The HP Officejet Pro 8500 wireless all-in-one inkjet printer is a near-perfect solution for small businesses and home offices hunting for a device that can print, scan, fax, copy in record time, all with high-quality results. This printer sets the bar high in terms of all the features it manages to pack into a relatively small footprint: autoduplexing, 802.11b/g, a 3.45-inch touch screen, 50-sheet automatic document feeder, and a legal-size scanner are only some of the extras this machine has to offer. Some will balk at the $399 price tag, but spend half an hour with the Pro 8500 and we're sure you'll want one of your own.
Design and features
The Pro 8500 is the HP Officejet J6480's older, more accomplished brother. The larger capacity paper trays actually make it larger than the J6480, measuring a meaty 19.45 inches wide by 18.86 inches deep and 13.03 inches tall. Most of the bulk is because of the built-in features including the autoduplexer, 50-sheet automatic document feeder, and legal-size scanner bay, all of which contribute to the footprint, which isn't so unwieldy when you consider the average size of a heavy-duty color all-in-one laser.
Like the J6480 and other HP printers in the Officejet line, the Pro 8500 retains the matte white and gray panels with a glossy black cockpit in the center that blends easily into a variety of decors. The center console is neatly organized with a 3.45-inch color LCD touch-screen display right in the middle. Although competitive devices like the Brother MFC-990CW do have larger screens, bigger isn't always necessarily better; in this case, HP proves the rule with a highly functional, easy-to-use heads-up display. The home screen shows all of the most commonly used option menus including Copy, Fax, Scan, and Photo preferences, a quick setup menu, and a graphical gauge that shows you almost precisely how much ink you have left in the tanks.
The rest of the front panel has a full telephone keypad for typing in fax numbers, a collection of quick access fax and copy buttons, a "Digital Filing Networking Folder" button that lets you scan and manage your images over a network, and a general "E-mail" button for one-touch scan delivery. Finally, the bottom of the front panel also has an external card reader that supports PictBridge USB, xD, Memory Stick, SD, and Compact Flash.
HP gives you the option to pair the Pro 8500 to a host computer in three ways: over a network with the built-in Ethernet port, direct connection through a USB 2.0 cord, and through 802.11 b/g networking. We followed the onscreen instructions and successfully paired the printer with our desktop computer in less than 10 minutes. From there, we connected satellite computers to the printer by simply installing the driver onto the other desktops. The process of setting up a wireless network with your printer is typically a painful process, requiring special network configurations and system changes, but the Pro 8500 slowly guides you through the setup with onscreen instructions that we found easy to follow and troubleshoot.
The large 250-sheet input drawer is fixed into the machine, but the top comes off for when it comes time to refill your media. In addition, you can extend the tray outward to accommodate A4 and legal-size paper and it also has an arm to corral loose prints; we liked that the tray doesn't come out of the machine and is made of a sturdy plastic, but we found ourselves wishing for the dual photo and letter-size paper tray that we loved so dearly on the HP Photosmart C8180. We understand that few businesses will print more photos than straight text and presentations, but at this price point, a more versatile tray would have been nice.
If you expect to print an astronomical number of documents, HP also sells an optional 250-sheet input tray for $80 that fits directly underneath the printer. The top of the printer houses a 50-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning and/or copying, and a small autoduplexer installs in the rear for double-sided printing. Finally, since this printer is aimed at the business market, the duty cycle runs up to 15,000 pages per month, which should be more than enough to satiate any small- to medium-size business.
In addition to the drivers, the Pro 8500 also ships with HP's Photosmart Essential and Solution Center software. The former helps your import, organize, edit, and share your digital photos, and the latter helps you fax and scan documents as well as order additional supplies to use with your printer. The printer draws ink from four individual cartridges and two print heads that house an additional two colors. We used HP's XL print cartridges that offer the best deal and found that a full page of black-only ink will cost 1.6 cents per page and 1.9 cents per color; both costs are well under the 3 cents per page average by today's modern printing standards.