os x compatible laser printers?
April 24, 2005 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Is there an easy way to find out if such and such laser printer is compatible with OS X? I'm talking old printers that aren't manufactured anymore and pre-date OS X.

I'm sick of paying for inkjet cartridges. They're a freakin' rip off. I'd like to get an old HP Laserjet but can't seem to find out if they'll work with my Mac. Is there a place online that lists compatibility or a file I can open on my Mac to see a list or something?

And I guess since I have your ear: any compatible laser printers I should avoid due to difficulty of getting toner? Any other caveats?

posted by dobbs to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
Your major concerns should be whether or not it has an ethernet port on the back and if you can still find drivers. If OS X doesn't include drivers, check out the Gimp Print site:

FWIW, I always thought that the HP LaserJet 4MV was da bomb. 600dpi, 11x17, and PostScript level 2. You should be able to pick one up pretty inexpensively these days. I don't know about the cost or availability of cartridges though.
posted by glyphlet at 11:16 AM on April 24, 2005

Your best bet with a LaserJet is to buy a "JetDirect" box for it, which converts the ordinary parallel port (which doesn't really work with Macs) into an ethernet port, like Glyphlet mentioned. Then you can plug it into your router and share it very easily with Macs of just about any vintage.

Quite frankly, I'd say that pretty much any "old" HP LaserJet will work just fine under OS X. The list of supported printers covers dozens and dozens of models. If you're torn between two models, compare toner cartridge prices on a site like Staples and you'll be able to tell pretty quickly if your model is too "rare." I don't think that'll be a problem though, laser printers last a LONG time and I've never come across a model that you couldn't get cartridges for very easily.

I have a LaserJet 2100 that I picked up in eBay from some kind of clearance company in California (the kind that picks up equipment from companies going out of business, I guess) and I absolutely adore it. It just chugs along without complaining. I picked it because we had the same model at work, and it lasted almost six years printing around two hundred pages a day with no servicing whatsoever.
posted by bcwinters at 12:04 PM on April 24, 2005

Make sure the HP printer has a PostScript chip in it.

I'll say this again: make sure the HP printer has a PostScript chip in it.

A JetDirect box will do nothing for you if the printer can't interpret PostScript.
posted by Rothko at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2005

Well, there's Apple's supported printers list. If the printer is an HP, it's probably safe to say it's supported. Gimp-print drivers are available for a great many printers, and HP's are pretty widely supported. I have a very old HP laserjet that barely works (i have to feed it one sheet at a time), but it's very well supported by printer drivers in linux, mac osx, and windows.
posted by odinsdream at 1:11 PM on April 24, 2005

Before you spend a lot of money adding print servers to an old printer, take a look at some modern printers.

If you do the math on the supplies included, a new HP Color LaserJet 2550 only costs about $20. Spend the extra $100 or so to get PS+Ethernet+tray, and you will have a very nice, fast, color laser printer. IIRC, the 2550 series has the best price-per-page of the color lasers.

If you only need B&W, there are a bunch of printers in the $100 range.

I used to fix old canon engine printers and use the, but now it is cheaper to just get the new printer and be done with it.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:26 PM on April 24, 2005

Thanks for all the answers so far. I just emailed an eBay seller here in Toronto to ask about an HP 2100 that's us$179 (good price?).

I don't need color and I don't need it to network. Just little old me printing out text from my iMac G5.

bcwinters, since you have a 2100... is the JetDirect box necessary for that one or can it just plug right in?

b1tr0t, which b&w laser printer do you recommend for $100? Or are you talking used machines?
posted by dobbs at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2005

the 2100 does not come with a JetDirect box or card. (mine has a card. you can do either - with the card it slides in under the access panel on the right and then you don't have another boxy thing on your desk.) it does have Mac serial and regular PC parallel, though, so those should work fine if you don't have a reason for a networkable printer and you have the appropriate adapters. (fwiw mine doesn't print properly with OS X via the network but I think my card's broken or misconfigured.)

as far as a list - just try to add another printer. select the brand you want and there you go. :-) most of the regular business-oriented LaserJets will have PostScript support so you probably won't have to worry about them (like the 4-series, the 5-series, the 8x00-series if you have that kinda room, etc.).
posted by mrg at 2:08 PM on April 24, 2005

Definitely check around first... It's likely that a toner cartridge for an older printer would cost you more than a toner cartridge for a newer printer.

