by Steve Becker
The recently released HP 1200 LaserJet printer includes an impressive list of features at a tantalizingly low price. I've just purchased one of these printers and have both good and bad news to report.
THE GOOD NEWS
First, I'll discuss the good news (and there is plenty of it to discuss). With a street price of about $400, Hewlett-Packard's HP 1200 printer provides lots of "bang for the buck." The printer is rated at 1200 x 1200 dpi (dots per inch) output with a claimed speed of 15 ppm (pages per minute). Additionally, the HP 1200 offers two ports (one USB and one Parallel), a 250-page capacity input tray, a 90 MHz processor, a 10,000 page/month duty cycle, HP printer language PostScript 2 emulation, and a 10-sheet priority feed tray that can also be used for heavyweight paper. The USB port is USB 1.1 and 2.0 compliant and can be used with your Mac while you also have a PC connected to the Parallel port.
The HP 1200 is reasonably compact at 16.3" W x 19.2" D x 10" H and is attractively designed. The printer comes with 8 MB of memory which is upgradeable to 72 MB. Additional options available for the HP 1200 include a Copy/Scan attachment and a HP JetDirect print server (there is also a 1220 model that includes the Copy/Scan attachment and a 1200n model that includes a network bundle).
Continuing with the good news, the HP 1200 has consistently printed my text documents at 14-15 ppm even when the printer is set at the default 1200 dpi setting, and the output quality has been excellent. (Even when I set the printer to its 600 dpi setting, the results have been impressive.) By the way, I find the HP 1200 to be reasonably quiet.
When I've printed graphics with the HP 1200, the results have been strikingly good (that is, once I've set the printer to its optional "enhanced" setting for graphics), albeit slower.
THE BAD NEWS
Unfortunately, getting the printer set up to produce these impressive results has been much more difficult than it should have been. This is attributable to both poorly written documentation and software bugs.
Specifically, the documentation includes a set-up instruction sheet that contains poorly drawn diagrams, refers to the wrong CD for installing the Mac version of the printer's software, and omits important details that must be followed to properly configure the software for the printer.
As if the above weren't bad enough, one of the Help files installed by the CD appears to come with a corrupted resource fork, HP's software program that's supposed to provide assistance with configuring the printer didn't run on my system, and HP's software is buggy. Additionally, the PDF Help file that's included with the printer doesn't completely explain the options that are available when configuring the HP 1200.
All in all, HP has created a very poor and sloppy presentation that doesn't do justice to either HP's printer or its customers.
Even though the HP 1200 has an energy conservation mode, it does not have a power switch. HP is not the only company that has chosen this method of saving a few pennies in the manufacturing process, but I believe this doesn't justify the decision. The collective amount of energy that is wasted by equipment that doesn't utilize a power switch is significant.
Fortunately, HP's tech support is better than average, so they should be able to assist you if you have trouble setting up and configuring the printer. Here are my suggested workarounds that are based on my own experiences with the HP 1200:
1. CD #1 contains the software you'll need for using the printer with your Mac (CD #2 that's referred to in the instructions doesn't exist).
2. If you try doing the installation with most of your extensions disabled and the installation stops with a message that the installer can't find your System Folder, try enabling your extensions (except for any anti-virus extensions you may have), restarting your Mac, and then running the installer again.
3. If your computer keeps giving you -8993, type 8, and other error messages, the problem may lie with two of the HP USB extensions that were installed by the HP installer. Try disabling the HP LaserJet 1200 USB and HP LaserJet 1220 USB extensions; then restart your computer.
Next, use Apple's Desktop Printer Utility to create a new Desktop Printer for your HP 1200. While using this utility, be sure to select Printer USB and not HP Printer (USB) in the configuration window. If you need more detailed help with using the Desktop Printer Utility, HP's tech support can give you step-by-step guidance when you are setting it up (the instructions included with the printer are not complete).
If you are willing to risk putting up with some initial hassles while setting up your printer and using the extensions that are installed by HP, the ultimate results are worth the effort. The price/performance ratio of this printer is outstanding, and with a street price of around $400, it's a bargain!
Now that I've been using the HP 1200 for well over a year, I thought you might find a follow-up report to be of interest. During this period of time, I've put the printer to moderate (and occasionally heavy) use.
Other than for an occasional glitch that would require either resetting the printer via its "Go" button or turning the printer off for a couple of minutes, the HP 1200 has worked flawlessly. The paper feed mechanism also has proved to be very reliable; there have been only a couple of paper jams, and they were easily fixed (in part due to the printer providing good access to the paper path).
Since I purchased the printer, HP has released several updates to the drivers for the HP 1200. However, because of my previous problems with installing HP's drivers, and because the workaround I described in my review of the HP 1200 has worked so well, I've decided to leave well enough alone and not update the drivers on my system.
USING THE HP 1200 WITH OS X
I've used the HP 1200 with OS X 10.1, 10.1.2, 10.2.1, and 10.2.3. In all cases, the HP 1200 was recognized by OS X and it was not necessary to install any updated drivers. The only problem I've experienced, and it's a minor one, is that when booting in OS 9 after having used the printer in OS X, there is a time-out error the first time I attempt to print.
The error dialog box includes an option for trying again to print the data, and this option has always worked. A workaround is to simply double-click on your Desktop Printer and stop and then re-enable the print queue. This avoids having to wait for the time-out error. (It's possible one of the driver updates has fixed this problem.)
I hope you will pardon the self promotion, but using PrintMagic (Mac Classic version, Mac OS X version, Windows version) with the HP 1200 has resulted in my about doubling the life of the HP toner cartridge without affecting the quality of the printer's output.
After having used the HP 1200 for well over a year, I've been very satisfied with both the quality of the printer's output and the printer's reliability. While there are now several companies manufacturing inexpensive Laser printers, this remains an excellent printer for the price!
© 2001-2003 by Steve Becker. All rights reserved.