Hewlett Packard has been synonymous with ‘quality printers’ for decades, but these days a printer is not just a printer anymore. We expect more and more is what you get with the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus, a new multi-function machine and member of HP’s ePrint family. We reviewed it and found a stand-alone printing center that does not rely on a PC for its content tap. Let’s have a look…
FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS Typical Print Speed: 15 ppm black, 11 ppm color Max Print Speed: 35 ppm black, 34 ppm color Scan Resolution: Up to 4800 ppi Copy Resolution: Up to 1200x600 dpi Connectivity: USB 2.0, Ethernet, PictBridge, Wireless 802.11b/g/n, memory card slots Display: 4.3" CGD (color graphics), Touchscreen Paper Handling: 250-sheet input tray, 50 sheet ADF, optional 250-sheet input tray, 150-sheet output tray Monthly Page Volume: 250 to 1,250 pages Duty Cycle: Up to 15,000 pages Memory: 128 MB
The first thing you notice is that this printer looks great wherever you put it. Its shinny, black cover is chic and sexy. This certainly doesn’t look like your HP from the 90’s. It just looks like new technology and I find myself constantly wiping fingerprints off to keep it pretty; kind of like your favorite watch or shinny gadget. Its compact design is deceiving consider the full array of features such as printing, faxing, scanning, copying, duplexing, networking, wifi and apps. The printer is rather light in weight; that gave me a concern about build quality, but read on.
DESIGN AND BUILD
As I said, shinny, pretty…oohs and aahs all around. In terms of build quality, this printer is not build quite like the HPs of old. That is to say the older printers were generally heavier, bulkier and more solid. I’m not saying the new printer is flimsy but it just doesn’t seem as durable as the HPs of the 80s and 90s. In that way it can be compared to today’s automobiles vs. the cars of yesteryear; today they are faster, sleeker, sexier but they are not built to last forever. A large, color, touchscreen that looks like an iPhone found itself a permanent home on this printer, is the command center for this beast. This enables computer-less printing of photos and documents from a flash card, scan to email or network as well as a growing array of apps that bring you tons of additional ink-hungry content.SETUP Installing the ink cartridges and print heads is a breeze. Power it up the first time and you will have to wait for an initialization process that takes as long as an extended coffee break. While the printer is initializing you could download and install the latest driver suite (installing from the outdated CD that is included is not recommended). The driver installation is rather simple, most following defaults. During the software setup, the folks at HP and Microsoft were kind enough to offer the installation of a free “HP Bing Bar” which was selected by default; no thank you! The software package also includes fax and scanning modules as well as Marketsplash ; a cool, free service from HP. Setting up for WiFi was very painless. The printer found our SSID [among several others] instantly and connected very quickly [once the WEP key was entered]. The wireless signal was very strong at roughly 30 feet away from the router. The entire setup, initialization, alignment process and ePrint account creation took around 20 minutes. Setting up ePrint services was quick and simple. ePrint
HP's new ePrint enabled printers [including this 8500A MFP] connect to the Internet, enabling some cool new benefits. With ePrint you can print from anywhere, from virtually any email-enabled device, simply by sending an email to your printer's email address. That’s right, print from your smart phone, tablet, laptop or anything you can use to send/forward an email, no special software required. EPrint also lets you download and install apps that give your printer instant access to printable web content [no PC required]. There is a growing number of apps that let you access and print news, weather reports, arts & crafts for kids, recipes, local coupons and even Google docs. Through HP ePrintCenter you can monitor your printer status and history, add and remove apps, manage ePrint settings and security from any Web browser. Creating an ePrint Center account is an easy, friendly endeavor. Each printer you add to the account has a unique ID code that acts as an email address directly to your printer [for example: [email]uniqueID@hpeprint.com[/email]]. Just send an email to that address and viola, your email message, along with any attachments, are printed in seconds. The HP ePrint service currently supports attachments of PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Oulook files; image files (BMP, JPEG, PNG, GIF and TIFF); as well as HTML and text files (.TXT). There is a limit of 10 attachments with 5 MB total per email.
Look Mom, no PC! Printing a photo directly from USB or flash disk is easy and quick. Basic editing is built in (such as crop, red eye, color effects). You can arrange and print an album right from the touchscreen as well. Layout options are limited but the outcome is pretty nice and fast.
As always, printing from a computer gives you the broadest set of options. The Windows driver opens up a wide array of settings and options that allow you to get a printout very quickly or customize your print jobs with detailed specificity.
The quality and speed of printing on this MFP is no joke. At 15ppm for black and 11ppm for color prints at the normal setting, it is comparable with many laser printers. It can achieve up to a blazing 35ppm at draft quality but it also slows to several minutes per page for a maximum quality photo print. Plain text is sharp and clear, and color images have a nice, rich contrast [depend on paper type]. This true MFP comes with a built-in duplexer for painless two-sided printing.
If there is one habit this printer has that cannot go unnoticed it is the automatic head cleaning that occurs periodically. The screen suddenly displays “Cleaning print head…” then “Checking printer. This process might take several minutes…” – it typically only takes several seconds. HP’s explanation for this is that this printer automatically services the print heads periodically in order to prevent degraded print quality from clogged nozzles. Servicing happens sometimes after printing and when the power on the printer is cycled. Laser printers and competing inkjet printers also do this type of servicing.
