HP’s Neverstop Laser 1001nw ($279.99) is the standalone, print-only version of the Editors’ Choice Neverstop Laser MFP 1202w reviewed here a few weeks back. After its all-in-one sibling, the Neverstop 1001nw is the second bulk-toner or cartridge-free laser printer to pass through our labs. Like HP’s bulk-ink Smart Tank Plus inkjets, as well as other discount-ink printers such as Epson’s EcoTank and Canon’s MegaTank models, Neverstop laser printers deliver some of the lowest running costs in the business. That key fact, plus a decent feature set and overall good print quality, make the 1001nw a terrific value for homes, small offices, and workgroups that need to print and copy 500 to 2,500 monochrome pages each month. As the first cartridgeless single-function laser, it also earns our Editors’ Choice nod for an entry-level monochrome laser printer.
Neverstop: HP’s Low-Page-Cost Laser Tech
As mentioned, the 1001nw is one of two Neverstop machines that HP has released recently, the other being the Neverstop Laser MFP 1202w all-in-one (print, copy, scan) model. The real news is that these printers don’t require big, bulky, and expensive toner cartridges. As Epson, Canon, and HP have done with bulk-ink inkjet technology, HP has done away with the disposable, wasteful toner housing and slashed the per-page cost of consumables.
Instead of buying and swapping out a cartridge each time the printer runs out of toner, with Neverstop, you fill a bin inside the machine from a replacement kit that holds toner for approximately 2,500 prints. The process takes just a few seconds.
Another advantage, and hence the name Neverstop: As I said about the MFP 1202w, unlike traditional cartridge machines that go out of service until an empty cartridge is replaced, the reservoir inside the printer actually holds 5,000 pages worth of toner. When half of that is gone, an indicator on the right side of the face of the unit tells you that it’s time to add another replacement kit, allowing you to take the yield back to 5,000. (You can inject the refill any time after the printer reaches the halfway mark, of course.)
If you don’t allow that last 2,500 pages to run dry, the printer never runs out of toner. Perhaps more important, though, is that the refill kit costs only a fraction as much as the average 2,500-page toner cartridge, making stocking a few of them a much less costly proposition. We’ll talk a little more about the economics in a moment.
At 8.3 by 15 by 11.6 inches (HWD) and weighing 15.4 pounds, the 1001nw is compact and light for a laser printer. It’s a few inches shorter in height and depth than (and about 5 pounds lighter than) the Canon imageClass LBP226dw, another PCMag favorite, but it’s a little bigger and heftier than the Epson EcoTank ET-M1170, an inkjet-based “laser alternative” model and yet another PCMag Editors’ Choice. Another, much beefier inkjet laser alternative from Epson, the WorkForce Pro WF-M5299, dwarfs all these other competitors by several inches in all directions, and weighs more than twice as much as the HP.
Since all it does is print, the 1001nw doesn’t require much of a control panel, and, as you can see in the image below, you don’t get much of one…
From this somewhat spartan control panel located on the top left side of the chassis, you can perform walk-up and configuration tasks (setting security options, and so forth). Or you can use the built-in web portal accessible from virtually any browser, including your smartphone’s or tablet’s.
An ungainly tradeoff for the low toner costs is the lack of support for automatic duplex (two-sided) printing. In other words, you must flip your documents by hand and reload them into the paper tray to print the second sides. For printers at this price point, laser or otherwise, automatic two-sided printing is standard fare, and often critical to small-business printing. All three of the competitors mentioned above support auto-duplexing.
Standard connectivity consists of Ethernet, Wi-Fi network, or connecting the Neverstop 1001nw to a single PC via USB 2.0. You can also use Wi-Fi Direct to connect your mobile device, peer-to-peer, to the printer, without either the printer or the handheld device being on the same network.
Other mobile options include Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, HP Smart App (a cross-platform desktop and mobile driver and value-added interface), Mopria, and HP Smart Tasks. That last is a collection of customizable workflow profiles, such as for scanning with your smartphone or printing from specific cloud sites, that you access from customizable shortcuts inside HP Smart App.
The 1001nw’s paper capacity is 150 sheets, the smallest of the other machines (except the Neverstop Laser MFP 1202w) discussed here, with the Canon and Epson ET-M1170 both rated at 250 sheets and the Epson WF-M5299 capable of holding up to 330 sheets expandable to 830.
The 1001nw’s maximum monthly duty cycle is 20,000 pages, with a monthly suggested print volume of 2,500 prints. Among the printers discussed here so far, that beats the Epson ET-M1170 by 18,000 maximum and 1,000 suggested, while the Epson WF-M5299 is rated at a 25,000-page greater maximum with the same suggested volume. The Canon imageClass LBP266dw also touts a suggested volume of 2,500 prints; Canon hasn’t published a maximum duty cycle for that AIO.
