We can't accuse the HP Business Inkjet 2800 of sizeism; this hulk prints everything from 4x6-inch postcards to 13x19-inch posters--an excellent asset for a small office that needs to make technical drawings, brochures, and newsletters. But given that the model we reviewed, the 2800, is so bare-bones, we think you'll ultimately get a better deal with the 2800dt model, which has a double-sided printing function and an extra paper tray, or the 2800dtn, which includes an integrated Ethernet print server. If you buy one of these souped-up versions, it will dwarf the price of a small, sub-$500 color laser printer, and although the 2800 does a good job printing text and graphics, it's extremely slow, and its photos look merely fair.
The medium-format HP Business Inkjet 2800 measures 24.9 inches deep by 26.6 wide, and it's 7.8 inches high, with its trays extended. This machine weighs a hefty 29.7 pounds, double that of the average consumer inkjet, and unfortunately it lacks carrying handles. The 150-sheet input tray protrudes in front, with its lid serving as a 100-sheet output tray. This printer separates its four ink cartridges (C, M, Y, K) from the printheads for easy, one-by-one replacement, and two conveniently positioned manual paper-feed slots in the front and the back prevent unusually heavy or thin pages from bending.
On the top of this printer, a backlit LCD indicates the ink levels. A cluster of buttons next to the LCD lets you specify the number of copies you want and which tray the printer should draw paper from. In the case of the 2800dtn, the LCD also displays network configuration information and lets you print diagnostic pages. If you need to network the HP 2800, we recommend the souped-up 2800dtn model; even though it costs a bundle, the total is less than separately adding an extra paper tray, a duplexer, and an Ethernet server.
The software and the stripped-down drivers of the HP 2800 are decidedly business oriented; you can adjust the quality and the paper type, add a watermark, and set the ink volume and dry time. But you don't get any color or photo optimization features, such as red-eye correction or slider bars to set individual cyan, magenta, and yellow levels.
The HP Toolbox software helps you track ink status and printhead health, and it provides you with troubleshooting screens that instruct you on how to replace inks, show you how to clear jams, and give you options for printing on special paper. The Toolbox also links to MyPrintMileage, a Web-based service that follows your ink and media usage so that you can plan replacements. If you choose to install HP Web JetAdmin for the 2800dtn, MyPrintMileage also helps you manage your network printers.
The HP Business Inkjet 2800 was quick at text printing but painfully slow with photos. Both this model and the HP Business Inkjet 1200d turned in the exact same time on CNET Labs' text speed tests, a lickety-split 6.5 pages per minute (ppm)--faster than most inkjets but less than half the pace of an average laser printer. The HP 2800 wasted a thumb-twiddling 12 minutes to print our test photo, which the 1200d accomplished in 7.5 minutes--both are abysmally slow speeds, especially against a midrange photo printer such as the Canon iP5000, which printed the same photo in about a minute. We printed our test photo on HP Premium Plus Photo glossy paper using the 2800's default settings, which you can tweak to alter the results.
The HP 2800's text on plain copy paper was acceptably sharp for an inkjet and considerably darker and crisper on HP Premium Inkjet Paper. However, text on premium paper at the Best setting contained tiny cyan and magenta droplets due to a driver glitch. This machine produced very good graphics with fine details, smooth and evenly stepped shading and gradients, and very good color matching. However, the black curves suffered from the same composite-black-halo problem as the text.
Our test images looked grainy, with visible dots, and thanks to a magenta-heavy driver algorithm, flesh tones were overly red. Our quality tests painted the HP 2800 as a decent text and low-priority graphics printer, but if you're planning to print a slew of photos, we recommend a machine dedicated to such a task, such as the Epson Stylus Photo R800.
Click here to learn more about how CNET Labs tests printers. Speed analysis written by Jeffrey Fuchs.
Replacement ink cartridges cost $33.99 each. HP estimates that at 5 percent page coverage, its color tanks will print 1,750 pages and black tanks will last 1,650 pages, which works out to a impressively low 2 cents per page for both color and black. New printheads costs $33.99 each and are estimated to last 16,000 pages for black and 24,000 pages for color.
HP backs the Business Inkjet 2800 with a one-year warranty. Toll-free tech support is available 24/7, as is live support chat via HP's Web site. You can also send e-mail to HP support, visit user forums, and troll through volumes of technical information on the company's Web site. HP offers a multitude of service and support upgrades for its business printers under its HP Care Pack Services.
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