Pros: Laser quality text, fairly fast and quiet.
Cons: Paper jams with less than 25 sheets loaded. Black and white printing only.
If you have one of these printers, chances are you bought it either used or refurbished. I seriously doubt there are any new ones left in any warehouses since this printer was originally introduced in September of 1995 and discontinued in August of 1997. The LaserJet 5L was a decent low cost laser printer that appealed to home users and small businesses alike for it's quality of text printing and it's speed compared to inkjet printers.
The printer I am currently reviewing was used in a retail store for over 7 years before being left for dead at my tech bench. I worked on the printer for about 15 minutes and discovered the problem was actually in the power cord. I inserted another power cord and it has worked ever since.
My LaserJet 5L:
This printer is somewhat slower than current laser printers available but still much faster than most inkjet printers with medium quality resolution. It is larger than modern printers in its class but has proven itself to be a workhorse ready to do its job daily. This printer has exceeded its duty cycle by more than 4 years and still prints text in good quality. No streaks, no dusty residue on the paper and after installing a new toner cartridge, no fading letters on either side of the page.
Interface and connectivity
The printer interface is strictly parallel. There are no USB connections or Network interface. In order to connect this printer to a network you would have to either share it from a single computer or use HP's external JetDirect print server.
The paper is fed through the top of the printer at the rear and can be collected after printing from either the output paper tray on the top of the printer at the front or the output tray on the front of the printer at the bottom. There is a selector switch to guide the paper to the desired output tray.
There are two input trays for the paper. The main tray holds up to 100 sheets of standard inkjet paper and the other is for envelopes or manually feeding one sheet at a time. Sheet feeding is a common problem with the LaserJet 5L as it likes to drag all of the paper through at once causing paper jams if you have less than 25 sheets of paper in the main feeder tray. Mine is no exception and this is really my only complaint about the printer.
The main input paper tray has an expandable/retractable guide and expandable/retractable back to support the weight of the paper.
There is no noise. Unlike other types of printers, laser printers are known for their silence. The printer emits a low hum when it starts and even lower hum once it starts printing. So you can print email late at night without waking up anyone.
(Does anyone remember those old dot matrix printers and their excessive static screams?)
The printer is much larger than most modern inkjet printers but still smaller than some modern laser printers. It weighs about 7-8 lbs and takes up almost as much space on the desk as a 15" monitor. The actual dimensions are 12.29" deep, 8.9" high and 13.24" wide. I had to set a table near my desk for this printer because it simply wouldn't fit on the desk like my inkjet does.
The print quality is good. The resolution is set at 600x600 dpi. which is medium quality but good enough for fine text. The printer is black and white only but has 210 levels of grey. Pictures printed with this printer are slightly better than newspaper quality at best. I don't use the printer for pictures but for forms, letters, facsimiles, labels and envelopes. It works great for these tasks and saves my color ink cartridges for photos and CD labels.
The print speed is good, not great but good. It prints roughly 4 to 6ppm (pages per minute) depending on the amount of text and takes about 15 seconds before starting the first page. It is slower when it first starts but after the first page comes out it seems to speed up a bit. This may be because it is old or well used so I don't know if it is a trait of all LaserJet 5L printers.
The printer comes with 1MB of onboard EDO memory and has one expansion slot capable of holding either a 4 or 8MB 72pin SIMM. Mine has not been upgraded. The extra memory would help the printer start print jobs faster and allow the printer to hold more data for big jobs but the actual printing speed would not be affected.
The LaserJet 5L utilizes a standard power cable, the same type of power cable most computers use. So you don't have to worry about losing the adapter or having the power converter go bad. If the power cable ever fails it is easy to get a new one at any computer store.
When I got this printer the toner was dry as a bone so I had to find out what kind it uses and where I could get one. Thankfully, the toner is still common and not very expensive. The toner used is the C3906A Laser Toner Cartridge and you can find remanufactured toners for about $40-$50 on pricewatch (http://www.pricewatch.com).
To replace the toner, all you have to do is pull the front of the printer open and then pull out the old toner. Place the new toner in (it only fits one way) and close the front panel. Done.
Unlike inkjet printers, you do not have to calibrate the print heads after installing a new cartridge.
This printer was designed for Windows 3.1/95 and NT but works fine with Windows ME/2000 and XP also. It is hard but not impossible to find drivers for Linux. I have used it with Linux but now I have it shared from a Windows XP Professional machine.
Installing in Windows XP and 2000 is simple. Plug in the power and the parallel cable and open the "Printers and Scanners" folder in Windows XP/2000. Click on "add a printer" and let Windows find the printer. Windows will detect and install the proper driver with only a click or two on "OK" then your done.
With Windows 95/98 and ME you will have to download the driver from the following URL.
Once you have obtained the driver, simply click on the file to launch the installation and follow the instructions. This takes about 5 minutes.
This printer is a workhorse. It has been in constant use for 7 years and still produces fine quality text. I would recommend any used printer be thoroughly checked by a qualified technician before buying because finding parts for older printers is very difficult at best. It's hard to find parts for new printers much less older ones. If you find one of these LaserJet 5L printers in working condition, it is most likely a good printer and will work for quite a while. Mine does great for my small business.
Thanks for reading,