HP OfficeJet 5610
The HP OfficeJet 5610 multifunction fits the bill for a home office, although you'll have to compromise on performance and convenience. This $150, do-everything device can scan, copy, print photos and other documents, and send and receive faxes. Unfortunately, it prints slowly and delivers mixed output quality. Digital photo enthusiasts should consider a multifunction printer with memory-card slots and better output quality, such as the or the pricier Canon MP760. If your home office demands business-class features but doesn't need color, consider a grayscale laser multifunction printer instead, such as the . The tan and brown HP OfficeJet 5610 looks serious and fits a bundle of features into its 18-by-16-by-9-inch (WDH) shell. However, this model gives short shrift to some basic features. For instance, the output tray sits on top of the input tray, so you'll have to remove completed prints and lift the tray out before adding or changing paper. With some HP printers, you can tilt up the output tray and lock it into place but not so with the 5610. Also, the scanner lid doesn't detach to make room for scanning or copying large documents. This printer can work with black, ordinary color and photo inks, but because it holds only two of them at a time, you'll have to swap the black and photo ink tanks when you switch between printing photos and text documents. The cartridge slot is narrow and deep, a tough reach for short or fat fingers.
The control panel of the HP OfficeJet 5610 conveniently divides fax and copy functions into separate areas, although the 16-by-2-character LCD lacks backlighting. Still, it's a breeze to use the menus, and each mode has its own button for making selections related to printing, scanning, and copying. At the end of each function's menu, you can lock in the current settings as defaults. A general Preferences menu lets you configure some basics that most multifunction printers do not allow, such as the speed that text scrolls across the LCD and how long the system waits for you to respond to prompts. Next to a numeric keypad are five buttons for one-touch speed-dial numbers and a label space for writing and saving commonly faxed numbers. The copy function has separate buttons for black and color, so the simplest copy requires only one button push. The HP OfficeJet 5610 prints, scans, photocopies, and faxes, but the lack of memory-card slots prevents you from using it as a stand-alone printer. Much of this machine's capabilities rely on HP's included software (for Windows 98 or later and Mac OS 10.2.8 and up). HP's scanning utility can autocorrect color on faded originals and remove scratches and dust specks. You can manually apply settings to lighten or darken the scan and to control the color saturation. The HP Image Zone utility, a combination photo archiver and photo-album designer, offers tools for editing and applying special effects. However, we recommend that you not clutter your hard drive by installing this large app if you already have photo-editing software. Using a free software download, you can scan pages and convert them to text via optical character recognition (OCR). HP also provides software for faxing documents from your computer, though the 5610 can't receive digital faxes and park them on the computer.
Although it won't print photos without your computer, the 5610 can accomplish a number of other stand-alone tasks. You can send faxes immediately or delay them; you can enter a forwarding number for incoming faxes; and the 5610 can do poll faxing--that is, call another fax machine to request a waiting document. The HP OfficeJet 5610 prints reports so that you'll know if your faxes are going astray, and it has caller ID, a junk-fax barrier, and distinctive-ring-detection features.
HP ships the OfficeJet 5610 with a standard-size black-ink cartridge and a tricolor cartridge. The $25 photo ink doesn't come in the box. The standard-size black cartridge costs $18, and HP says that it will last 220 pages, or a steep 8.2 cents per page. A high-capacity black cartridge, good for an estimated 450 pages, costs $20, or a more palatable 4.4 cents per page.