The HP Color LaserJet 3600n was easy to set up and toner cartridges were easy to install. The Getting Started Guide gives basic setup instructions. It also includes a description of the range of paper sizes that each paper tray can accommodate, part numbers for the toner cartridges, and a quick graphic guide for clearing paper jams. The instructions are well-organized and easy to understand, and are displayed in six languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch. The User Guide, the 3600n’s manual, comes as a PDF document only, but this is probably a good thing since this 200+-page document would be onerous to have around in printed form. It is very detailed and explains the extensive menus very thoroughly.
Out of the box (9.00)
The HP Color LaserJet 3600n printer comes ready to roll almost straight out of the box. Its four ink cartridges come preinstalled, so users only need to take off the shipping tape and attach the cables to get it going. Attached to the printer are two paper trays: the multipurpose tray holds 100 sheets and the output tray holds 250 sheets. Besides the printer, box contents include a power cable, driver and documentation CD, and a Getting Started Guide. Also included is the Try HP Welcome Kit that is full of promotional materials, and the HP Marketing Toolkit, which has samples of HP matte and glossy Brochure Paper and Marketing Assistant software. The four preinstalled ink cartridges include the following: 6,000-page HP Color LaserJet Black print cartridge, and 4,000-page HP Color LaserJet Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow Print Cartridges. All of the cartridges feature HP ColorSphere toner. Much of the packaging is recyclable and HP includes recycling messages in their manuals. HP also makes note of the 3600n's energy saving settings.
Unpacking the printer, physical set-up, and software installation took about 17 minutes. No tools were required. Several pieces of tape keep the doors secured for shipping, and the output tray had to be snapped in place. The entire front of the unit opens easily (and locks securely into place when done), providing ready access to the stack of toner cartridges. The cartridges come preinstalled, but tape and plastic locks have to be removed first. This is done by removing the cartridges via the two handles, one on either side, removing the tape and locks, then sliding the cartridges back in place--a very easy and clean process. Driver installation was also easy and took only nine minutes from start to finish.
Drivers & Adminstration (7.00)
The computer interface with the HP Color LaserJet 3600n is used only as a utility within software programs. The Preferences window includes six tabs: Advanced, Paper/Quality, Effects, Finishing, Color, and Services. The Advanced tab provides options for settings the number of copies, color management, and document selections. Color management can be set to none, ICM handled by the application, and ICM handled by the printer. The Document options allow the user to enable or disable advanced features, set raster compression (quality settings), and layout options.
The Paper/Quality tab offers only a few options, including paper size, source, and type. You can also save these settings to a QuickSet menu. The Effects tab includes settings for resizing and adding a watermark to the print. The finishing tab allows duplex (double-sided) and gang printing if the printer were enabled for this, but it’s not. Duplexing can only be done manually with this printer. Color options are extremely minimal here, only allowing for edge control. The Services tab provides options for checking the manual, online support, checking for driver updates, and (of course) ordering supplies. Profiles can be loaded though the Properties window in the Windows Control Panel.
The HP 3600n ships with no software. User interface is via the driver in existing computer applications.
**Warm-up ** (3.28)
Warm-up time for the Color LaserJet 3600n is 99 seconds, somewhat more than other laser printers. The Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL, the laser printer in our office warmed up in 45 seconds. The Lexmark X342n, a black-and-white laser in our testing labs, was ready to go in 48 seconds.
Power Usage (4.06)
HP’s specs list the Energy Star compliant printer as using 335 watts when active, 48 watts when ready, 12 watts when sleeping, and only a half-watt when turned off. Our tests revealed that, as expected, the 3600n is a power hog, like all laser printers. Startup brought power use up to 819 watts, which slowly worked its way down into 100s while the printer ran though its calibration cycle. However, our results also show a lower Ready mode power usage of 26 watts than the HP specs, with occasional spikes to 61 for no obvious reason. As with our other power tests, we use a wattage meter to measure how much power a printer draws when printing a page. The HP 3600n drew between 300 and 911 watts of power, an average of 606 watts. This is higher by orders of magnitude than other printers we have tested but because we have not tested another printer in the 3600n’s class we cannot draw cogent comparisons here. When going through self-cleaning, the HP 3600n drew between 100 and 858 watts of power, an average of 379 watts. As with our printing power tests, we are unable at this time to draw accurate comparisons as the other printers we have tested do not fall into this class.
