HP's Color LaserJet Pro M454dw ($449.99) is a single-function color laser printer designed for use in small to midsize offices and workgroups. It's similar in features, volume, and capacity to two current Editors' Choices, the Brother HL-L8260CDW and the inkjet-based "laser alternative" Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C5290. While this LaserJet is a solid machine with terrific-looking output, it costs almost twice as much as the Epson, and its running costs are significantly higher. If you require relatively low-volume, top-quality laser (toner-based) output, the M454dw is a decent choice. But if you produce several hundred to thousands of pages each month, you can find better values.
At 11.6 by 16.2 by 18.5 inches (HWD) and 41.7 pounds, the M454dw is relatively compact and lightweight, though not the smallest or lightest in its class. The abovementioned Brother HL-L8260CDW is a few inches smaller in all directions and about 6 pounds lighter, as is the Canon Color imageClass LBP664Cdw. Both the Epson WF-C5290 and EcoTank Pro ET-5850, another inkjet-based laser alternative, are a little trimmer and several pounds lighter.Our Experts Have Tested 53 Products in the Printers Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
Even though as a print-only rather than multifunction model it doesn't give you many output options to configure, the Color LaserJet Pro M454dw comes with a 2.7-inch color touch screen, shown below.
You can use the panel to monitor consumables, generate usage reports, configure security and other features, and more. Alternatively, like most printers nowadays, this one comes with a built-in web portal that lets you perform configuration tasks, maintenance, monitoring, and report generation from nearly any browser, including your smartphone's or tablet's.4.5Outstanding $849.99See Itat Dell TechnologiesRead Our Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 Review 4.0Excellent$489.95See Itat AmazonRead Our Brother HL-L8260CDW Review 4.0Excellent $329.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C5290 Network Color Printer Review 4.0Excellent $462.99See Itat CDWRead Our Canon Color imageClass LBP664Cdw Review
Standard connectivity consists of Gigabit Ethernet, connecting to a single PC via USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, and the peer-to-peer protocol Wi-Fi Direct for connecting mobile devices to the printer without either it or them being part of a network. Other mobile connectivity options include Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, HP ePrint, HP Smart App and other mobile apps, and Mopria.
Out of the box, paper-handling capacity consists of 300 sheets split between a 250-sheet cassette and a 50-sheet override tray for printing envelopes, labels, and other media without having to open and possibly reconfigure the main drawer. If 300 pages is not enough capacity, you can add a 550-sheet drawer for $199. You can print from USB thumb drives via a port on the top right edge of the chassis, as shown below.
Both the Brother and Canon lasers mentioned above have the same default paper capacity as the M454dw, though the former supports expansion up to 1,050 sheets from four sources. (The latter has the same expandability as the LaserJet.) Epson's WF-C5290 holds up to 330 sheets expandable to 830 sheets, and the ET-5850 holds 550 sheets from three sources.
The HP's maximum monthly duty cycle is 50,000 pages, and its suggested monthly print volume is 4,000. That's similar to both the LBP644Cdw and HL-L8260CDW, while the Epson WF-C5290's duty cycle is 45,000 pages per month with a suggested monthly volume of 2,500. The EcoTank Pro's max and suggested volumes are 66,000 and 3,300 pages, respectively.
Smart App is HP's multi-platform combination driver and value-added interface. One way it attempts to streamline your interaction with the printer is by providing a similar interface across the Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows platforms it runs on. You also get HP Smart Tasks, a collection of customizable workflow profiles—such as printing from specific cloud sites and scanning to a local drive or cloud site with your phone's or tablet's camera—that you access from shortcuts inside HP Smart App.
In addition to creating and editing Smart Tasks from your computing device, you can also manage and access them from the LaserJet's control panel or from the web portal mentioned earlier.
HP rates the M454dw at 28 pages per minute (ppm), a middle-of-road print speed for this level of device and the same rating as the Brother HL-L8260CDW and Canon LBP644Cdw. The Epson ET-5850 is rated at 25ppm, and the WF-C5290 at 24ppm. I tested this LaserJet (and all these other machines) over an Ethernet connection from our standard Intel Core i5 testbed running Windows 10 Pro. (See how we test printers.)
