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Three for the price of one

Hewlett-Packard’s all-in-one saves time and space.

I just discovered some extra desktop real estate. My existing scanner and LaserJet 4 laser printer occupied more than five square feet of desktop space, and my fax machine takes another foot or so. But the new Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 3200 www.hp.com performs all of those functions, and occupies only 16 square inches of desk space.

Despite the unit’s versatility, installation was not smooth. I tried to install the HP LaserJet 3200 on a computer running Windows 2000, but it didn’t play nice with the USB connection. Using a parallel port, I got the all-in-one unit up and running, but only by using an older driver. The PCL6 driver that came with the HP LaserJet 3200 didn’t work. I moved it to a Windows Me computer and had no trouble using the USB connection.

Incidentally, the unit doesn’t come with a USB cable, so be prepared to get your own.

Almost every function on the LaserJet 3200’s front panel is accessible from the computer screen. HP’s LaserJet Director software automatically displays choices to scan, copy, copy to another device (such as a color printer), perform optical character recognition (OCR), or archive when a document is dropped into the scanner/fax feed tray. Several reports can be printed by using the console’s buttons.

Since the HP LaserJet 3200 replaced a color scanner, I wanted to see how it performed when scanning a color photograph. After a number of adjustments, I was able to produce acceptable scans. At 600 dpi in color mode, scans can be slow, but I don’t think it would be a problem in a SOHO environment. Image colors were lighter than those on the original, but simple Photoshop adjustments fixed that minor problem. Scans in normal mode go faster, and the HP all-in-one offers presets for photo, text, or draft, each with its own settings for resolution and number of colors. Because the LaserJet 3200 is a sheet-fed (single or multiple) scanner, I missed the ability a flatbed scanner has to scan books or manuals.

Black-and-white photographic prints were good, but I prefer the Postscript option on my old laser printer because of its fine-quality halftone output. (Postscript and Macintosh options are supposed to be available by the time you read this.) Color scans made with the LaserJet 3200’s Copy Plus feature can be printed on a different printer; I transferred the copy to my color printer and was pleased with the results.

The OCR feature uses a bundled program called Readiris Pro 6, and it works smoothly, allowing for editing and annotating the finished document. When imported into Word 2000, I found nine errors in a 900-word document. I scanned the same document using OmniPage 9 to see if there were any differences in software, and it produced only one error.

The HP LaserJet 3200’s front panel allows you to directly dial fax numbers. Ten frequently called numbers can be programmed into the buttons provided for speed dialing. Typical scanning and copy jobs are quickly performed with scaling up to 200 percent and down to 25 percent. The unit can be used as a standalone fax or copier with no computer hookup required. Since no provision is made to do a reset unless the Stop/Clear button is pressed, I had to unplug the unit when I wanted to reset it. An off switch is considered unnecessary since the all-in-one uses only seven watts of power at rest and needs to be on-line for incoming calls.

The HP3200 sells for $749, which might be expensive for the average home computer user. But it represents a bargain for SOHO users–especially if they don’t already have a fax or scanner.

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