Out of the box, the HP Deskjet 5850 offers a solid set of networking options--both wireless and otherwise--that will entice very small businesses that are looking for lovely, wireless photo printing. If it printed faster and produced a crisper, bolder, plain-paper text, the Deskjet 5850 might even do it for everyone. But as it is, folks who don't require wireless printing or an Ethernet-ready inkjet should look to the comparatively priced but faster.
The HP Deskjet 5850 is a long, low, wide printer with a downward-curving, darkly tinted, clear-plastic top cover reminiscent of a teletype machine. However, not only is the HP 5850 unlike any teletype machine ever made, it is also rare among inkjets for its out-of-the-box built-in networking and wireless printing capabilities.
After turning on the 5850, the wireless status light that bisects the 5850's cover glows blue, indicating that the printer is ready to receive and transmit data wirelessly. If the printer is connected to an Ethernet network, the blue light goes off, leaving the network icon light on the printer's lower-left side to continue glowing green. Next to the network icon are buttons, including the network-configuration page button, a print-cancel button, and the resume button.
To the right of the control buttons and protruding from the bottom center of the 5850 is the 150-sheet input tray and above that, the 50-sheet output tray. The output tray folds up, making it easy to load and change paper. An additional paper-input tray that holds 250 sheets may be purchased from HP for $79. An automatic two-sided print module, or duplexer, is also available for the 5850 from HP for $79.
At the back of the printer, on the right-hand side underneath the USB 1.0 and AC power ports, is an Ethernet port that has two tiny square lights immediately to its left. When the 5850 is connected to an Ethernet network, the bottom light, called the link light, glows green, and the upper light, known as the activity light, flashes on and off when the printer is receiving or transmitting data over the network.
The HP Deskjet 5850's most outstanding feature is its network capability. Designed for 802.11b wireless networks and compatible with 802.11g networks, the 5850 has a built-in Ethernet interface card. Additionally, the 5850 can be connected to an ad hoc or peer-to-peer network, and it is Macintosh compatible. Installed in a small office, the 5850 is capable of handling print jobs for up to five people at a time.
Setting up the 5850 and connecting it to a PC or a Mac via its USB cable (sold separately) was a simple affair in our tests, as was loading the software. Networking the printer to an Ethernet network was also easy. By following the directions in the setup guide, we simply plugged in one end of the supplied Ethernet cable to a network hub and watched the link and network icon lights on the printer light up. After we pressed the network configuration page button and found the printer's IP (Internet protocol) address, we loaded the printing software onto a networked computer and within minutes, printed a test page.
We also printed wirelessly to the HP 5850 from annotebook computer. Again following the instructions in the setup guide, this was mostly a matter of configuring the notebook's wireless network card, obtaining an IP address from the printer, then loading the HP printer software. If you're already familiar with your computer's wireless-connection functionality, you should have no trouble installing the Deskjet 5850 and printing to it wirelessly.
The 5850 comes with HP's Photo and Imaging Director, a software package for locating, enhancing, manipulating, printing, and e-mailing photos. Within the HP Photo and Image Gallery, there are options to make photo albums, burn images to CD-ROMs, and even create jewel-case covers. The print drivers are also comprehensive and include a range of image enhancements designed specifically for digital images.
The Deskjet 5850, for all its networking convenience, is a still middling printer, both in terms of print speed and print quality. In CNET Labs' tests, the 5850 produced 1.37 pages of plain-paper text per minute (ppm). While this is faster than the comparably priced Canon i900D's 1.6ppm speed, print speed for photos was not as good. The 5850 took 3.71 minutes to create an 8x10 photograph, 1 minute slower than the i900D's 2.71 minutes.
The 5850's text quality on plain paper was also only fair, showing up dark gray, rather than black and well saturated. The letters, however, showed clean, sharp edges. Text on coated inkjet paper, on the other hand, was overly saturated; letters were plenty black, but they bled a bit around the edges. Color graphics documents printed by the 5850 on plain paper appeared pale and wan, much like the text did. On coated paper, color documents looked darker, but some blacks contained the color green. Our test photo also showed a small amount of horizontal banding.
On a positive note, the 5850 excelled at printing photographs on photo paper. Color reproduction was perfectly balanced, with beautifully executed details and a nice, clear tone overall.
Inkjet printer text speed (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Pages per minute.|
Inkjet color-photo speed test (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Minutes per page.|
The HP Deskjet 5850 is covered by an industry-standard, one-year, limited hardware warranty. Free technical phone support is available toll-free from HP for one year, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday though Friday, MT.
HP's Web site provides copious technical assistance, including e-mail support, software and driver downloads, FAQs, links to online technicians via a chat application, and a support page dedicated exclusively to the 5850.
HP also includes a complete user guide on disc with the Deskjet 5850. The user guide contains an excellent getting-started section and a 16-item troubleshooting guide.