HP’s latest four-in-one laser printer is not only the smallest, but also one of the most affordable in its category, which is great news for anyone working from home or a small office who needs all the functionality of a business-oriented device. The 18ppm print speed is fairly fast and the 150-page paper capacity makes it suitable to serve a small workgroup. It comes with security features to suit a shared office environment and compatibility with Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print for easy wireless operation via a smartphone.
The HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw is the flagship model in HP’s MPF 170 series and costs around £229 (about US$290, AU$414), but if you don’t need the 40-sheet ADF (automatic document feeder) or a fax then the more affordable HP Color Laser MFP 178nw at around £209 (about US$264, AU$378) is the model to go for.
Design and build
HP’s designers are experts at shrinking printer technology as we discovered with the remarkable toaster-sized HP LaserJet Pro M15w (opens in new tab). While that model was easily the smallest mono laser printer, the new HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw claims to be the smallest colour laser printer in its class. In the flesh, it doesn’t look any smaller than your average laser MFD although its footprint is more compact because the depth measurement is slightly shallower than expected. However, to fit A4 paper inside, the first thing you have to do is extend the paper tray forwards, which kind of defeats the object. Suffice it to say, the HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw is quite compact for its type.
It looks rather smart when all of the extending flaps are folded away and the scanner levers open smoothly. The top-mounted ADF holds 40 sheets of A4 paper and the main paper tray holds 150 sheets, which is a good amount for a small printer. Unusually, the limiting factor here is the narrow output tray which can only hold 50 sheets before it starts spilling paper onto the floor. The toner cartridges are pre-loaded in the main body of the printer and account for most of its bulk.
The control panel is fixed, not tilting and the display is a very basic two-line LCD with cursors to scroll through the options. It’s a far cry from the touchscreen interface found on the HP Officejet Pro 9025 (opens in new tab). Wi-Fi is built in while the rear panel offers Ethernet and USB connections. Sadly, there’s no front USB port for printing from a flash drive, or scanning to one. There’s no automatic paper sensor and no indicator to show you how much paper is loaded in the main paper tray either. We were pleasantly surprised to find that a Type B USB cable is included in the box for when your Wi-Fi network lets you down.
Features and specifications
Type: 4-in-1 colour laser printer
Functions: Print, scan, copy, fax
Connectivity: Ethernet, Wi-Fi, USB
Data storage slot: none
Print speed: 18 ppm (mono)
Main paper tray capacity: 150 sheets
Max paper size: A4
Print quality: 600 x 600 dpi
Scan quality: 600 x 600 dpi (optical)
Apple AirPrint: yes
Google Cloud Print: yes
App support: Yes, HP Smart Print
Consumables included: toner for 1000 pages mono or 700 pages colour
Dimensions/Weight: 406 x 363 x 344 mm (HxWxD)/14kg
Being a four-in-one device means that you can print, scan, copy and fax documents in black and white, or color. There’s a 40-sheet ADF on top of the machine for lining up these jobs and an A4 size scanner bed below that. In terms of specifications, the HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw is modest and quite lacking in some respects. The claimed print speed of 19ppm for mono pages is fast enough, but 4ppm for color is rather slow. The paper capacity is adequate at 150 sheets while the narrow 50-sheet output tray is somewhat limiting. The print resolution and scan resolution are acceptable at 600 dpi each, but this is lower than most MFDs.
Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct are built in and the HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw is compatible with AirPrint and Google Cloud Print for easy smartphone control. The companion app called AP Smart Print is very helpful for printing and scanning via the cloud.
There is only one paper tray, which is a little annoying when you come to switch between headed notepaper, or different paper sizes. This tray can handle most types of media up to A4, but it can’t cope with card or envelopes of any size.
There are quite a few features missing too, most notably an auto duplex mode. If you are concerned about wasting paper, we wouldn’t recommend any printer that can’t print on both sides of the page. The specification sheet claims there is a manual duplex mode although this obviously takes time and we were unable to make it work during the test. Instead of a touchscreen interface, there’s only a basic LCD and there’s no automatic paper sensor, no NFC connectivity and no front USB port either.
Setup and operation
Without a touchscreen, setting up the HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw is a case of scrolling through the various options presented on the LCD and using the cursor buttons to type in your Wi-Fi password via the numerical keypad. It’s a little fiddly and took several attempts. Most modern printers enlist your smartphone and a companion app to help you get your new device onto your home network, but the HP Smart app is surprisingly unhelpful in this respect. The app asks for a password when making a Wi-Fi Direct connection and the default password did not work in this case. This may simply be because our test sample was a previously used unit. The bundled user manual is surprisingly brief and is no help at all in explaining why our printer would not make a wireless connection. It’s lucky that HP is one of the few manufacturers to include a good old USB cable in the box for just such occasions.
In operation, the HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw has a few annoying foibles. It is quite slow to start up and print the first page, while its LEDs blink too brightly both in standby and in use. The plastic paper guides that hold different paper sizes are difficult to slide and the printer doesn’t always successfully detect when paper is loaded in the tray. The user interface is basic and not particularly intuitive.
The HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw churns out pages of plain text with pleasing crispness and continuity. Characters appear well contained and well defined even at the smallest point sizes. It’s not the fastest laser printer out there, but the quoted 19ppm speed is realistic and will be quick enough for most offices.
When you switch to color documents, things slow right down to 4ppm, but the pages look bright and sharp. However, there is some softness at the edges of each color block, while color transitions suffer from serious banding. It doesn’t help that the print resolution, even at optimum quality is not very high. The 600 x 600 dpi pixel limit is most noticeable when printing photographs. Laser printers rarely make a decent fist with photos, but here the grain and blocky coloring really spoil the image.
It’s important to use dedicated laser paper with this printer because more porous inkjet paper makes text look quite rough around the edges. We also tried printing on card which caused an immediate paper jam suggesting that this model is intolerant to very heavy paper stock. However, even when using plain A4 paper we experienced a paper jam during the test, which raises questions of reliability.
Scanning is performed quickly and reliably although again, the image quality is limited by the 600 dpi resolution of the scanner. Photocopies are also pretty prompt, but the duplicates are noticeably more feint than the original.
At first glance the HP Color Laser MFP 179fnw looks like a compact and attractive four-in-one at an equally attractive price. It prints mono text documents promptly and precisely too. However, there are quite a few shortcomings, the lack of auto duplex being chief among them. The absence of a front USB port and the inability to print on envelopes count against it too. Color documents print slowly and look soft and grainy. We found the crude LCD interface, irritating LEDs, unhelpful app and user guide all combined for a fairly negative user experience. The price is attractive, but beware of making a false economy.
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