The CM1312nfi is one of two configurations of HP’s CM1312 Printer series, with some improvements to justify the $300 price jump over the base model. In terms of hardware, the 'nfi' configuration involves a significant upgrade, with a bump in internal memory from 128MB to 160MB, an Ethernet port, fax capability, an automatic document feeder, a colour display and a memory card reader supporting MemoryStick, xD, SD, MMC and CompactFlash. It falls slightly short in not providing an automatic duplex unit but the CM1312nfi is certainly better value than its base model counterpart.
The memory card reader is an odd addition for a strictly business laser printer; we would have preferred a secondary USB port for direct printing. Nevertheless, for those who like mixing business with pleasure, the memory card reader facilitates photo printing — made possible by the printer’s handling of paper up to 176gsm in thickness, rather than the standard 120gsm for laser printers. The colour LCD also facilitates choosing photos and the printing method.
The design isn’t revolutionary, but there are some aspects worth mentioning. The CM1312nfi features a single paper tray that has an input capacity of 150 sheets, and an extra front door offers easy access in case of paper jams. Although this is a good idea in theory, it still requires removing the paper tray in order to reach the jam; it made us wonder why HP didn’t use the precious real estate to add a higher-capacity paper tray instead. The other striking feature is the implementation of the printer's colour toners, which are placed horizontally in a single pull-out tray that is easily accessible via a front panel. In doing this, the CM1312nfi retains the ability to use full-sized toners while cutting down on overall size.
Although the CM1312nfi’s toner tray design has obvious benefits in regards to space, it has implications when it comes to print speed. Forcing paper to travel along a horizontal axis twice rather than vertically once means print speed is much slower. This results in speeds of just 12.2 pages per minute for mono printing — with the first page out in 30 seconds — and an even slower 8.3ppm with first page out in 40.3 seconds for colour printing. Since the black toner is situated at the front of the tray rather than the back, the printer’s shortcomings impact on both mono and colour printing.
Unfortunately, any hopes of boosting speed by using a lower quality level were dashed: the CM1312nfi only offers the ImageRET 3600 resolution. Though we’ve seen the benefits of this technology with the likes of the Colour LaserJet CP3505dn, this printer doesn’t possess the same digital image enhancement technologies. Instead, users only have a photo fix and red eye removal option, once again highlighting the printer’s unusual focus on home photo printing rather than business.
Thankfully, print quality does provide some consolation. The inclusion of ImageRET 3600 — HP’s proprietary enhancement for 1200x600 dots per inch hardware resolution — is certainly worthwhile, providing half-toned detail for mono printing and more vibrancy for colour printing. Text documents are accurate and readable, while graphical documents are in some ways better than those from the Colour LaserJet CP3505dn, proving to be slightly less saturated and much better for use with text that has a background colour. Despite this printer’s heavy emphasis on photo-based technologies, photo printing is extremely sub-par, with horribly inaccurate reds when printed on photo paper. Though we didn’t expect the CM1312nfi to necessarily perform well, the unusual combination of generally business-focused functionality with photo-printing features don’t quite work.
Scanning quality isn’t superb, with results proving far lighter than their source image. Text remains clear and readable, though photo scanning results are sub-standard and suffer issues with contrast.
Though the initial outlay is reasonable for a colour laser multifunction, this is somewhat marred by ongoing running costs which work at an average of 26.3c per page; an extremely high cost that is combined with comparatively low-yield toners. The CM1312nfi provides enough functionality to get the job done, but you may want to dish out a little bit more for a unit that doesn’t cost so much to use in the long run.