Document Speeds (7.87)
HP’s published test speeds of 17 pages per minute (ppm) were not achieved during our testing regiment. However, our tests were run at the printer’s highest quality whereas manufacturer tests are usually run at draft or normal quality. Still, times were pretty quick, at 12.4 ppm for black-and-white text and 15 ppm for color documents. Print times slowed a bit in energy saver mode with 12 ppm for black text and 13.85 for color documents.
Comparable printers, such as the Lexmark and Brother models mentioned earlier, had greater manufacturer reported speeds, which would be explained by their faster processors. It’s unclear why HP did not include a zippier processor in this unit, especially considering the price.
The text produced by the HP 3600n was very sharp and crisp. The comparison below shows it alongside two other laser printers. The image on the left is text printed with the Lexmark X342n, and on the right, the Oki C6000n text is displayed. Results are very closely aligned, but we have to give the best clarity score to the HP 3600n.
Color text and graphics were somewhat muted and lacked punch in our test PDF printed on the HP CLJ 3600n. That said, contrast was not pumped up like on other laser printers, such as the Oki C6000n.
Photo Speed / Timing (11.69)
As with document printing, we print photos on the best quality setting, and, in the case of laser printers, we use a laser quality glossy brochure paper, Staples Heavyweight Color laser Paper (96 bright, 32 lb.). Test times were very good for this printer, printing 4-by-6-inch photos in about 20 seconds (2.89 pages per minute [ppm]) and 8.5-by-11-inch images even more quickly, in about 12 seonds (average of 4.95 ppm). We suspect the slower times for the 4-by-6-inch prints were due to the smaller media size. We fed 4-by-6-inch paper into the printer, but this is not a typical size for this or any other laser.
Color Accuracy (1.84)
We tested the HP 3600’s color reproduction by printing an electronic version of the GretagMacbeth color checker chart and evaluating the printed values using an Eye-One spectrophotometer. Unfortunately, when we compared the HP 3600’s printed values to the original LAB values, we got an 11.7 mean color error – the largest error on any printer we have tested to date.
The HP3600’s pitfalls are displayed in its rendering of the Blue Flower patch. The deep blue in the tile looses a chunk of its red component and instead boosts the green and blue to compensate. The result is a color shift from a purplish-blue hue to a soft, almost baby blue. This problem is further accentuated by the number of tiles on the reproduced chart that are nearly identical to this shade. Fortunately, most of the brunt work demanded of this printer should fall under the text component.
Color Gamut (1.39)
This test used Gamutvision to create the chart below, which represents the total number of colors a printer can produce, i.e. its color space. We compared the printer’s color space to the fixed Adobe RGB color space. In the chart, the color space of the printer is the solid colored shape, and the Adobe RGB space is the surrounding grid. The closer in size the two shapes are, the better the printer performed.
The HP 3600 is not meant to print photographs, and this clearly shows. The printer could only produce 21.6 percent of Adobe RGB colors, which is not even half the amount of colors decent nonlaser printers can produce. This discrepancy is clear in color prints, where colors look weak and washed out.
We test how dark a printer can print its black as a way of showing the printer’s full tonal range. The whitest white is determined by the paper tone, so the darkest dark determines the tonal range. We assess the blackest black by measuring the ratio of light reflected from the surface of the paper, giving us a density value called Dmax. Dmax is higher when there is less light reflected from the print. This corresponds roughly to the dynamic range measurement in cameras. The test prints were printed on a heavyweight gloss color laser paper as well as managed by the stock color profile and a custom color profile we created.
