Hands-on Gear Review

HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw Review

Top Pick Award
Price:   $300 List
Pros:  Great text and graphics quality, great interface
Cons:  Relatively slow for a laser
Bottom line:  A great model if you want high end performance and don't need a built-in scanner
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Type:  Single function color laser
Capabilities:  Print
Resolution (Black):  600 x 600
Manufacturer:   HP

Our Verdict

For those that demand top quality printing but don't need or already have a scanner and/or fax machine, the HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw is a perfect machine. It offers all of the printing performance of our Editors' Choice Award winning HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw, but without the added cost and complexities of it multi-function capabilities. So you still get field leading text quality, impressively good graphics for a speedy laser printer, and a great touchscreen control panel that makes setup and troubleshooting a breeze. If you're mostly looking for great text and don't mind connecting via a USB cable, you can save money with the HP LaserJet Pro M402n.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Friday
January 26, 2018

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Performance Comparison


Excellent printing quality earned the M254dw one of the top overall scores in our testing. We used five different testing metric to determine our scores. You can see how the M254dw fared in each below.


Text Quality


The M254dw produced great text in our testing and shared the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric with its multifunction sibling. This was far better than the worst scoring model, which earned a 3.


The M254dw's text is near perfect. The character it produced in our testing looked bold and had smooth, clean borders. Even under the intense scrutiny of our microscope we could only see minor imperfections and light spots. Occasionally when printing italics at a fonts smaller than 10 point we did notice some areas that looked just slightly pale, which is the only thing that kept the M254dw from earning a perfect score in this metric. However, it's such a minor flaw that we feel completely confident in saying that anyone who buys the M254dw will be more than happy with its text quality.

The M254dw's produced some of the best text in our testing.
The M254dw's produced some of the best text in our testing.

Operating Cost


The M254dw was on the lower end in terms of both monochrome printing costs, but fairly expensive for color and earned a 5 out of 10 in our operating cost metric. This put it towards the middle of the field in a metric where scores ranged from 2 to 7.


The M254dw prints black and white at just $0.03 a page or $14.46 a ream, but prints color at a quite expensive $0.11 per page or $56.09 per ream. It estimated lifetime cost is $642, which is about $70 above the average of the models we tested. This certainly isn't a budget model, but considering the high performance you get these costs are fairly reasonable.

Ease of Use


The M254dw again shared the top score in this metric with the MFP M281fdw, both models earning a 9 out of 10. This was high praise in a metric where scores fell as low as 4.


The major reason for this high score was the M254dw's touchscreen control panel. This allows for easy navigation of printing functions and simple entry of things like wifi passwords, and offers a useful platform from which to troubleshoot when the need arises. It also grants full and easy access to HP's bevy of online printing apps, which facilitate things like printing stamps from a stamps.com account, printing grocery or check lists, and printing pages of tic-tac-toe games. Setup was a breeze, we had the printer churning out pages within 10 minutes of opening up the box. It was also straightforward to link the HP ePrint and and print directly from a mobile device. To top it all off a USB port on the top of the printer lets you quickly print directly from a flash drive.

The M254dw's touchscreen interface was one of our favorites.
The M254dw's touchscreen interface was one of our favorites.

Graphics/Photos


The M254dw earned a 6 out of 10 in our photos and graphic quality testing. This is quite a respectable score for a laser in a metric where scores ranged from 2 to 7.


Simple graphics, like line graphs and bar charts, looked phenomenal when printed on the M254dw. Colors were bright and lines and bars had crisp edges. It only lost points for its photo printing ability. The M254dw's laser technology noticeably struggled in this area, producing pixelated images. This is a great machine for graph heavy business documents, but not ideal for photo laden family letters. If you want a general home/office printer that can also produce decent photos, you'll have to get an inkjet, like the HP Officejet Pro 8720.


Printing Speed


The M254dw's speed garnered a score of 7 out of 10 in our printing speed testing, an above average score in a metric where scores ranged from 3 to 9.


In our single-sided black and white text speed test, the cornerstone of our speed testing, the M254dw was able to rip off 15 pages a minute. Printing duplex that figure shrunk to 10 pages a minute, On both counts the M254dw was quite good for a printer that is also capable of producing high quality graphics. In fact, to get an upgrade in speed you'd have to move to a specialized monochrome machine like the M402n, which can get you 25 pages a minute but lacks color, decent graphics, and wifi connectivity.

Value


With a list price of $300 the M254dw is priced slightly above average for a single function printer. However, like most printers, you can find it online for much less than its list price. At the time of this writing we've seen it priced as low as $200. Due to its high performance we feel the M254dw is a decent value at its list price, and a great deal if you can find it for less. If you don't think you'll use the color printing capabilities and don't mind using a wired connection, then the HP M402n would be a slightly better value.


Conclusion


The M254dw is a high performing, single function printer. Its perfect for those that want a high quality printing option and already have or don't need a scanner.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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