures or brochures — and then there’s always photo glossy paper for even better prints.

Price/Value

The cost of mid-sized printers such as this HP Color LaserJet could cost a company or one person about $500USD, but HP is offering this printer for $429.99USD. For that price, it’s definitely a great deal. With all it can do plus having an application that will allow you to print from anywhere, you really can’t pass this up. Other companies have the same features, but HP will also keep everything secure while uploading to the cloud when out and about, giving you a sense of peace with an inexpensive price tag.

At the same time, for one person or a family using this at the house, $429.99 could be a bit overkill and you may find a printer that better fits your needs. There are two sides to the price, but in my opinion, it’s well worth the cost.

Something else to keep in mind is the cost of replacement toners. For the standard yield size, which outputs 1,400 pages black or 1,300 pages color, will cost you $64.99 for black and $76.99 for each of the color cartridges. High yield cartridges give you more bang for your buck at $96.99 and $102.99 respectively, giving you an output of 3,200 black pages or 2,500 color.

Wrap Up

Now that you’ve read everything, it’s time to for the final thoughts of HP’s LaserJet Pro printer. As a printer, it’ll do the same thing as just about any other printer out there when it comes to printing, scanning, or fax documents but with HP, you’re getting added security behind each remote print, fast printing, an affordable price, and an app that’ll let you print directly to this printer. It’s hard to look past this if you’re looking to replace your current printer.

HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw

$429.99
HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw
9.6

Design

10.0 /10

Setup

10.0 /10

Ease of Use

10.0 /10

Software

10.0 /10

Performance

9.5 /10

Photo Quality

9.0 /10

Price

9.0 /10

Nailed it

  • Compact design
  • Price is reasonable
  • Prints quickly
  • Works with mobile

Needs work

  • Photo quality can be a hit or miss
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