The HP 3600 failed miserably on our Dmax test, yielding a value of 1.39, which corresponds to a dark gray, not even a black. Decent photo printers score above a 2, and the best are around 2.5 or so. The HP 3600 is not designed to print photos, and the Dmax test shows one of the reasons why. Expect to print washed out photos with indistinct tonal transitions with this printer.
The front of the unit has a curved front, arcing down from the top to the bottom, reminiscent of a hatchback car. The top of the front has a dark gray control panel, with a 0.5 x 2.0-inch, monochrome, two-line LCD display, which can reflect a lot of glare and become difficult to read at the wrong angle. Otherwise, it’s very readable but limited in the amount of information visible for such an extensive menu. (It’s necessary to print out the Print Menu Map to be able to know what options there are and be able to navigate them.)
Below the LCD screen on the gray operation panel are four toner color icons, which correspond to four bars on the Ready menu to indicate toner levels. To the left of the LCD are three LEDs stacked vertically, with the corresponding words listed to the left—Ready, Data, and Attention. To the left of these are the white Menu and the pink Stop buttons, both square in shape, with the words printed above. Immediately to the right side of the LCD screen is the blue, round Help button, indicated by a question mark. To the right of this is the teal, square, enter button, indicated by a check mark. Triangular up and down buttons appear above and below, respectively, and a return button lies to the left of the enter button, indicated by a curved arrow. That sums up the entire display, simple but pretty much everything you need, except for a larger and easier to navigate menu screen.
Below the operation panel is the main access door for replacing toner cartridges, and that comprises the entire front of the unit. Embedded within the center of this panel is the door for paper tray 1, that can be accessed by pulling on the handle at the top edge of the tray. The tray drops down about 40 degrees from vertical, and the top part of the paper tray slides out in two sections to accommodate paper as large as 8.5x14 inches. The name of the printer is shown on the bottom right of the tray. In the center of the printer above tray one and below the operation panel sits the HP logo. Below tray one is the horizontal tray two, which slides out easily by pulling on the indentation at the bottom of the tray. A spring-loaded tab at the right side of the tray is a paper level indicator, which enables the user to see at a glance the level of paper in the tray without opening it. An embossed number one and two are on the lower right of each paper tray. An optional 500-sheet paper tray that fits on the bottom is available for an additional $249.
The back of the HP Color LaserJet 3600n looks like a refrigerator with its metal cooling vents and screws and bolts. In the upper left corner of the back is the port for the large power cable.
The left side is dark gray plastic, with the arc of the white front panel. The raised left-side tab to lift the top panel sits above the indentation in the gray panel for the user’s finger. The HP logo, larger but simply embossed in the gray plastic lies in the middle. Vents appear at the left on the gray panel as well as toward the bottom. At the bottom is a space for fingers to slide in to grip and carry the hefty printer.
The right side of the unit looks much like the left—dark gray plastic with the arc of the white front panel and the opposing tab for the top panel. A larger HP logo is embossed in the gray plastic that lies in the middle. Vents appear at the left on the front panel edge and on the gray panel as well as a vent toward the bottom. The white power button lies inset on the upper right. The side of the aluminum panel that contains the circuit boards is visible on the right, with ports for one USB cable and one Ethernet cable.
From the top, the dark gray control panel can be seen near the front edge. Halfway across the top is the paper output slot with the output tray near the back. This tray doesn’t have edge guides and is only a piece of plastic that holds the paper up. The center of the plastic can slide upward so it can catch executive-sized prints.
When the large access door on the front is opened, the entire innards of the printer are exposed. There is a large black tray that is part of the multipurpose paper tray; at the bottom, its rollers show. When this is folded down, the HP 3600n shows its true colors – the colors of its ink cartridges, that is. From the top, the 1-foot-long cartridges are stacked vertically as black, yellow, cyan, and magenta.
