The robust HP Officejet 4630 is a midrange multifunction inkjet printer that puts together an impressive list of features relative to the $100 price tag, making it a cost-effective device for busy home offices that need to print, copy, scan, and fax. You can already find the 4630 online for as little as $70, and it's also for sale in the UK for £66.15 and Australia for AU$98.
Design and features
I like the new, flatter design of the 4630 -- the combination of glossy and matte finishes give the printer a professional quality, and HP made the right decision to move the paper input tray to the bottom so you can push it up against a wall without obstructing the paper path. With all the trays folded up and no paper loaded, the machine weighs 13.72 pounds (6.2kg) and measures 17.56 inches wide (44.6cm), 13.07 inches deep (33.2cm) x 7.45 inches tall (18.9cm).
HP Officejet 4630
|Price as reviewed||$99.99, £66.15, AU$98|
|Dimensions in Inches (Width x Depth x Height)||17.56 x 13.07 x 7.45 inches (44.6 x 33.2 x 18.9cm)|
|Inks||2-ink tank (Black, Cyan/Magenta/Yellow)|
|Automatic 2-sided printing (duplexer)||Yes|
|Automatic Document Feeder||Yes, 35 pages|
|Memory Card Reader||No|
|Connectivity||USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Airprint, Google Cloud Print|
|Paper Input Tray Capacity||100 sheets|
|Display||2-inch Monochrome LCD|
The feeder holds 100 sheets of plain 8.5x11-inch paper but the guides also adjust to fit different kinds of media, including envelopes, index cards, iron-on transfers and various sizes of photo paper. There's an automatic duplexer built in that lets you print on both sides of a sheet of paper, and you can also load a 35-page stack into the auto-document feeder on top for batch scans and faxes.
The front panel is kept purposefully simple with a backlit monochrome display and a few buttons around the border that let you navigate through the onscreen menus. There's also a number pad to the right for adding phone numbers to the built-in address book and a couple more buttons that toggle networking settings, Web services, and assistance. Unfortunately, the printer is missing a media card reader and a USB flash drive port, so there's no ability to conveniently or quickly print snapshot photos without loading them on a computer or phone first.
Setup and networking
HP includes a manual for the initial setup and basic troubleshooting, but the driver CD you get in the package is really easy to follow with a clearly labeled guide to connecting the printer to your computer and your home network. There's also a few extra software titles on the disc that help you update the firmware on the printer, shop for ink and paper online and start projects using your photos and HP's Photo Creation templates. (You can, of course, download all of this directly from HP's website instead.)
You can start printing in minutes with a simple USB connection, but you'll need to shake hands with a wireless network in order to take advantage of the print sharing and cloud printing features. If you subscribe to the Apple or Google ecosystems, the easiest way to do it is with Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print that let you send jobs to the printer from your iOS devices and Google Chrome Web browsers.
Alternatively, you can also input your SSID and network password directly into the printer to go wireless, and HP even offers a way to use the printer wirelessly without a router -- just select "Wireless Direct" from the Home screen and follow the instructions.
It'd be great if the printer had an Ethernet port for a hard-wired network connection, but no such luck here.
The chassis of the 4630 lifts up to reveal the dual-cartridge input -- one for black ink and the other that combines cyan, magenta and yellow into a single tricolor cartridge. The disadvantage of this system is that you eventually have to replace the whole tricolor cartridge, even if only one color is depleted.
Keep in mind that print quality also takes a hit using tricolor cartridges, so it's worth checking out the Epson Expression XP-420 if you think you'll be printing a high volume of full color photos or presentations. The XP-420 is another sub-$100 multifunction inkjet that uses separate color cartridges, but the trade-off is that it doesn't carry a dedicated fax line. To get both a fax machine and separate color cartridges, you need to step up to a more expensive multifunction like the HP Officejet Pro series.
As usual, HP offsets the price of refill cartridges by selling XL capacity models with larger ink reservoirs for a discounted price. Using the cost of these XL cartridges and HP's own page yields, you'll pay just over six cents per page of black ink and 17 cents per color. Those prices are high compared to those of the Epson XP-420 and the Canon Pixma MG5620 , which both work out to 3.5 cents and 5 cents for black and color pages, respectively.
HP Instant Ink
One reason that HP decided to go with a tricolor ink bay is to encourage users to opt into its new Instant Ink Service. Here's how it works: for a monthly fee, HP will keep track of your ink levels and automatically put a replacement in the mail when you're running low.
You start by choosing one of three payment levels based on how many pages you think you'll print per month: $2.99 per month for a 50 page cap, $4.99 for 100 pages, and $9.99 for 300 pages. You can always buy extra pages if you find yourself going over the allotment, and unused pages will roll over to the next month.
Subscribers that can accurately estimate their monthly print volume can save up to 50 percent on cartridge replacements, and of course there's the big benefit of never finding yourself at a loss for ink. The downside, however, is that the Instant Ink cartridges aren't backward compatible, so existing owners of HP printers need to upgrade to a compatible model to use them. The Instant Ink cartridges that HP sells right now are the Envy 4500, Envy 5530, Officejet 4630, Officejet Pro 8610 and Officejet Pro 8620.
If print speed is high on your list of demands, you may be dissatisfied with the Officejet 4630's sluggish throughput performance. Using CNET's own test documents, the printer clocked in at only 4 pages of black text per minute and 2.5 pages of a color graphics page per minute -- the former is especially slow for industry standards compared with the Epson XP-420, which registered more than twice as many pages using the same performance test.
The printer's single tricolor ink cartridge comes up short in output quality performance as well, but you won't likely notice unless you're a professional photographer and can recognize the subtleties of image gradation and dithering relative to the color spectrum.
I printed a variety of full-color snapshot photos in my anecdotal quality tests, and while it certainly doesn't compare to the Canon Pixma MG5620's full six-color reproduction, I wouldn't hesitate to use the HP 4630 to output professional documents like resumes, slideshows and graphics.
The HP Officejet 4630 won't blow you away with its average print speed and quality, but I'm impressed with its variety of connectivity features and ink options you can tailor to your printing habits. It works well as both a small office printer and a home base device for outputting photos from the cloud, and you can stand to save a decent amount of cash on consumables by registering for the company's Instant Ink program.
The Epson Expression XP-420 is a better option if a compact footprint and high-quality photos are more appealing to you, but keep in mind that you'll sacrifice the 4630's auto-document feeder, duplexer, and the dedicated fax machine for it. As always with printers, it comes down to how you're going to use it and what you plan to print.