I have an HP LaserJet 1200 that I use in OS X. Black and white. It works great. I'm sure there are much newer models now, but I'd definitely recommend an HP LaserJet based on my experience with it.
posted by robotspacer at 2:13 PM on April 24, 2005

Re. $100 printers, I'd check for specials at local stationery stores, CompUSA, Walmart, etc. I got a Brother HL 1440, works fine in OS X (no duplex function though). It was on a special at Office Depot for $100. There should be plenty of printers w/ basic functions in the $150 range.

Plus, with a new printer you're starting with a *full* toner cartridge, prolly worth an extra $30 or so compared with buying used. Plus stores sometimes give you free paper with a purchase.
posted by carter at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2005

First, most new low-end printers nowadays come with a 'starter' toner cartridge with ~1/3 the amount of toner as a full cartridge.

Second, there's a refurbished Brother HL-5050 (specs here) at buy.com that sounds intriguing. Never used that model, but the Brother laser printers I have worked with have generally been fast and reliable. And at $86 after rebate, it's tough to go too far wrong; buy two and throw one in the closet in case the first one breaks down. ;)
posted by boaz at 3:10 PM on April 24, 2005

You don't really need a jetdirect box - any USB-parallel adapter will work. (I think I use a Belkin.)

Still using this 15-year-old LaserJet 4MP on my Mac OS X box. It's never not been Apple-compatible and you'd have to pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.

You can still get the cartridges easily, too.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:15 PM on April 24, 2005

Spend some time browsing around Office Depot, CDW.com and HP.com to find a nice B&W printer for a good value. HP won't be the cheapest, but any HP is usually a good printer. Some of the nicer HP B&W printers will do duplexing - that means that the printer automatically prints on both sides of the page. If you often print out large jobs (5+ pages), this could be a useful feature. If you are mostly printing 1-3 page jobs, you probably don't care.

The two things I like most about my 2550n are that it prints my source code with color syntax highlighting, and it will print n-up. With n set to 2 (2-up), it prints two pages side by side on a single sheet of paper. That allows me to see more code at a time, and I don't have to flip the pages over (duplexing is good for documents, bad for source code).

I don't know anyone who has had a brother printer and NOT had trouble with it. Avoid the refurbished unit.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:51 PM on April 24, 2005

Quite frankly, I'd say that pretty much any "old" HP LaserJet will work just fine under OS X

That would be wrong. I've tried everything under the sun to get my HP Laserjet 1000 (with a "Made for Windows98!" sticker on the front.. yeah yeah, i know..) to work with OS X, and it won't.
posted by slater at 1:00 AM on April 25, 2005

If you have access to a local university with a salvage shop, or a computer store that hangs on to old equipment, you might be in luck. I've picked up several JetDirect cards from my local salvage, both for home and for work. Internal cards for older HPs, external cards for newer ones. All between $5 to $20, much cheaper than new.

I've got a small lab running several printers on the network. No problems printing from OSX 10.3 to an ancient LaserJet 4SI or to a relatively new LaserJet 1200n using the JetDirect setup.

The only real issue you'll have with the HP cards is getting them configured and getting the firmware up to date. All I can say there is find a box running NT, get the old-old-old verison of JetAdmin and DownloadManager (we're talking like verison 3 here, avoid the WebJetAdmin at all costs until you've successfully gotten the thing updated!) and use a crossover cable to perform the updates if you're using one of the old internal cards. I've not had any issues using the newer administration or update software with external JetDirect cards, nor with old cards once they've been updated to the latest firmware.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:17 AM on April 25, 2005

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