As I explained in my Neverstop 1202w review a few weeks ago, one reason that laser printer toner comes in cartridges is that it’s such an unruly substance. It’s ultra-fine, light, and clingy—and messy and hard to clean up if it gets loose. The cartridges are needed to keep the stuff separated and flowing smoothly. To have its customers fill their own printers required HP to come up with a system that doesn’t allow any of that black powdery dust to escape into the air or onto the printer, the human body, or clothing.
Unlike the ink bottles used to fill the reservoirs of bulk-ink printers, where users simply upend them and let gravity do the rest, the Neverstop’s syringe-like refill is designed to force or plunge the toner down into the bin through a sealed hatch on the right side of the chassis.
The procedure goes like this. Shake the reload kit container, open the hatch on the printer, turn the center portion of the reload container 180 degrees (which in turn opens a second hatch door and makes an airtight seal), and then press swiftly and forcefully down on the top piece or plunger to force the contents down into the onboard reservoir. It really is a swift and foolproof procedure, with little to no chance of clouds of black dust billowing out of the hatch.
A Bit More Speed, Please
HP rates the 1001nw at 21 pages per minute (ppm). That’s a bit slow for a laser printer; Canon’s imageClass LBP226dw, for example, is rated at 40ppm. I timed the Neverstop over Ethernet from our standard Intel Core i5 testbed running Windows 10 Pro. It churned out our 12-page Microsoft Word text document at the rate of 22.8ppm. That’s 19.7ppm slower than the Canon; 1.5ppm faster than the Epson ET-M1170; and 21.6ppm slower than the Epson WF-M5299. (See how we test printers.)
For the next portion of my testing regimen, I printed our collection of complex Adobe Acrobat business documents, Excel spreadsheets and graphs, and PowerPoint handouts containing various graphics and fonts of different types, sizes, and colors. Then I combined these results with those from printing the text document and came up with an overall score of 13.2ppm.
Here, the Neverstop fared much better. That score is 0.8ppm faster than the imageClass LBP226dw, 3.1ppm faster than the ET-M1170, and only 11.8ppm slower than the WF-M5299. In other words, the 1001nw outperformed most of these other competitors, especially the Epson ET-M1170, due mostly, I suspect, to that model’s relatively low 64MB of RAM.
Overall, the Neverstop printed our sample text files about as well as most other laser printers I’ve tested lately, though it did struggle some with the grayscale charts and graphs I threw at it. Text, for example, came out well-shaped and highly legible down to the smallest font we test (4 points). The 1001nw also converted highly colorful and detailed images embedded in our Acrobat brochures, PowerPoint handouts, and Excel spreadsheets to grayscale and in turn printed not-half-bad black-and-white photos.
I did come across, however, a few areas where the printer had trouble reproducing some darker gradients and a few background fills. Occasionally, instead of evenly flowing shades or solid fills, I saw some banding or areas where toner wasn’t distributed uniformly. While grayscale photos printed a little better, they, too, displayed occasional toner-distribution flaws, though none of these imperfections rendered my prints unusable.
Let’s be clear, though: If you’re looking for impressive graphics and photos, an entry-level monochrome laser should not be on your short list in the first place.
Laser Prints for a Song
Prior to Neverstop, you’d be hard pressed to find an entry-level laser printer with running costs anywhere near a penny per page. Typically, between about 2.5 and 4 cents would be the best you could do. HP’s Neverstop machines print for 0.3 cent per page. If you turn out several hundred prints every month, a difference of 2 or 3 cents per page is significant.
And larger print appetites mean more significant savings. If you print the 1001nw’s recommended 2,500 pages per month at a difference of 3 cents per page versus the competition, that’s a savings of $75 per month, or $900 per year—enough to buy three Neverstop printers.
Most monochrome laser printers, especially entry-level models, deliver running costs at least three times higher than that of Neverstop models. The Canon LBP226dw, at 1.1 cent per page, is an exception. I can list several, such as the Brother HL-L2370DW, the Lexmark B2236dw, and the Xerox B205, with running costs well over 2 cents per page.
Epson’s EcoTank ET-M1170, on the other hand, also delivers pages at 0.3 cent apiece, making it a good value when laser (toner) output is not required.
Making Laser Output More Affordable
My two complaints about the Neverstop line in general so far is that the printers don’t support auto-duplex printing, which is a nuisance at best, and the print quality is not quite up to the level of HP’s LaserJet family of printers. This is not to say that print quality is poor; it’s not, but I’ve seen HP do better. I suspect that taming the toner to behave well and sit for long periods in that internal reservoir without undue clumping probably required some reconstituting. Output is just fine for this machine’s placement in the marketplace.
The bottom line is, if you plan to print and copy hundreds of pages each month (up to a couple of thousand) and require laser toner output, few printers on the market will serve you as inexpensively over the long run as the Neverstop 1001nw. That earns it our latest top pick among entry-level monochrome printers for home/small offices and workgroups.
[Editors’ Note: We tweaked this review on July 4, 2020, to reflect the presence of Ethernet connectivity.]