HP LaserJet 1320 Laser Printer

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, August 2005
Published by: Hewlett-Packard
Requires: PC—Windows 98 through Vista including 2003 Server and 64-Bit Edition; Mac—OS 9 or X; Linux—free HPIJS works with any recent Linux distribution
MSRP: US$399.99

What starts really quickly, runs really fast and provides B&W and grayscale printed output second to none? If your answer is, "a few laser printers and we sure wish there were more like that to choose from" then you probably haven't been paying attention to the printer market lately. I wince when I look at pre-1990 dot-martrix printed output every time I have to dig through research archives because the paper has yellowed, the print which was not especially dark and legible to begin with has faded slightly, and the horrible tractor-feed paper is too thin to handle properly. Pre-1990 laser output is still almost as pristine as it was when I first saw it, although slight yellowing in those archives tells me that ultra-cheap printer paper is definitely not any better than the old tractor paper for long-term storage. I digress. I want a fast, reliable laser printer which produces superb text output, crisp, graphics and lineart and which also does a creditable job on photos. And I want it cheap. And I insist that none of this is too much to ask. After plowing through four offerings from Brother, Lexmark, Samsung and Xerox, I hit paydirt with HP.

For the record, the other printers were the Brother HL-5170DNLT, Lexmark E332n, Samsung ML2250 and the Xerox Phaser 3150. We tried each printer by connecting it to a busy output workstation doing real work for about a week. We kept track of paper feed problems, paper jams, connectivity issues (each printer was shared on a small segment of our network), driver problems, ease of paper loading and downtime. At the end of 5 weeks, we settled on the HP as our favorite mainly because of four particular features: a) start time to first output page averaged between 5-10 seconds; remarkably fast, b) quiet operation due to the HP's low-noise cooling fan, c) competitive real output rate averaging 19 pages per minute, and d) the built-in duplexer which automatically prints on both sides of the paper without manual intervention.


We installed the HP on a Pentium 4/2.8GHz Windows XP Professional machine with 1GB of RAM. The printer has a USB 2.0 and a bi-directional parallel port. We used the USB 2.0 port. The HP driver installation could have gone smoother. HP appears to be guilty of poor driver Quality Assurance testing because the installer asked us to print a test page that would not output to the printer. On a hunch, we rebooted the computer and after arriving back at the desktop the printer magically output the test page perfectly. From that point on, the HP worked perfectly. We threw jobs at the printer varying in size from single page business correspondence all the way up to 50+ page runs of financial reports and 10-15 page proposals containing dense text, graphics, illustrations, graphs and photos. The printer handled everything we tried. We were particularly impressed with the stability of output too because despite the high average page rate, print quality was almost identical on first and last pages which is an indication of good drum/toner reservoir design.

During the test period in a busy property management office, one of our clients asked us to condense a standard services contract down to one page. So we used the HP driver configuration dialog to set output to 4 pages per sheet, duplexed. The 6 page research contract was then printed on a single sheet of paper showing four contract pages on one side of the sheet and the last two pages of the contact on the other side of the sheet. The (approximately) 3 point text was perfectly legible and readable (with a magnifying glass), with amazingly crisp curves, lines and serifs at 1200 dpi. Things suffered a little bit at 600 dpi, but everything was still readable. It's a paper saver.

The driver has some interesting settings which should be of use for page layout and desktop publishing applications. The 1200 dpi output setting is available in either 156 or a 180 lpi line screen. Print quality of graphics and photos was excellent at 1200 dpi/156 line screen, especially when compared with normal 600 dpi output. The 180 lpi setting provided even better results on photos and output speed slowed very slightly. Overall, the HP 1320 produced cleaner, more detailed graphics and photos than any of the other printers we looked at except the Lexmark E332n (which we judged to be just a bit better at reproducing photos). Producing duplexed output is a simple matter of changing the output setting in the printer configuration dialog—three clicks and you're done. Duplexed output is also very fast.

How did the other printers fare? Not bad, all things considered. The Lexmark E332n had slightly better graphics output than all the other printers but no duplexing option. The Brother and Samsung printers are slightly less expensive but graphics output was noticeably banded. Output quality from the Xerox was not consistent, producing clean, dark text one day, lighter and uneven text the next day.

The HP LaserJet 1320 is marketed as a home office printer and the description appears to be accurate. But considering the load it handled during our real-world use period, I think it can provide reliable service in a small business office as well. With a footprint of 14" wide x 10" high x 15" deep it will easily fit on most printer carts and on almost any medium size or larger computer desk. The only drawback to small office use might be the 250 sheet paper capacity. Frankly, we don't know why all the manufacturers haven't gone to 500 sheet paper trays (or larger) for all laser printers. In print-heavy small offices therefore, somebody is going to be refilling this one fairly often, a task which might get old real fast when it has to be done every few hours.

Cons: No printed manual—everything is on CD. After initial driver installation, the "Print a Test Page?" dialog popped up but would not work because Windows XP Pro (SP2) would not properly hook up the driver until after a reboot. So the HP installer gave incorrect instructions? It did for us, but we suspect your mileage may vary. The one-page quick start guide is almost completely useless, with line drawings that are somewhat inconclusive. The paper feed for 'Tray' 1 is nothing more than a flip down door and an open feed without any extendable guides or platen of any kind, a serious oversight in a $300-$400 desktop printer. In other words it's most definitely NOT a tray and it's difficult to hand-feed paper accurately. We want a 500 sheet main paper tray in all laser printers—ALL of them—and at least a proper paper feed for the secondary tray. This 250 sheet nonsense sucks bigtime. 16MB of RAM supplied but upgrades are proprietary 100 pin DIMMs priced noticeably higher than standard DIMMs.

Pros: Full featured drivers for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. At 4-6 seconds, among the fastest startup/first page print times we've seen in a desktop laser printer. Consistent 19 page per minute text output. Installation and output on our G5 iMac was flawless. Installation and output on our Xandros Linux workstation was also flawless using the hpijs drivers downloaded from the HP support site. Excellent graphics output with no banding, smooth gradients and very clean curves and corners. Superb text output that is crisp down to 3 point type. Paper input and output areas are protected by the internal tray (input) and upper bodywork (output), ensuring that dust and other detritus does not enter the paper path. Access for cleaning and RAM upgrades is very easy. Good printer. Good value. Highly recommended.





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