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HP Deskjet 6122 review: HP Deskjet 6122

HP Deskjet 6122

6 min read
What separates an office inkjet from a home inkjet? Usually, an office printer sports a heavy-duty chassis, fast text printing, several fancy extra features, and a steep price tag. In just such a tradition, HP's sturdy Deskjet 6122 provides lots of small office/home office (SOHO) perks, such as a built-in, paper-saving duplexer that lets you print on two sides of a page and an add-on paper tray--all for less than $200. However, its poor output quality (inexcusable in an inkjet) and high ink costs keep it from earning our wholehearted recommendation. Instead, treat your small office to an inexpensive laser printer such as the Samsung ML-1210 for text and a top-notch inkjet such as the Canon S750 or the Canon S530D for graphics and photos. Like many other midrange HP inkjet printers, the 6122 is gray, with a familiar bread-box shape. Stacked, nonretractable input and output trays stick out in front. These trays are build for heavy traffic; the 150-sheet input tray and the 50-sheet output tray are actually shaped like trays, with raised edges and foldout extensions to make room for larger paper--no cheap plastic ledges as on the lower-end Deskjets.
Also, as with any HP printer, the Deskjet 6122 is a snap to set up. Since the 6122 works with both a USB and parallel-port connections (cable not included) and is both Mac and PC compatible, you can simply plug the printer in and let your OS detect it. Or you can start the included installation CD and follow the directions from there. Two graphical setup posters in the box (one for Macs, one for PCs) illustrate how to load paper, install cartridges and software, and troubleshoot the installation process.
Despite the fact that the Deskjet 6122 looks like any lower-end, home-oriented HP inkjet, this printer's features place it solidly in the SOHO market. For one thing, it ships with a duplexer attachment that snaps easily into the back of the unit and lets you print two-sided documents automatically. All you do is select two-sided printing in the driver, hit Print, and the duplexer does the rest. You can also buy an additional 250-sheet input tray ($80) that snaps onto the bottom of the printer.
If you want to hook up the 6122 to more than one PC, you can network it via Ethernet, Bluetooth, or 802.11b. HP sells the appropriate networking attachments on its Web site. Or for $50 more, you can buy the Ethernet-ready HP Deskjet 6127.
Shutterbugs, this inkjet doesn't let you add any fancy effects to photographs--not surprising since it isn't one of HP's specialized photo printers. The 6122's business-oriented software offers no photo-quality adjustments beyond the ability to select "best" print-quality mode and choose a glossy photo-paper setting. Besides, the driver's interface looks more sober and practical than friendly. The drivers are organized into three tabs: Setup, where you can adjust print quality and paper type; Features, which includes two-sided printing and advanced adjustments such as ink volume and dry time; and Color, where you can tweak saturation, brightness, and color tone.
The Deskjet 6122 takes two reasonably priced ink cartridges. Refills cost $30 for black ink and $35 for a tricolor cartridge. To cut down on ink replacements, you can also purchase a higher-capacity tricolor cartridge for $55.
When it comes to printing text, the HP Deskjet 6122 is businesslike in its efficiency. On CNET Labs' tests, it scored an average of 5.77 pages per minute, placing among the faster inkjets we've seen. Photo printing went a bit slower, however, at 3.4 minutes per page, which is a solidly average score compared to its rivals' but fairly fast considering that the 6122 is not a dedicated photo printer.
Inkjet printer text speed
Pages per minute (longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Deskjet 6122
Canon i850
Canon S530D Color Bubble Jet
HP Photosmart 5550
Inkjet printer color photo speed
Minutes to print a color photograph (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Canon S530D Color Bubble Jet
Canon i850
HP Deskjet 6122
HP Photosmart 5550

However, you won't want to send these printouts to clients and business partners. The Deskjet 6122 did a downright lousy job on our print-quality tests. Text on both plain and coated inkjet paper was fuzzy around the edges, and individual characters looked blotchy and unevenly saturated. Italic fonts showed up especially jagged and as serrated as Ginsu knifes. Graphics looked slightly better but not by much. On plain paper, our test document appeared washed out and dithered, with flecks of white showing through the graphical elements. Graduated color blocks looked solid, and black gradients showed extremely choppy transitions between shades, while the yellow gradient looked like it suffered from a 5-o'clock shadow. Inkjet paper made things worse; there were visible horizontal bands throughout the document, the gradients looked even choppier, and color matching was poor.
Inkjet printer quality
Poor   ••Fair   •••Good   ••••Excellent
 Printer Text Graphics Photo
Plain paper  Coated paper  Plain paper  Coated paper  Photo paper 
 Canon i850 •• ••• •• •• ••••
 Canon S530D Color Bubble Jet •• ••• ••• ••• ••••
 HP Deskjet 6122 •• •• ••
 HP Photosmart 5550 ••• ••• •••• •••• •••

The printer didn't do much better on our test photo. Overall, our photo appeared fuzzy and slightly out of focus, and the background looked grainy. Skin tones and colors--especially reds and blues--were fairly accurate, but they appeared dull and washed out. Bear in mind, however, that this printer doesn't specialize in high-quality photo printing.
More bad news: Given its high ink costs, the Deskjet 6122 is not particularly economical. Black-ink usage averaged 7.5 cents per page in our tests, or about twice what we consider reasonable, and color ink cost an average of 36 cents per page, where 25 cents per page is satisfactory in our book. By contrast, the Canon S530D averaged 2.6 cents per page for black and 15 cents per page for color.

HP backs the Deskjet 6122 with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. You can reach phone support via a toll call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plus, HP's Web site contains extensive support options, such as the ability to chat online with a technician (you must download a plug-in first), quick links to the most commonly requested information for your particular product, FAQs, driver downloads, online manuals, and e-mail tech support.
When we sent HP an e-mail asking a simple tech-support question, we received an automated "message received" response within an hour and a personalized response in less than 24 hours. The second e-mail offered a couple of options for fixing our problem, each of which was correct and organized in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step list.
When we called HP's support line, however, we got mixed results. The first time, a recording gave us the standard "we are experiencing a heavy volume of calls" message. In fact, we waited for 15 minutes, only to be disconnected. The second try, at a different time of day, yielded better results. A technician picked up the phone in less than 2 minutes, was very friendly, and answered our questions quickly and accurately.
If you're the fix-it-yourself type, you'll appreciate the printer's reference pamphlet, which doles out additional troubleshooting help, as well as HP support and warranty information. Plus, the install CD adds HP's Printer Assistant icon to your desktop for two-click access to a complete user manual (copied to your hard drive); information on how to network the printer; productivity solutions, such as how to save paper with the included duplexer attachment; and links for ordering supplies and accessories.

HP Deskjet 6122

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6Support 8