The large HP 3600n printer does not have an LCD screen. Instead, it has a two-line digital display that is about 2 inches across and a half-inch tall. The display looks tiny compared to the main body of the 3600n printer. The resolution isn’t great. It’s only good enough to read the words that fit on the screen: Calibrating and Ready are the common ones. Most users will probably access control of this printer via their computers, so a more elaborate interactive display may not be necessary. But for certain functions, like maintenance and testing, a larger display would have been helpful.
Paper Trays (7.00)
There are two standard input paper trays on the front of the HP Color LaserJet 3600n. Tray two holds up to 250 sheets of legal-sized paper, and it rolls out like a drawer from the bottom. Tray one, the multipurpose paper tray, resides in the front of the access door, folds out at an angle, and has a 100-sheet capacity. It can hold papers as small as 3x5 inches and as large as 8.5x14 inches with its adjustable edge guides. Thus, it can hold everything from photo paper to standard legal and letter papers to executive-sized documents and envelopes.
The output tray is located atop the printer and has a plastic extender to support the edge of the paper when it ejects from the printer. The output tray can hold 250 sheets. The only way to do double-sided printing is manually from the multipurpose paper tray. The next model up, the HP Color LaserJet 3600dn, has automatic duplex printing capabilities.
The power cable comes in the box with the printer and allows plenty of voltage to flow through its vein. It has a three-pronged grounded plug.
Internal Memory (5.00)
The major difference between the two versions of this HP Color LaserJet printer—the 3600n and the 3600dn—is the amount of RAM included. The review model, the 3600n, has a 360MHz Fujitsu FR555 FRV processor and 64MB of RAM, which is not upgradeable. The HP Color LaserJet 3600dn is nearly the same printer but with 128MB of RAM and a few extra features like automatic double-sided printing. The HP 3600n’s 64MB should be enough memory for small offices because most of the processing will come from the computers that it is networked to. The problem may come with network printing in larger offices when trying to handle multiple jobs.
Hard Drive (0)
There is no hard drive with this printer, but it does have 64 MB of RAM.
There are lots of ways to accessorize the HP Color LaserJet 3600n. The most necessary accessories are the ink cartridges, of course. They cost a pretty penny: the cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges are sold separately and run $129 each on the HP website. Each cartridge yields about 4,000 pages and weighs 3.3 pounds. The black cartridge retails for $132 and can print about 6,000 documents. Users can monitor the cartridges with HP’s SureSupply software, and users can monitor up to 15 different HP printers and collect usage reports and order supplies with HP’s Print Care software. Besides these accessories, there is a wide variety of HP paper and a standard $20 USB cable (at HP, but of course available for much less elsewhere).
The 3600n printer comes with a 90-day trial of HP In-House Marketing Assistant Software, which provides users with templates and step-by-step instructions on how to create items like brochures. The total input paper tray capacity can be expanded to 850 sheets with the addition of the optional 500-sheet tray. This tray looks like a wide box that is added to the very bottom of the HP 3600n printer. This adds $249 to the cost of the printer as well as adding weight, but larger offices may enjoy the benefit of not having to refill the standard paper tray a dozen times a day.
All of the buttons on the HP 3600n laser printer are located on the dark gray control panel near the top of the printer’s front. (The main power switch, as with most laser printers, is located on the side of the printer.) The buttons on the gray control panel above the access door are all properly labeled and useful, but probably won’t be used as much as on multifunction models. This printer communicates mostly through networked computers, so users won’t likely be printing from the control panel. Nevertheless, some functionality is necessary and the few included buttons that serve those needs are easy to interpret and utilize. The digital display provides minimal information at any one time due to its small size. When the ink is running low, the display will blink a message above the aligned icon. Perhaps the most useful button is the blue Help one, which explains menu items like "Paper Handling" as "Set Paper Type (and size if not detected)," for example.
