The HP LaserJet Pro M501dn ($549.98) is a good choice as a mono laser printer to anchor a small or micro office. It has a strong feature set, good speed, high standard paper capacity, and above-par output quality, and is built to print in volume. It adds security features like password-protected printing from a keypad on the printer itself. The M501dn lacks the optional paper capacity of the Editors’ Choice Dell B3460dn but has better output quality, and earns an Editors’ Choice award in its own right.
Design and Features
Fairly compact for a mono laser, the M501dn measures 11.4 by 16.5 by 14.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 25.6 pounds—it would be at home on a spacious desk. The front panel has a two-line monochrome LCD, a two-way controller (up and down arrows with an OK button between them), and a numeric keypad for secure printing. A port in the back of the printer fits a USB thumb drive for storing print jobs that an authorized user can access by entering a password on the keypad.
The M501dn has a standard 650-sheet paper capacity, between a 550-sheet main tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose feeder, and includes an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. You can add a second optional 550-sheet tray, for a maximum capacity of 1,200 sheets. The printer has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 100,000 sheets, making it suitable for high-volume printing. The Dell B3460dn has the same maximum duty cycle and standard paper capacity, but with optional trays offers nearly twice the M501dn’s maximum paper capacity (2,300 sheets). The Dell Smart Printer S2830dn, also an Editors’ Choice, has a 350-sheet standard paper capacity and the same maximum duty cycle.
The printer offers USB and Ethernet connectivity, and can print from iOS and Android phones and tablets (it’s both AirPrint and Mopria Alliance compatible), provided they’re on the same Wi-Fi network as the printer. I tested the M501dn over an Ethernet connection with its driver installed on a PC running Windows 10.
The M501dn includes both PCL and PostScript drivers. Most businesses will do fine with just PCL, but some graphic arts firms, for example, will want a PostScript driver as well.
The M501dn averaged 47.1 pages per minute (ppm), in printing the text-only (Word) portion of our new business applications suite, a tad higher than HP’s rated speed for this printer. Its first-page-out time averaged 9 seconds. In printing our full business suite, which includes PDF, PowerPoint, and Excel files in addition to the aforementioned Word document, the M501dn averaged 22.7ppm. These speeds are all faster than what we saw with the Dell S2830dn, which we timed at 37.5ppm in simplex (single-sided) on the text-only parts of our tests and 21.6ppm in its default duplex mode, with a first-page-out time of 13 seconds and an average speed of 17.4ppm in simplex and 14.9ppm in duplex across our full test suite.
We can’t directly compare these results to those from printers tested on our old business applications suite, which included a higher percentage of complex, graphics-heavy documents, but based on points of similarity between the two tests—for example, both have a 4-page PDF file and a 4-page PowerPoint file—it’s clear that the M501 is fast for a mono laser all-in-one printer. On our old suite, which had a higher percentage of complex, graphics-heavy pages, we timed the Dell B3460dn at 15.3ppm, placing it among the fastest printers in its price range.
The M501dn’s output quality is above average for a mono laser, with average text quality, and slightly above-par graphics and photos. Fortunately, average text quality for a laser is still good enough for any use short of those requiring tiny fonts.
With graphics, the M501dn did well at resolving very thin lines in our tests, and distinguishing between gradients and zones of similar tone. I did notice some mild banding in a couple of illustrations. It did well for a mono laser in printing PowerPoint files. In the program’s default Grayscale mode for printing to a black-and-white printer, the backgrounds were dropped out to enhance text against a white background, which is often the case. When I switched to Color mode, the M501dn did better than most monochrome printers in showing detail in the background such as gradients. Photo prints were of a quality suitable for use in company newsletters, say. The only issue worth mention is that some black backgrounds looked slightly blotchy.
See How We Test Printers
Running costs of 1.6 cents per page for the M501dn, based on HP’s price and yield figures for its most economical toner cartridges, are on the low side for a mono laser in its price range, matching those of the Dell B3460dn.
The HP LaserJet Pro M501dn is a solid and likeable mono laser, with a winning combination of good speed, high-quality output, voluminous standard paper capacity, competitive running costs, and features like PCL and PostScript drivers, as well as password-protected printing. When the worst you can say of a printer is that although it has great standard paper capacity, it doesn’t have all the optional paper capacity of some competiitors, you’ve got a winner. The M501dn is our latest Editors’ Choice mono laser printer for medium- to heavy-duty printing in a small or micro office.