Government // Mobile & Wireless
Commentary
7/21/2010
01:34 PM
Lamont Wood
Lamont Wood
Commentary
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HP Officejet Pro 8500 Offers Interesting Features For SMBs

A review of this inkjet SOHO multi-function printer shows it can produce excellent hardcopy. It also offers large ink cartridges, duplex printing, and both LAN and wireless connectivity.

A review of this inkjet SOHO multi-function printer shows it can produce excellent hardcopy. It also offers large ink cartridges, duplex printing, and both LAN and wireless connectivity.Introduced last year, the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One printer had a list price of $399, which is a little steep for an inkjet multi-function (print, copy, scan, fax) unit, but its combination of features (double-sided printing, large ink cartridges, and wireless) may make it seem worth the price for many users. (Also, the street price is now less than $300.)

First (unlike many other inkjets) the ink cartridges actually have a significant amount of ink in them, with a rating of 2,200 pages for black ink and 1,400 pages for the color inks. That puts it in laser printer territory-with other inkjets you're lucky to get 450 pages. HP says the per-page ink price is about half that of laser printers. In any event, it's 1.6 cents per page for black and an additional 5.57 cents for the three colors combined.

The print quality is excellent, at 1,200 dots per inch for black and white, and 4,800 by 1,200 in color. With the right paper you can have magazine quality-when using the right print mode. But the selection of print mode effects throughput enormously.

Modes

There are three print modes, Best, Normal, and Draft. With text, I could not convince myself there was any difference between Best and Normal. Text in either mode was in a shiny, fully saturated black, comparable to laser printer output, but lacking the crisp, ironed quality that laser printers give to paper. Draft output was a dull black rather than a shiny black, but the difference was evident mostly in side-by-side comparisons.

The difference was more obvious with graphics. In Best mode the pictures were fully saturated, and were so wet with ink that ordinary office paper curled a little. In Normal mode there was no curl and there were hints of print-head artifacts (tiny horizontal white lines). In Draft mode the colors were somewhat faded and the artifacts were easy to spot.

The unit also has a duplex mode, allowing it to print on both sides of the paper, but using it has a big impact on throughput. That is because it prints one side of a sheet, partially expels it, waits for the ink to dry, rolls the sheet back in, reverses it, prints the other side, and expels it. It waits 30 seconds for the ink to dry in Best mode, about 15 seconds in Normal mode, and maybe 5 seconds in draft mode. So you have an added delay between every odd and even page.

You set Best/Normal/Draft and duplex modes using the printer properties option in your word processor. In duplex mode output is from the front of the document, stacked face-down in the correct order. In single-sided mode output begins with the last page and is stacked face-up in the correct order.

Throughput

I timed it with an actual presentation document that was 21 pages long with varying fonts and 27 small to medium-sized pictures, including maps and color photos. The results:

Best, double-sided, 14 minutes 10 seconds, Best, single-sided, 7 minutes 5 seconds. Normal, single-sided, 2 minutes 1 second. Draft, single-sided, 1 minute 8 seconds.

So using duplex mode halved the throughput and, overall, throughput varied by a factor of nearly 14. But, of course, you would only use the slowest mode on special occasions.

Other Features

The copy function worked fine, as did the scan function. There was also OCR function that that seemed fast and accurate, although I did not attempt it with odd fonts or columns. (The fax function was not tested.)

The unit is controlled by a 3x2-inch color touch-screen that goes dark after a period of non-use. Its messages were clear rather than cryptic. As is often the case with HP printers, the installation process left some large programs on my hard drive that I saw little use for.

But…

Besides the usual USB port, this model also had an Ethernet port and Wi-Fi capability. The wireless function drove up the price-the Officejet Pro 8500 without wireless costs $100 less. (Reportedly, the touch screen and document feeder are smaller, and the scanner bed is letter rather than legal size, on the model without wireless.) Wireless connectivity can be to a router as part of an office LAN, or point-to-point with a laptop.

Frankly, I tend to see wireless as an additional and often unnecessary potential point of failure, especially considering how reliable wires are. Also, using Wi-Fi to connect your printer to a LAN seems odd when the printer also has an Ethernet port. After all, it would be a more flexible arrangement to connect the printer to the LAN using the Ethernet port, and then put a wireless router on the LAN so that your laptop can use the printer plus anything else on the network (like an Internet gateway.)

The point-to-point arrangement would seem to offer more promise, as you could dispense with the LAN altogether. But a USB cable lets you do that, too.

But I'm just cranky because I never got any of the wireless features to work in the time available, a situation that may not the unconnected with simultaneous trouble with my new AT&T U-verse wireless router. I'll post an update if I ever do-but in the meantime, the USB cable has again proven to be simple, reliable, and adequate.

In Conclusion

The unit seemed well suited for a small office that regularly needs to produce updated, high-quality documents in low volumes. Its duplex printing function and large ink capacities means you can start printing in Best mode and go to lunch. By the time you get back, it should have finished, unattended, at least a couple dozen copies of your latest doubled-sided full-color sell sheet.

With almost any other desktop inkjet, you would be have to stay by it and correctly re-feed the sheets to get them printed on the other side, while wondering if the paltry ink supply would run out before you were through.

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