Like the Canon printer, the M454dw comes out of the box configured to print two-sided (duplex) pages. In these scenarios, we record both the printer's one-sided (simplex) and two-sided performance. That said, the M454dw produced our first test, a 12-page Microsoft Word document, at the duplex rate of 17.3 images per minute (or ipm, where each page side counts as an image) and simplex at 29.9ppm—1.9ppm quicker than its rating.
The LBP644Cdw's simplex score is about 1.1ppm slower, while its duplex showing is 5.7ipm faster. The HL-L8260CDW was 3.1ppm faster than the LaserJet. The ET-5850 managed to tie the LaserJet, and the WF-C5290 landed about 3.5ppm behind it.
For the next part of my tests, I clocked the M454dw as it cranked out our collection of Adobe Acrobat PDFs, Excel spreadsheets and corresponding full-page graphics, and PowerPoint handouts containing complex business graphics and fonts in varying sizes and colors. Combining these scores with those from the text document yielded average speeds of 18.4ppm and 13.8ipm. By comparison, the Brother managed 13.8ppm, the Canon and the Epson ET-5850 each 17.4ppm, and the WF-C5290 16.1ppm.
The M454dw is not designed as a photo printer, but I also timed it as it printed our test 4-by-6-inch snapshots. It averaged about 8 seconds per image, which is the lowest score among these competitors, with the WF-C5290 bringing up the rear at 15 seconds.
Most likely, you're springing for a color laser to print documents that represent you and your company or organization well. Few, if any, vendors have more laser printer imaging experience than HP. Overall, the M454dw produces excellent-looking text, near-perfect business graphics, and good-looking photos (for a color laser, that is). The text documents I printed came out with immaculate, near-typesetter-quality fonts at all sizes we test, down to 6 points or so.
Business graphics, too, were notable, though the M454dw did struggle a bit with a dark-green-to-black background gradient that many of the printers we test have trouble reproducing. Otherwise, colors were vibrant and accurate; dark fills were solid; and gradients flowed from one color or tint to the next without noticeable stepping.
While neither the Color LaserJet Pro nor any other laser is a photo printer, the images embedded in our test documents came out precisely and brilliantly colored, with good detail. The only graininess I saw, I had to look for.
The M454dw's biggest drawback is its cost of operation. When you buy its highest-volume toner replacement cartridges (rated for 7,500 black pages and 6,000 color), your running costs should be about 2.2 cents per monochrome page and 14.2 cents per color page. If you print a lot, close to this machine's suggested 4,000-page monthly output volume, you'll find these numbers could wind up costing you plenty over the life of the printer.
The other two laser printers mentioned here have very similar running costs, within two or three tenths of a cent per page. If you shop around, you can find midrange and high-volume printers with lower running costs—as little as 1.1 cents for a black-and-white page. When shopping for a higher-volume printer, keep in mind that for every 100,000 pages you print, a 1-cent difference will cost you $1,000. If over the life of the machine you print, say, three-quarters of a million pages—well, you get the idea. That's a lot more money than the initial printer price.
Another option is a laser alternative. The two mentioned here, the WF-C5290 and ET-5850, will run you about 1.7 cents black and 7.7 cents color and 2 cents for both monochrome and color respectively. Obviously, you realize big savings with these bulk-ink machines if you print a lot of color pages. The drawback is that they, especially the WF-C5290, have somewhat low suggested monthly volumes.
This LaserJet, like most others of its kind, is a solid machine that prints well and isn't ruinously expensive to use (though it isn't cheap). It is, however, one of many contenders in a glutted market for color printers. If all you need is to print a few hundred pages each month, the M454dw will serve as well as most others and in some cases better. When your print volume gets up toward a few thousand pages each month, though, it's less of a value. We like this printer just fine, but only for moderate volume scenarios.3.5See It$975.00 at Amazon MSRP $448.90
An entry-level to mid-volume color laser, HP's Color LaserJet Pro M454dw is well-suited for printing a few hundred pages monthly in a small-office or workgroup setting.
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