HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M553dn

Speed, quality, and economical to use, low cost per page

HP LaserJet Enterprise M553dn Color Laser Printer
HP LaserJet Enterprise M553dn Color Laser Printer. Photograph courtesy of HP

HP has sent us everal laser review units recently, including the LaserJet Pro M402dw, a single-function monochrome machine, and the Color LaserJet Pro MFP M477fdw, a multifunction printer, or MFP. Both were impressive machines, but not as impressive as today’s review unit, HP’s $799.99-list Color LaserJet Enterprise M553dn.

“Enterprise,” of course, means busy, or relatively high-volume—a whole lot of printing going on. When I wrote this, the M553dn was on sale for $200 off, or $599.99. In either case, a single-function printer would need to be special in one way or another to justify either price, but of course it’s a much greater value for $200 less.

Design and Features

There’s not really much a printer maker can do to make a single-function laser printer attractive. No matter what, by the nature of the product itself and what it does, it turns out to be a square box that takes paper from a tray in the front part of the chassis and then spits it out on top of the chassis. It has no scanner, so all does is print.

In addition, it supports only wired connections, i.e., Ethernet or connecting to a single PC via USB. Hence, most mobile connectivity options, such as Wi-Fi Direct and Near-Field Communication (NFC), aren’t available either. You can, however, get these features, including Wi-Fi, with the M553x—a pumped-up version of this model loaded with features.

And if that’s not primitive enough, instead of a color touch screen you get a four-line LED and a keypad, and it can’t print two-sided pages automatically, without your having to turn the pages over manually, either.

Performance, Print Quality, Paper Handling

HP rates the M553dn at 40 pages per minute, or ppm, but as I’ve explained here several times, those are straight text documents with little-to-no formatting. When printing real-world documents with graphics, images, and heavily formatted text, that number takes a huge dive—depending, of course, on the complexity of the documents. During my tests, it churned out just under 18ppm, which is darn good.

Usually, I’m not a big fan of laser output, because inkjet printers (the right ones) are capable of printing with greater color depth and vibrancy. But as laser printers go, this LaserJet’s output was quite impressive. Text looked good down to the smallest of fonts (even when magnified), graphics held the finest of lines and detail, and photos looked better than we've seen from most other laser printers—but that does not mean that they print as well as they do on a photo-ready inkjet.

As for paper handling, it can hold up to 650 sheets, a 550-sheet main cassette and 100-sheet override or multipurpose tray. If that’s not enough, though, you can add up to three 550-sheet drawers, for a total of 2,300 sheets from five separate sources. Talk about flexibility. The only problem is that those drawers sell for $300 each at HP.

Cost Per Page

Supposed high-volume printers don’t always act like such, judging by how much they cost to use on a per-page basis. The good news is that that’s not entirely the case here. This printer’s black-and-white cost per page is 1.7 cents and color is 10.7 cents.

Under 2 cents for monochrome pages is always good, but 10.7 cents for color is too much. It’s not as bad as I’ve seen on a few other recent models, but it could be better. If you don’t print much color, but do print lots of monochrome pages, this may be the right laser printer for you. At least when you do need to print color, it’s not punitive.

The End

My CPP criteria for a high-volume printer in this range is under 2 cents for monochrome and under 10 cents for color—the M553dn almost makes it. On the other hand, it prints well enough that that extra 0.07 cents shouldn’t really matter.