The $200 HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One printer is an updated version of the Officejet Pro 8500 multifunction, which I lauded for swift print speeds and an intuitive 3.4-inch touch screen. The next iteration builds on that design, and the Officejet Pro 8600 gets a performance makeover from the inside out with improvements to the speed of the print engine, the texture of the 2.65-inch color touch screen, and a sleeker chassis that pushes the control panel to the far right side. The device also takes printing to the cloud with ePrint and an accompanying iOS app, making the Officejet Pro 8600 an impressively resourceful printer. I recommend it for home offices and professional environments that need a dependable workhorse printer.
Design and features
The Officejet Pro 8600 printer strips away the glossy veneer of the past and replaces it with a modern matte paint job that does its best to hide dust and fingerprints. It has a professional look that should easily fit into in any office or home decor, though at 11.8 inches tall, 19.4 inches wide, and 18.1 inches deep, you'll need to clear a sizable amount of space to fit its large chassis. Still, it's slightly smaller than the other two printers in the line, the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus and the beefy Officejet Pro 8600 Premium. All three models have two indented handles on the sides that make them easier to transport, though you won't want to move any of them on a daily basis.
A single 250-sheet input tray protrudes 4 inches out of the front of the Officejet and a 50-page automatic document feeder (ADF) resides on top. You won't find a manual feed tray in the center console like you would on a laser printer, which you might find irritating if you print on irregular media like heavy cardstock or nonstandard envelope sizes. If that's important to you, I recommend the HP LaserJet Pro 100 Color MFP, a capable HP laser printer with similar all-in-one scanner, copier, and printer functionality.
If the Pro 8600's paper input capacity is insufficient, the Premium model includes an extra 250-sheet paper tray, an additional set of ink cartridges worth $60, and a 50-sheet pack of HP Premium Glossy Brochure paper, priced for $14 in Hewlett-Packard's online retail store. By upgrading to the step-up Premium package, you'll save about $50 on your overall cost of consumables, and I recommend taking advantage of these savings up front if you plan to print lots of photos or graphic documents.
If you're shopping on a budget and don't need a 4.3-inch display, the Officejet Pro 8600 costs $100 less than the Premium model thanks to its smaller 2.65-inch screen. The onscreen interface is the same, however, and you'll still get access to light photo edits, ePrint, and the standard print, copy, scan, and fax functions. Typing characters on the QWERTY keyboard resulted in more goofs on the smaller screen, but I couldn't tell the difference after some practice and precision tapping.
This updated screen also has less mushy play between the outward-facing screen and the hard registration pad below it, so you're less likely to mistakenly press a button. The screen still isn't perfect--some of the onscreen features required me to repeatedly push the corresponding virtual icon until the action finally registered. With no way to recalibrate the screen in the settings page, you're in for a frustrating experience until the printer gets what you're trying to do.
In addition to using a direct USB connection (like most vendors, HP does not include a USB cable with the printer), you can set up the Officejet Pro 8600 on your network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. I tested the Wi-Fi connection and found the process was easy: using the printer's touch screen, I navigated through a few setup screens to find our network, quickly entered its password using the virtual QWERTY keyboard, and established a connection within a minute. Macs and PCs alike on our network were able to see the printer without any additional software being installed.
Once you connect the printer to a wireless network, you can use HP's AirPrint feature to print from any iOS device without an additional application. Using AirPrint, you can print out a photo from your iPhoto library by simply choosing the connected printer and hitting Print. You can't adjust any print properties, however; and ourtest photo printed with a portion missing on both letter-size paper and 4x6-inch photo paper.
In addition to AirPrint, the Officejet Pro 8500A features HP's ePrint technology, which enables you to send jobs from any connected device to the printer using a uniquely assigned e-mail address. You can find this address using the control panel (Wireless > Web Services > Display Email). It's a convenient feature, to be sure, but it comes with a few restrictions. For one, the printer must be on and also connected to your network. Also, it can't print Web pages, although you can simply copy and paste the text into a document as a workaround.