Introduction and performance
You don't need to worry about somebody stealing the HP Color LaserJet 553X from your office – at 33.4kg unladen, this printer is going to stay wherever you put it even if you don't use the port for a Kensington-style lock. That's just as well, because if you want fast, high quality printing that works with almost anything then the 553X is an awfully tempting piece of kit.
The 553X has an RRP of £864 including VAT (around $1,315, or AU$1,650) and promises very fast printing – printing from sleep mode in as little as 9 seconds – low energy usage and high quality print across a range of media and from a variety of sources, including multiple wireless printing options. It's a network printer, of course, but it also prints from NFC, from smartphone apps and via wireless direct printing too.
Setup and specifications
The 553X isn't bad looking for a network printer – it's a big ivory box with a 4.3-inch colour touchscreen and a black output tray to break up the monotony. There's a 100-sheet feeder on the right-hand side and two 550-sheet trays underneath, and you can add further trays to get a total capacity of 2,300 sheets.
The feeder and trays support transparencies and card stock too, and the 553X offers automatic double-sided printing to cut your paper costs. The output tray has room for 250 sheets of 75gsm paper, 10 envelopes or 100 transparencies, and the printable area on an A4 sheet has a margin of just 2mm on each edge (5mm assured image).
The 553X is compatible with Windows from Vista to Windows 10, Mac OS X from 10.7 onwards, iOS, Android, multiple Linux distros (SUSE, Fedora, Mint, Boss, Ubuntu) and UNIX. As you'd expect it supports a range of security protocols: SNMPv3, SSL/TLS, WPA2-Enterprise, 802.1X authentication, IPP over TLS, IPSec/Firewall with Certificate, Pre-Shared Key authentication and Kerberos authentication.
The printer has an embedded HP JetDirect Ethernet print server, a 10/100/1000Base-TX fast Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 Host ports, a USB 2.0 device port, Wireless Direct (802.11b/g), NFC and HP's own Hardware Integration Pocket for optional extras such as secure card readers. There's a web-based interface for remote admin but you can also control the device via the touchscreen and mobile apps. The touchscreen's interface isn't the prettiest, but it's straightforward enough to use.
The 553X has 1GB of installed RAM, which you can double by adding a DDR3 DIMM, and the processor is clocked at 1.2GHz.
You don't need stellar print quality for everyday office documents, so the 553X defaults to a print setting of 600 x 600 dpi in both black and colour printing. That delivers perfectly crisp text, but if your firm's a fan of small print, packed spreadsheets or very detailed drawings, then you can ramp the quality up to 1,200 x 1,200 dpi. The 553X also has HP's ImageREt resolution enhancement technology in the form of ImageREt 3600, which promises "3,600 dpi class" printing on HP's high gloss laser paper.
The aim of ImageREt is to enable ordinary office printers to produce glossy colour prints that come close to the quality of commercial printing, and the 553X is also Pantone calibrated for accurate colour reproduction. Print quality at 600dpi is excellent with solid blacks and no banding of greyscale images, but in ImageREt mode on quality paper it's absolutely superb. It's not the cheapest way to print – HP Professional glossy paper is currently £1.42 per A4 sheet on Amazon – and it's overkill for everyday jobs, but there's no doubt that the HP can deliver very impressive print quality when you need it to.
The 553X promises to be fast. HP claims first page out in as little as 6 seconds (7 seconds for colour), with sustained printing speeds of up to 38ppm/ipm in black, colour and even duplex. We didn't quite manage that – our personal best was 23 seconds for a simple text document over USB – but once the data has been transferred the 553X delivers impressive performance. 20 copies of a full colour, 600dpi photograph on A4 took just 36 seconds from wake.
The 553X uses CMYK toner cartridges, and they come in two flavours: colour toners marked 508A deliver 5,000 pages and have an RRP of £168 (around $255, or AU$320), while the higher yield 508X cartridges deliver 9,500 pages for £259 including VAT (around $395, or AU$495). That works out as 3p per page and 2p per page for colour.
Black cartridges deliver more: the black 508A has a page yield of 6,000 and an RRP of £134 (around $205, or AU$255), while the higher capacity 508X delivers 12,500 pages for £187 (around $285, or AU$355). That works out at 2p per page and 1.5p per page. If you shop around or buy in bulk you'll be able to reduce those costs further.
HP recommends a monthly print volume of 2,000 to 6,000 A4 pages per month, but the 553X is capable of a duty cycle of up to 80,000 pages per month. Depending on your chosen energy specification, the typical energy use is 1.98kWh per week (Energy Star) or 1.86kWh per week (Blue Angel).
HP has crammed a lot of features into a surprisingly small space. This printer connects to every conceivable device either wired or wirelessly, delivers good running costs, runs quickly and produces stunning prints even on default settings.
There's very little to dislike about the 553X unless you'll be moving it around a lot or sitting right next to the printer when it's in full flow. Note that consumables are pricey if you want to get the best quality from the ImageREt system.
This is a big printer for firms with big ideas – it's great for producing striking marketing materials, brochures and other colourful documents without making the finance director cry. It isn't cheap – slightly older, lower spec colour LaserJets such as the Enterprise 500 Color M551dn are half the price – but its support for all kinds of wired and wireless printing, its cavernous paper trays and low running costs make the 553X an investment you're unlikely to regret. Just don't drop it on your foot.