The 3600n’s control panel menu is viewed on the simple two-line display, illuminated when in use but darkened in sleep mode. Given the extensive menu, a two-line display seems cruel, but this is the standard on most laser printers. The grayish background with blue text is legible in a sans serif font, much like Arial, with the selected option in gray text with a blue bar surrounding it. It doesn’t have a wide field of view, and if glare obscures the screen, you’ll have a hard time reading it.
The menus allow for a wide range of customization. There are five main menu items: Information, Paper Handling, Configure Device, Diagnostics, and Service. Pressing menu brings these items up and scrolling through them is done with the up and down arrow buttons on the right side of the control panel. The desired option is selected by pressing the check button in between the arrows. A reverse-direction arrow button allows users to return to the previous menu level.
The Information option allows printing of basic printer settings like the menu map, configuration, supplies status, demo, and RGB samples, which allow the user to match the color in the application with the printer color, with 380 different color swatches.
Paper Handling displays and allows users to change information about the media size and type in printer trays.
The Configure Device menu is understandably the largest menu, with five subcategories and multiple sub-subcategories. Printing allows for changes to the number of copies, paper size, and manual feed settings. Print Quality allows for adjustment of color, providing options for changing the density of CMYK colors in highlights, midtones, and shadows. This would seem to be a shot in the dark, so to speak, harkening back to darkroom days of printing test strips. Registration of the page can also be adjusted by setting the x and y points. The Auto Sense Mode, which senses the type of paper in the printer, can be adjusted in this menu option, and Print Modes allows the user to change the settings for each type of paper listed, allowing for differing applications of toner on the page. Modes can be mixed and matched for desired effects. Examples include Heavy Mode, Tough Paper Mode, Glossy Mode, Humid Transparency Mode, and the like. Maintenance options such as calibration and cleaning pages can be accessed here, too.
System Setup, the third menu option under Configuration, allows changes to date and time, tray behavior, sleep mode, wake time, display brightness, and language. Optimum Speeds/Energy Usage allows users to choose either printing out the first page quickly or energy usage mode. The times for these are reported in our Performance section.
The I/O section allows for changes and test to the network settings. The fourth main menu option, the Diagnostics section, allows various tests of printer components, including belts, motors, and scanners.
Size / Footprint (3.13)
There are hand grips on each side of the HP Color LaserJet 3600n, but they only make it bearable to pick up. This laserjet printer measures 15.7 inches tall by 17.7 inches deep by 16.7 inches wide and weighs a hefty 61.6 pounds. This isn’t something that can be packed into a suitcase and toted to the next meeting. Nevertheless, HP advertises it as a "space-saver." So while it isn’t necessarily portable, it won’t take up an entire desk either.
The HP3600n has four toner cartridges—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—utilizing HP’s ColorSphere ink technology. According to HP’s promotional materials, the toner particles are perfectly spherical, which creates brighter and sharper prints.
HP's Supplies Status Page (see below) gives an estimated output volume of 4,000 sheets per color cartridge, which costs $129.99 on HP’s website, and 6,000 sheets per black cartridge, which costs $132.99. With a paper price of 9 cents a sheet for the Staples 100 percent recycled paper we use for testing, our calculated total cost per sheet for black documents was 11 cents per sheet and for color documents was 12 cents. These prices are cheaper than a close competitor, the Lexmark C532n, which costs 12 cents for black text per page and 14 cents per page for color toner.
Toner Management (8.00)
Toner management tools are only accessible via the unit’s menu, under the main Information option. The Supplies Status menu item lists whether each cartridge is OK or low. More information can be found on the Supplies Status Page, which can be printed out from the Information menu. This lists the estimated percentage of toner remaining in each cartridge, the number of pages printed, and the estimated number of pages remaining for each cartridge.
Print Quality (7.00)
The print quality settings on the HP Color LaserJet 3600n’s menu are surprisingly extensive. Users can adjust the color values in highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in gradations from 0 to 5. Margin adjustment is possible if the print is not coming out centered on the page or toner adjustments are required. This involves printing out a test page that shows the edges of the printable page, then going back into the menu and setting the x and y points. Auto Sensing can be set to allow the printer to set the paper type. Print modes can also be set for specific media types. This might be helpful if the user wants a different application of toner than what is the default for a given media type.
