I'll confess that I was completely taken aback when I received the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus for review some time back. Either I have been completely out of the printer scene or HP has made a massive jump when it comes to printing. I'd like to think the latter as the sheer number of features this all-in-one supports is over-whelming to say the least.
Packaged nicely in a not-too-big of a box, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus comes with everything except the paper to get you started. You have four ink cartridges (CMYK), two print heads and a duplexer for double-sided printing along with the main printer. A drivers CD as well as a quick start guide is also included.
Putting the printer together is fairly easy and shouldn't take more than ten minutes as long as you follow the guide. HP has done a good job of explaining the process. Once the printer is assembled, you plug it in and it takes another 20 or so odd minutes to initialize everything. This is a one time process.
I'm not sure how to say this, but the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus is a pretty good looking printer. You might wonder how good can a boxy device that chews paper out can look but with its slick black paint job and a big touchscreen LCD, its definitely one that you wouldn't think of intentionally hiding which is something I’ve done with most printers in the past.
Using the printer is mainly done through its touch screen which seems capacitive in nature. I am saying that purely on my experience with its finger-friendliness. I was easily able to select options as well as input email addresses and passwords. The main menu has options to copy, fax, scan and access apps while the sides on the screen have navigation keys for home and moving left and right.
Once you have your HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus connected to your computer, you can very easily scan documents to a folder on the computer or email them right away from the printer itself. I tested the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus on a Mac and setting it up was a breeze. The printer was available on the network as well as a bonjour device. Once installed, the HP control panel lets you control all aspects of the device.
Alternatively, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus also has a web server built-in and you can access that through almost any modern browser. The web server is quite rich in functionality allowing you to scan and fax documents as well as check supply levels and change settings. In fact, you can pretty much get away without installing a native app to access the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus on your computer- all you need is the driver and the web server can pretty much do the rest. For offices this is great as its one less piece of software to manage across their computers.
As I mentioned earlier, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus is loaded as far as features are concerned. Starting off, you can connect it to your computer through a USB cable or just put the printer directly on your network using a wired or a wireless connection. The front has a USB input as well as a card reader that you can directly print pictures from. While the USB/SD cards let you print pictures directly, it would've been nice if you could have also printed Word docs or PDF files from removable media.
The duplexer lets you handle double sided printing as well and the way it works is that the printer prints the first page, sucks the paper back and then prints on the back side. There is a bit of a wait between printing the front side and then sucking the paper back in to allow the ink to dry otherwise you'd end up with a smudged output. Double-sided printing works either by issuing a print command from your computer or using the copy function on the printer. The latter option does not support legal sized documents though.
The above mentioned features are somewhat standard on many printers- what does set the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus apart is its web connectivity. When you have the printer connected to an Internet-enabled network, it acquires an email address and printing to it is as easy and sending an email to that address. To set this up, your printer needs to have its Web services enabled and I ran into a problem doing just that. My router was blocking the ports required for the printer to connect online and once I enabled these ports (80, 443, 5222, 5223), I was all set.
I tested this out by sending a PDF file as an attachment to the email address of my printer. I immediately got a confirmation reply back that the email was received and was being sent to the printer. A minute later the printer starting printing the six page PDF document I had sent to it. Very impressive. Also supported by the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus is Apple’s AirPrint technology that allows you to print something from your iOS device without the need of installing any drivers. This also worked flawlessly as I printed a picture from my iPad.
The last and possibly the most interesting feature about HP’s web connect service is its ability to support apps. That's right folks, your printer now has an app store that can do things like printing Sudoko puzzles to accessing your Google docs account to view or print any of your documents or scan and upload. Since I use Google docs for all work, including writing this article, logged on to my account using the printer and printed it out once the document was closed. Again, very impressive. Other apps included on the printer are Tabloid, Yahoo! and Dreamworks that has activity guides and coloring papers- stuff that my daughters would go apes over.
Once you get over the sheer number of features that the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus supports, you can get down to its print quality and speed. I found the printer’s speed to be average as far as inkjet printers are concerned which is a bit slower than using laserjet. I didn’t conduct any timer based tests, but I could tell that as the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus replaced my Samsung Color Laser Jet. HP claims the speed of the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus to be at 19ppm at normal mode for both black and color 15/11ppm in high quality mode.
Quality-wise, their is nothing to complain. In fact, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus printed color pictures better than my Samsung LaserJet. The ink dries really fast as well reducing any chances of smudging and HP claims that the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus can last you longer than an average toner on a laser. I didn’t get a chance to test this out as that would have involved quite a lot of printing but the following is a screenshot of remaining ink after printing 70 pages which included a mixture of full paper sized pictures, lots of documents, some presentations and some test/demo pages.
Generally, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus worked quite well but there were a few things that could be easier. For example, I had to struggle every time I used an paper size that was not as wide as an A4- such as 4x6 or 3x7 photo papers. The printer would not recognize any paper and I had to keep on removing and shoving the papers back in until it finally did so. Also, double sided printing of ID cards on a single page is a supported feature that I have yet to figure out.
Priced at AED 1,445 (US$395), the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus is a tour-de-force as far as printers are concerned. The number of features it supports makes owning a PC connected to it purely optional. With web apps, an email address, AirPrint and direct scanning and emailing of documents, I don’t think that can compete with the 8500A on features. Add to that the good quality of printing and the reduced ink usage and you have one heck of a printing device. I say printing device because calling it a printer would be an insult to the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus.