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Review: HP Laserjet 2600N Economy Printer You get what you pay for

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Recently, my wife needed a new printer for her classes. We had an array of dead inkjets which had either stopped working or the ink was simply too expensive to bother replacing. For our next printer we wanted to get a low-end business printer rather than a high-end consumer printer so that our price per page would be lower. We looked at both the HP 2600n and the Samsung ML-2550.We found them both at a local Best Buy. Both were color laser printers. They were the same price after rebate, but the Samsung's rebate was mail in, making the HP lower-priced at the store. I was hesitant to buy a Samsung since I had never used a Samsung printer and had always been satisfied with HP printers, especially lasers. I was concerned about the HP's lack of RAM and PCL/Postscript support. In the end, we went with the HP for one simple reason: there was only one color laser printer left and it was the HP.We got the printer home, unpacked it, set it up, connected it to a USB port on a Windows 2000 machine and installed the drivers. With a little bit of fussing, we had it printing a test page and soon after, some of my wife's work. The print output was quite good in both color and balck and white. As it is a GDI printer, CPU usage was higher than I would like.We have yet to have any problem with the hardware, but the software is a very different story.We have two computers, one a Widows 2000/Linux box, one a Mac. They are connected to an Airport router, the 2K box by ehternet nd the Mac via Airport. The printer prints fine under Windows 2000 with its own drivers. The Mac cannot print through Windows cannot print through Windows to this printer due to driver issues, however, so we moved it to the Airport and got everything reconfigured. It printed from the Mac, but not from Windows. We moved it back to Windows, and the Mac still could not print to it. We moved the printer to the Mac, shared it to the Windows box. Windows could print and Mac could not (driver).We installed the Drivers HP shipped for the Mac. Now the auto printer setup on my Mac crashes constantly and I cannot set up any printers. The HP driver did not contain the correct property files to select the driver manually. The driver has no uninstall and no updates. I was able to delete enough by hand to only cripple the 2600n driver and free up the auto setup dialog.After that fiasco, we had to hook it back up via USB to the Windows box. I had to print from the Mac by copying PDFs to a shared drive. This from a "network ready" printer with support for Windows and OS X.Now, we get a virus on our 2000 box, even with all of the protection we have in place. Our ISP cuts our account to protect the network and, since we cannot find where the virus is hiding, we end up reinstalling. "Heck with it." We wipe the drive, repartition and make it a Linux (FC5) only box. Linux, of course, cannot print out of the box to this thing. The 2600n does not support any of the standard HP protocols and HP refused to release the necessary specs to the Linux driver developers. Nevertheless, some enterprising soul has written a driver anyway.In order to setup the printer, I now have to install a development system on my Linux box (my wife's office/school machine) to build the driver. I get it built, installed, and 'lo, 2600n appears in the selection box and a test page comes out of the printer. I turn on print sharing, verify that it is running, and advertise the printer with ZeroConf (what Apple calls 'Bonjour').. Of course, I still cannot setup that printer on my Mac until I reinstall to get rid of HP's bad driver and install this new 3rd party driver (Works on mac as well as Linux). How is it that a 3rd party driver written with no specs is better than HP's driver for their own printer?Anyway, I expected to end up with a printer that skimped a bit on performance and quality for an economy printer. Instead, I got a great printer that cannot be printed to. It spits out pages quickly and efficiently as I swear and curse to get it connected. Some time this week I will reinstall OS X to un-hose my drivers. Only a driver vendor can screw up a Mac that badly. I have had enough problems with this printer that I will never buy an HP again. Samsung next time for me.

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