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HP OfficeJet Pro K850 review: HP OfficeJet Pro K850

The HP Officejet Pro K850 is an expensive, single-function printer that fills a small niche in professional settings. This $400 color inkjet can handle medium-format media, but it uses basic, four-color printing instead of six-color for better range of color. Its print quality and speed are good enough for small-scale production of marketing collateral, but serious graphic designers who want slick brochures will be disappointed. If you need a network-ready printer with a duplexer, the K850dn offers both for an additional $100. Offices that require more standard office printing should look for a laser printer that can handle high volumes of prints quickly. Small offices that don't need medium-format media handling should check out the less expensive HP Officejet Pro K5400.

7.1

HP OfficeJet Pro K850

The Good

Great text quality; low print costs; can handle paper up to 13 inches wide; 24-7 tech support.

The Bad

Slow prints; graphic and photo quality needs some improvement; expensive for a single-function printer.

The Bottom Line

The HP Officejet Pro K850 fits a small and very specific niche: offices that need low volumes of high-quality prints--including wide-format prints. Otherwise, it's too expensive for a general-purpose single-function printer.

Design
The HP Officejet Pro K850 is an enormous inkjet printer because it can handle medium-format media, up to 13 inches wide versus 8.5 inches on a typical, consumer-level printer. The black-and-silver printer measures 24 inches wide, 17 inches deep, and 8 inches tall, and weighs 27.1 pounds. The duplexer on the K850dn adds an inch or two to the depth when attached to the rear of the printer. The K850's control panel is simple: power, cancel, and paper feed buttons and a set of icons that light up to indicate various problems, including a paper jam, an empty input tray, and low ink levels.

The printer's output tray sits atop the input cassette and tilts up so you can access the paper. The output tray features paper guides and two extension leaves that help corral longer prints. The input cassette also offers adjustable paper guides that let you neatly insert media ranging from 3x5 inches to 13x19 inches.

The four ink tanks reside separately from the print heads and are hidden behind a spring-release panel on the top of the printer. The K850 uses a pigment-based black (for better black text prints over dye-based black) and dye-based cyan, magenta, and yellow inks. Many photo-oriented printers--even consumer-level ones--offer six-ink printing (or more) for a better range of colors over four-color printing, which means the K850 isn't the ideal printer if you're working mainly with high-end graphics. It ships with the standard-yield cartridges, which cost $25 apiece, but you can replace those with high-yield cartridges: the black costs $34, while the color cartridges cost $38 each. Using the high-yield cartridges, HP estimates a black page can cost as low as 2.2 cents and a color page can cost as low as 8.4 cents--both numbers are low for an inkjet printer. Its monthly duty cycle is 6,250 pages, so if your office has high-volume printing needs, this isn't the printer for you.

Features
As a single-purpose office inkjet, the features are not surprisingly spartan. The Officejet Pro K850 can be connected via USB 2.0 or parallel port, but HP also sells an optional print server if you want to network the printer. (If you want both a duplexer and a network connection option, the K850dn offers both.) It ships with a 256MHz processor and 32MB of memory, standard for an inkjet printer. The print driver lets you make N-up prints, poster prints, and assists with manual duplexing if you have not purchased the duplex model.

Performance
It's difficult for us to make performance comparisons to the Officejet Pro K850 because we haven't reviewed similarly priced single-function inkjets. Most inkjets that fall into this price range are either multifunctions or professional graphics-oriented inkjets. The Pro K850, with its four-color printing and lack of any photo-oriented features such as a PictBridge port, is squarely an office inkjet printer.

It printed text at a rate of 6.31pages per minute and color graphics at a rate of 2.92ppm. It produced 4x6 photos at a rate of 0.33ppm. For a $400 printer, those numbers are slow. The $150 HP Officejet Pro K5400 made faster work of all prints, as did the $400 Canon Pixma MP960 multifunction.

CNET Labs' color inkjet speed tests (pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
4x6 photo  
Color graphics  
Black text  
HP Officejet Pro K5400
1.84 
6.21 
10.16 
Canon Pixma MP960 (inkjet AIO)
1.98 
2.1 
9.42 
HP Officejet Pro K850
0.33 
2.92 
6.31 

The Pro K850's print quality impressed us more than its speed. The text prints--both black and color--impressed us. The black text showed a rich black color and crisp letters. The color text was beautifully blended. Close inspection showed some minor wicking, even on HP's high-quality inkjet paper, so we'll call this "near laser" quality. The color graphics showed smooth gradients, sharp detail, and pleasing saturation, but the color looked a bit faded. The 4x6 color photo fared the worst, though it still wasn't bad at all. Details were sharp, but we noticed graininess in color blocks and the colors had a somber cast. We would've liked to see more brightness. Overall, the print quality and speed were good enough for offices that want to print small quantities of their own marketing materials (a small real estate or insurance office, for example), but offices that have high volume print needs should stick with lasers, while those that need high-end graphics should look at pro-level graphics printers.

CNET Labs' color inkjet printer quality
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Photo  
Color graphics  
Black text  
Canon Pixma MP960
Excellent 
Excellent 
Excellent 
HP Officejet Pro K850
Good 
Good 
Excellent 
HP Officejet Pro K5400
Fair 
Good 
Excellent 

Service and support
HP backs the K850 with a standard one-year warranty, though you can upgrade that to two or three years. Toll-free phone support is available 24-7, or you can chat live online with tech support, also 24-7. HP's site has drivers, software downloads, FAQs, and troubleshooting guides, as well.

7.1

HP OfficeJet Pro K850

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Support 8