At a time when plenty of inkjet printers cost less than $100, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus bucks this race-to-the-bottom. And for good reason; although you can buy one of the many cheap inkjet printers on the market, what you will typically end up with is, well, a cheap inkjet printer.
The OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus takes aim squarely at the SOHO market. With a street price just north of $200, it is not the cheapest inkjet out there, which is exactly the point. Rather, it is well-built and feature-rich, with a few compromises. Let's take a look at what this color printer has to offer.
The Color Inkjet's Look, Feel and Heft
Weighing in at 27 pounds, it is clear right out of the box that the OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus is not a lightweight. You'll want to set the small business printer on a solid desk; when printing, it's robust enough to shimmy and shake a weaker foundation like a minor tremor.
The sleek, dark gray unit has a neutral but professional appearance, and it requires very little assembly. Besides removing strips of protective tape, you need to insert the two-sided printing duplexer unit by simply snapping it into the rear of the unit. The power transformer is integrated into the printer, so there is no "brick" to fumble around with, just a slim power cord.
The rear also sports an Ethernet jack, a telephone jack (for fax), and a USB port for connecting directly to a host computer. Thanks to built-in wireless networking, many small businesses can forego using any of these connections.
Small Business Printer Setup and Software
The OfficeJet Pro 8600's initial setup is simple but time consuming. On first power up, the printer goes through a long software initialization routine. At this stage you flip open the front face and install the four starter ink cartridges includes with the machine -- black, cyan, magenta and yellow. Each snaps into the printhead easily thanks to a spring-loaded catch mechanism.
The HP OfficeJet 8600 Plus multifunction printer is sturdier and more feature-rich than your average inkjet printer.
HP is fond of touting the new touchscreen color display. It sure looks slick, but actual operation presents some caveats. For example, on first setup you will be asked to choose a language. The pressure-sensitive touchscreen display demands a somewhat firm press to register.
Like pressing touchscreen buttons on an ATM, it is a little too easy to miss your mark. Click the wrong language button and suddenly you're stuck with an incomprehensible display -- a situation that, according to some online reports, is difficult to reset.
On the plus side, the detailed screen makes it easy to walk through the setup without need of a manual. Everything is right there -- the unit even shows video animations of procedures like installing the ink. Connecting to a wireless network could not be easier. The display simply shows which networks are within range, and you click the one you want.
If needed, you can type in a network password using an on-screen virtual keyboard. Once online, the printer can update its own software, which you should do to enable the HP e-print and apps functionality (more on that later).
The unit ships with a CD of drivers and basic OCR software for both Windows and Mac. You can get started printing without installing anything, in fact. Insert a USB thumb drive or memory card into one of the front slots and instantly print supported file formats (like PDF and JPG) without any computer at all.