HP Colour LaserJet 1500L

  • Editors' rating
    7.2 Very good


  • Inexpensive colour;
  • compatible with Windows and the Mac OS;
  • good print quality and print speeds;
  • easy to set up and use.


  • Low paper capacity;
  • few expansion options;
  • USB-only, but no USB cable included.

The HP Colour LaserJet 1500L is the entry-level model in Hewlett-Packard's line of home and small-office colour laser printers. It has the same basic specs and solid performance quality as the LaserJet 2500 series, minus a large paper capacity and a few expansion options. Priced at £671 ex. VAT, it's one of the lowest cost colour lasers on the market. If you're a small-office or home user who needs to do inexpensive and low-volume colour printing, the 1500L is a great choice. However, if you have any plans to expand your office (or your family), the LaserJet 2500 is more expandable for around the same cost, but without the high-speed USB interface.

The HP Colour LaserJet 1500L has the compact, pot-bellied shape common among HP colour lasers. Its soft, blue-grey-on-grey contours are more homey than the drab, putty-coloured plastics of office printers. Overall, it has a sensible, sturdy look and feel. Unlike some colour lasers, which have all four toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) arrayed along the inside bottom of the printer, the LaserJet 1500L's engine uses a carousel that rotates to lay down each colour separately. On the control panel, four lights--one for each toner colour--indicate when toner levels run low. To change a cartridge, open the front panel, press a button on the side control panel to rotate the carousel, then lift out the expired cartridge. Setup is simple. The printer has a high-speed USB 2.0 interface, but unfortunately, the cable is sold separately. In our tests, both Windows XP and Windows 2000 easily recognized the new hardware and prompted us to install the drivers from the included CD. The 1500L also is compatible with Windows 98 and Me and Mac OS 9 and X. Installation takes a few minutes and asks you some basic questions, such as whether you want to share the printer on a network. The LaserJet 1500L is also Mac compatible.

As the entry-level model in HP's home/small office colour laser line, the Colour LaserJet 1500L is a bit short on features. The provided input tray, located along the base, holds only 125 sheets--fewer than many home inkjets hold. You can add extra paper trays, holding 250 sheets (£222 ex. VAT) and 500 sheets (£296 ex. VAT). However, you can't just add the 500-sheet tray - you have to add the smaller tray first. You can't upgrade the printer's standard 16MB of RAM, and neither the PCL nor the PostScript printer languages are supported--just computer-based printing. The Colour LaserJet 1500L can be networked via an external HP JetDirect Ethernet (£160 ex. VAT) or 802.11b (£302 ex. VAT) print server. The Colour LaserJet 1500L doesn't come with any productivity software per se, but if you choose the full installation from the included CD, you get HP's useful printing toolbox, which shows up as a separate icon on your desktop. Clicking it launches a Web browser interface that provides a detailed printer status display. You also get copious documentation. The toolbox links directly to HP's online tech support and can be configured to request supplies when, for example, it senses low toner levels. It may seem as if only IT managers can enjoy these features, but HP's clear, simple interfaces make it easy enough for most everyone.

In ZDNet Labs' tests, the HP Colour LaserJet 1500L averaged 11.17 pages per minute (ppm) on black text, making it one of the fastest of the colour lasers we've tested--nearly the same speed as some sub-£500 personal monochrome lasers and fairly close to the 16ppm top speed that HP advertises. Colour printing is slower, in part because the printer must make one pass per colour. With the LaserJet 1500L, we also noticed a 30-second delay before the first printed page appeared. Most of this time seemed to be spent "thinking" about what to print. The actual printing took seconds; our tests showed an average colour graphics print speed of 3.4ppm, which is very close to HP's advertised 4ppm. Given that some of the speediest inkjets we've seen are equally fast, the LaserJet 1500L's advantage is in its cost per colour page. Where inkjets will typically cost 25 to 50 cents per page of mixed text and graphics, the 1500L's colour toner cartridges (though expensive at £67.62 ex. VAT for black and 81.46 ex. VAT for each colour) yield 5,000 and 4,000 pages, respectively, which works out to 3 pence per black-text page and 10 pence per colour page. The LaserJet 1500L's print quality was generally good. Black text was as sharp and clear as a monochrome laser's. Greyscale graphics showed good detail, but photo elements appeared overexposed, and the printer was unable to reproduce the lightest greys in our test document. Colour graphics were about as good as those we've seen on other recent colour lasers. The LaserJet 1500L struggled as much with colour shading as it did with greyscale, however, and photos showed visible dithering, that is, the mixing of colours was obvious.