This Officejet is also supported by AirPrint which allows you to print wirelessly from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The app is free and also easy to use. It currently works from iBooks, Mail, Photos, and Safari. SCANNING The scanning capabilities of the 8500A Plus are a treat. Besides the common features one can expect from a color desktop scanner, this MFP also supports remote network scanning, scan to PC and scan to email. The flatbed section sports a generous 8.5” x 14” (legal size) glass and scans at up to 4800dpi. The Automatic Document Feeder (or ADF) also supports legal size sheets, will scan at a limit of 600dpi, and it can scan both sides of a sheet in one action [yes, McFly, it’s a scan duplexer!]. Scans can be saved as PDF, JPEG, TIFF, BMP, PNG or an editable text file such as .TXT or .RTF (via OCR).
Scan to PC allows you to set scanning parameters from the printer’s touchscreen and send the file directly to a PC on the same network (software must be installed and activated). If 8500A’s power is cycled or it temporarily loses network connection Scan to PC becomes deactivated and you must re-activate it from the PC before you can scan again. I find that a bit annoying; no reason it shouldn’t reconnect and reactivate automatically when the printer comes back online.
Scan to Email is another great feature commonly found on those big office print centers. It basically does what it says; allows you to scan a document directly into an email attachment and send it off right from the MFP’s touchscreen.
Traditional scanning from your PC can be done via USB or LAN. All typical features mentioned above are available in addition to custom scanning templates and tweakable settings. During our evaluation we found that once a scan is started, then cancelled midway through, the screen was stuck on “Scan cancelled” for about 3-4 minutes. We’re not sure why it takes so long to simply stop a scanning process; that can be improved.
The 8500A also allows you to scan documents directly onto a USB drive or flash card via the built-in USB/memory card drive; once again making a computer unnecessary.COPYING
This multi-function device is a copying champion as well. It easily handles two-sided copying thanks to the ADF and duplexer. Two sides copying comes with a choice to combine two, single-sided pages into double-sided documents or divide double-sided documents into single-sided pages. That can prove to be very useful. As expected from HP, there are ‘copy enhancements’ such as HP Copy Fix, which helps correct and improve the output quality when copying from low-quality originals. Load up some photo paper and you can make instant photo copies. One more useful feature worth mentioning is Margin Shift. This allows you to shift the margin of a copied document to allow for notes and corrections along the margins.
Faxing can be done in black & white or color at 200dpi. The ADF steps in and allows for two-sided document faxing. Caller ID enabled lines can benefit from the built-in junk barrier feature. Through the HP software suite included you can send fax jobs to the 8500A right from a computer (print-to-fax style sending). The built-in fax memory allows up to 100 pages to be stored on send or receive. All of the fax features and settings can be managed via the HP software suite or via a web browser, by entering the printer’s IP address. There you can define settings to blocking fax spam numbers, speed-dialing, fax forwarding [yes, have your faxes follow you when you are not by your 8500A], and one other useful feature; Fax-to-Email, a feature that allows you to save ink and paper by sending incoming faxes to a network folder or email address instead of printing them.
Ink cartridges cost around $20 for each of the three colors (cyan, yellow, magenta) and around $25 for black. Each of the standard-capacity color cartridges yield roughly 900 pages; that’s roughly $0.02 per page. The standard-capacity black ink cartridge yields around 1000 pages; that’s roughly two and a half cents (US) per page. HP also makes large capacity [XL] cartridges that bring your printing costs down below 2-cents per page. The only other cost to consider is that of $60 for replacement printheads. You might think that is a negative thing but I’m here to tell you it’s not. You see, many printers do not have user-replaceable printheads; which means if they get clogged, wear out or go bad, you are stuck having to pay for a costly, professional repair or replace the whole printer. Normally, you would not need to replace a printhead for a long time, especially since this printer maintains and cleans its own printeheads.THE OTHER 8500A's There are two other versions of the 8500A printer (besides the "8500A Plus" we tested); those are the standard "8500A" and the "8500A Premium" - so what's the difference?
- costs $179 ($70 less than our model)
- sports a smaller screen: 2.36 inches instead of 4.3"
- has less memory: 64MB instead of 128MB
- has a smaller scanner flatbed: 8.5 x 11 inches instead of 8.5 x 14"
The 8500A Premium
- costs $299 ($50 more than our model)
- includes an additional 250 sheet input tray
- that's it!
The "Plus" model we tested is the most popular of the 8500A family and for good reason, bang4buck!
If you are looking for a do-it-all printer for your home or small office the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus should be a top choice. At below $300, this super center of productivity brings a world of new uses to your fingertips. It can be argued that there are more capable multi-function printers out there, but certainly not at this price. Leaving the PC at the office, all you need is smartphone and a tablet, the 8500A fills in the rest of that void. Whether you are entering an email address, editing and printing a photo from an SD card or using the weather app, the large screen with iPhone-style QWERTY on-screen keyboard makes it easy to command your MFP. The 8500A Plus looks like an expensive printer but it isn't. We really like the growing number of ePrint apps that are available, with support from MSNBC, Disney, Coupons.com, USA Today, PBS and Google Docs to name a few. This printer hit the market at around $400 and at that price I would still consider buying it. Though recently, HP reduced the price substantially, making this product extremely attractive. Win!