The HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus is the successor to the Editors' Choice Award-winning HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless all-in-one inkjet we reviewed in 2009. It gets a slight makeover--all black is the new white-and-black--and adds to the already expansive feature set of its predecessor. With the $399 Officejet Pro 8500A, you can send print jobs via e-mail and also directly from iOS devices. These two additions make the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus an incredibly versatile all-in-one printer, but for busy small and home offices, we prefer the Epson WorkForce 840. It lists for $100 less than the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus and provides similar features and speeds and crisper text, all in a more compact design with double the paper capacity.
Design and features
Like Johnny Cash, the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus comes dressed in black. Its look suits both home and office settings, though you'll have to clear some room for it. It's big and bulky, weighing a hefty 28 pounds and measuring 20 inches wide, 17 inches deep, and 12 inches high. The Epson WorkForce 840 is more compact and 6 pounds lighter by comparison, and has two indented side handles that make it easier to lug around than the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus.
A single 250-sheet input tray protrudes 4 inches out of the front of the Officejet, while a 50-page automatic document feeder (ADF) resides on top. The HP's ADF holds 20 more pages than the Epson WorkForce 840's, but the WorkForce 840 has two 250-sheet input trays. The capacity to hold the equivalent of a full ream of paper is convenient for busy offices, as is the ability to stock two different types of paper. Hewlett-Packard sells a separate 250-sheet paper tray that connects to the bottom of the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus, but that adds $79 to the bill. Lastly, like any modern multifunction printer, the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus features a PictBridge USB port as well as a pair of multiformat media card slots for printing directly from a digital camera.
The HP's ample 4.3-inch touch-sensitive color display makes navigating the print, copy, scan, and fax functions a breeze. The screen is larger than on the Officejet 8500 or the Epson WorkForce 840, but the WorkForce 840 surrounds its color LCD with a larger 7.8-inch touch panel that provides additional navigation buttons. The HP's entire touch panel, on the other hand, resembles an iPhone on its side and measures 6 inches on the diagonal. In the end, both printers do admirable jobs of providing a simple and clear menu system for navigating the printer's many functions. However, HP makes it easier than Epson to enter text with its full QWERTY virtual keyboard; entering data like a wireless password on the Epson requires scrolling through the alphabet for each letter and is akin to entering your initials for a high score on an old arcade game.
Navigating the menu system to find your desired task and settings is quick, but the initial setup process for the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus is not. It took 20 minutes for the drivers to install from the included CD before the printer was ready for action. This is in stark contrast to the speedy installation we experienced with HP's new LaserJets, such as the HP LaserJet P1606dn and the HP LaserJet M1212nf, which both feature HP Smart Install in which the requisite drivers are stored on the printer itself and automatically install when you connect the printer to your PC. After installation, the printer takes more than 2 minutes to warm up and perform various checks before it's ready to accept a job. In contrast, the Epson WorkForce 840 is ready to roll within 15 seconds after you press the power button.
In addition to a direct USB connection (like most vendors, HP does not include a USB cable with the printer), you can set up the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus on your network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. We tested the Wi-Fi connection and the process was easy; using the printer's touch screen, we 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 the need to install any additional software.
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 iPhone photo library by simply choosing the connected printer and hitting Print. You can't adjust any print properties, however; our Hipstamatic test photo printed with a portion missing on both letter-sized paper and 4x6-inch photo paper.
In addition to AirPrint, the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus also features HP's ePrint technology, which enables you to send jobs from any connected device to the printer using the 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. For another, it can't print Web pages, although you can simply copy and paste the text into a document as a workaround.
Along with the standard Copy, Fax, and Scan options listed on the home screen of the Officejet Pro's control panel, you get a fourth icon labeled Apps. Our test unit came preloaded with 21 apps that let you print new pages from outlets like the Financial Times, Yahoo, Reuters, and USA Today. Others from DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Disney let you print coloring pages, paper airplane templates, and other crafts. You can install additional free apps, but you must do so from HP's ePrint Center Website after creating an account. The craft pages were a hit with this reviewer's kids, but we doubt many business users will find them useful.
The standard flat-bed scanner/copier measures 8.5x14 inches, meaning it can scan or copy letter- and legal-size documents. With its 4,800-dpi resolution, scanned and copied documents look crisp and sharp, and you can send scans to a PC, a memory card, a network folder, or an e-mail program.
HP ships the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus with two printheads you must install, along with the standard four ink cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow). The cost per page figures are low, particularly when you calculate them using HP's high-capacity XL cartridges for a better deal. The black XL cartridge costs $35.99 for an estimated 2,200 pages, which works out to only 1.6 cents per page. The three color XL cartridges cost $25.99 each for a rated 1,400 pages, for a reasonable cost per page of 5.6 cents. In comparison, the Epson WorkForce 840 costs more to refill XL cartridges at 3 cents per page for monochrome printing and 7.2 cents for color.
The HP Officejet Pro 8500A Pro turned in nearly identical scores to the preceding Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless. It was slightly faster on our text, color graphics, and photo speed tests and slightly slower on our presentation speed test, but neither of the printers' text scores rose above one page per minute. Compared with the Epson WorkForce 840, the Officejet Pro 8500A Pro offers almost the same text speed at roughly 12 ppm, but it prints color graphics faster by nearly 1 ppm and achieves nearly double the photo print speed, at 1.5s ppm compared with the Epson's 0.86 ppm.
|Black text||Color graphics||Photo||Presentation|
The HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus proved speedier than the Epson WorkForce 840 on our scan and copy tests. The 8500A Plus scanned a 10-page color document at 6.14 ppm versus 5.59 ppm for the Epson, and it copied 10 pages of monochrome text at 7.12 ppm versus 5.48 ppm for the Epson.
In terms of print quality, however, the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus will suffice for office and home use, but we must give the edge to the Epson WorkForce 840. We viewed the output of the two printers side by side and found that the WorkForce 840 produces slightly crisper text with brighter tones and more vivid color. It almost looked like the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus used too much ink in printing text, particularly at smaller fonts that contributed to blurred edges.
Service and support
HP backs the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus with a one-year warranty that includes 24-hour toll-free technical support. In addition, the HP Web site offers online classes, FAQs, driver downloads, and basic troubleshooting trips.
The HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus has a high price tag and some questionably useful features. Home users aren't likely to take advantage of the fax functionality, while most business users would happily trade the AirPrint and ePrint features for an additional paper tray. If your budget allows for a somewhat extravagant all-in-one printer purchase, we recommend skipping the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus with its superfluous features in favor of the Epson WorkForce 840, which offers more paper storage and better quality output in a smaller package.
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