Internal Editing (3.00)
Other than the color adjustments mentioned in the Print Quality section, all editing is done in computer software.
Dedicated B&W Settings/Effects (0)
Users must specify whether jobs should be printed as black and white or color in the software’s print menu before sending the job because the 3600n’s menu doesn’t include these options.
Media Types (8.00)
One of this color laserjet’s main attractions is its ability to print high-quality marketing materials without outsourcing to a professional printing service. Thus, the HP 3600n is able to handle very high-quality paper. The 3600n accepts plain and glossy laser paper from 3x5 inches to 8.5x14 inches sizes in tray one, which is the multi-purpose door in the front of the unit. It also accepts transparencies, labels, envelopes, and cardstock. Tray two accepts standard letter-sized plain and glossy paper, as well as transparencies and labels. The paper in the multipurpose tray can be as heavy as 16-59 pound bond with envelopes ranging from 16-24 pounds. The standard and optional input trays hold 16-32 pound paper. This printer accepts all kinds of paper: plain, pre-printed, letterhead, pre-punched, bond, recycled, tough, color, gloss, or rough. HP recommends using its paper with 5-layer coating technology to get really glossy prints. The 3600n is equipped with a sensor that automatically recognizes paper types and selects paper appropriate for the job if not specified from the computer.
Formats / Compatibility (0)
As with most laserjets, the 3600n is not compatible with direct print systems from cameras, as these units are not intended for photographic prints.
Media Slots (0)
This large printer is not meant to be a savvy, svelte home printer. It has a job to do or jobs, more accurately. It is meant to sit on a desk or shelf and produce lots of documents on a variety of papers with a specialty in glossy marketing materials. The HP 3600n operates based on host technology, so it relies on the networked computers to process the print jobs before they’re sent. There are no media slots for memory cards and the like on this printer.
Wireless Interface (7.00)
The 3600n does feature some wireless capabilities, with optional accessories. A Bluetooth adapter is available for connecting to Bluetooth-enabled devices, and the HP JetDirect ew2400 802.11g Wireless Print Server is also available for setting up a wireless network. Both of these items can be purchased via HP’s website.
The 3600n can be installed to an individual computer, but it's intended use is to be hooked up to a small office network.
Ease of Use (7.00)
The HP Laser 3600n is an easy unit to work with, both in terms of software interface and physical manipulation. Changing paper and toner are easy tasks. The extensive on-unit menu is helpful, and the controls are simple and easy to use, but the two-line display is restrictive. Being able to see more than one or two menu options at a time is important, especially when first acquainting oneself with a printer. The unit responds well to sudden changes, such as print job canceling.
As far as value goes, the 3600n seems a little pricey for what it has to offer. It has slower print speeds, less standard memory (only 64 MB), and lower resolutions (600x600 dpi for both black-and-white and color) than some of its competitors (see below).
Other color laser printers, such as the Lexmark C534dn, boast twice the standard memory and resolution, and a comparable processor for $50 less. The Brother HL-2700CN also retails for $499 and has the same memory as the 3600n, but it also has a higher resolution and only slightly slower processor speeds. A comparably priced unit to the 3600n, the Lexmark C534n prints at higher resolutions (1200 x 1200 dpi), has a faster processor (500 MHz), and twice the estimated duty cycle (100,000) of the HP 3600n.
The HP ColorLaserJet has a lot of functions hiding behind its tiny screen, as well as good color document quality. However, its black text documents are washed out when compared to its competitors. The printer also has slower processor speeds and lower resolutions than similar printers, which make the 3600n a questionable purchase. Consumers may want to shop around or pay a little more for a higher-end HP model to get quicker speeds and better quality.
Meet the tester
Tom Warhol is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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