Another way that HP keeps size and cost down is by incorporating the two-ink cartridge bay into the middle section of the printer, as opposed to adding a completely separate drawer just for ink. Unfortunately, the printer pulls all of its color ink from a single cartridge--you don't get the cost-savings that individually replaceable inks provide. The driver keeps a rough estimate of the remaining ink left in each cartridge and displays it within the HP Solution Center included with the driver. In our testing experience, we found that the HP-901 model of black ink was barely large enough to accommodate our test prints, and we suspect that HP is guilty of bundling a "starter-pack" cartridge size in the box, since our tests don't demand a large amount of black ink. We're also surprised to see that the color cartridge remained almost full at the end of our sampling, despite printing a large amount of color photos.
As stated on the HP Web store, black cartridges cost $15 to replace and will yield approximately 200 pages, and tricolor cartridges costs $29 for 360 pages. You can also purchase an XL black cartridge for $32 that should last about 700; unfortunately, no XL tricolor cartridge is offered at the time of this review. By our cost-per-page calculations, you're looking at 7.5 cents for a page of standard black ink and 4.6 cents per color page, which is higher than the typical home office printer. To put it in context, we recently reviewed another HP printer, the HP Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One that came out to 2.4 cents per page of color and 4.3 cents per page of black--the J4680 will run you double to replace each. We won't go as far to suggest that HP is trying to pull a bait-and-switch tactic with the low price tag, but potential buyers should know that the more they print, the higher the ultimate cost of this printer.
We wish we could tell you that the output speed chart you see below for HP Officejet J4680 is a big mistake, that we messed up and will retest, but the fact of the matter is that the benchmarks are as painfully accurate as they are painfully slow. HP advertises the approximate page per minute speed is 28 pages per minute of black and 22 pages per minute of color, but none of the documents that we tested came even close to those numbers. The other printers on the comparison bench blew the J4680 out of the water, especially when printing photos--the J4680 didn't even break one 4x6 photo per minute, while the Epson Artisan 800 topped out at 2.82 pages in a minute. At this level, it's difficult to imagine an office that could afford to keep a printer this slow in-house.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Color Scanning||Photo Speed (1 sheet)||Color Graphics Speed||Presentation Speed||Color Text Speed|
The print quality is definitely the Officejet J6480's saving grace, especially considering the sluggish output speeds. The black text prints came out a rich, bold black with clear readability all the way down to 2-point text. Color text and graphics on standard 20-pound white paper look equally pleasing: equal saturation, sharp detail in fine lines, and accurate color representations especially in facial tones. Although some of the 4x6 photos could use a little warmth, most of the graphics we printed required no tweaking to produce a realistic feeling. In addition, the graphics preferences located on the driver can assist you in slight adjustments to saturation and hue, as well as eliminate red eye.
Service and support
The HP Officejet J4680 is backed by a limited one-year warranty. Troubleshooting is available by phone 24 hours a day and seven days a week; e-mails are typically answered within an hour, as well. The printer is also protected by HP's Total Care program that makes it easy to extend the limited warranty, report a problem, schedule a next-day exchange, and access an HP "SmartFriend" that can answer questions not covered by the manual or Web site.
Find out more about how we test printers.