You Can Collate
Setup is simple enough. After opening the front panel and installing the ink cartridges their recessed position will have you snapping them into place more by feel than by sight, but it's still pretty goof-proof -- you're prompted to load paper so the HP can print a test-pattern page, which you then put on the scanner glass so the device can align the cartridges properly.
While we judged the J4680's small size as a plus overall, we found the front-mounted control panel awfully petite -- people with big fingers will need to be careful with the fax keypad, and everyone will need to be patient when navigating the main menu (mono or color fax, mono or color copy, and scan) and scrolling LCD settings.
Copying is the exception, but you can get a handle on the HP's printing, scanning, and faxing functions via the provided printer driver and other software applications. The driver offers a good variety of media size/type/print quality combination shortcuts and options such as N-up and double-sided printing (the latter guiding you through the process of manually reinserting pages to print the flip side).
We found the OCR function a bit less accurate than we hoped when scanning formatted documents to editable text, but liked the software's thorough control over scan and fax settings. Other programs include an entry-level document manager and HP's likable if consumer- rather than power-user-oriented Photosmart Essential image organizer, touch-up editor and printing arranger. Small startup businesses will appreciate a link to an HP Web site that offers an array of letterhead, business card, brochure, and other templates and the company's Logoworks subsidiary, which offers affordable logo creation and Web-site design.
Pretty Darn Good
Obviously, the J4680 is no choice for heavy-duty, high-volume printing -- or for the impatient, although it's certainly not the slowest inkjet we've sampled (it's advertised at 28 pages per minute for monochrome and 22 ppm for color, though like all inkjets comes nowhere near its claims). In its Fast Draft mode, suitable for in-house copies only, the all-in-one took 1 minute and 34 seconds to print our 20-page, all-text word processing document.
Switching to Normal mode, the same job took 3 minutes and 4 seconds, while our 55-page PDF file mixing black text with color headlines and illustrations printed in 14 minutes and 9 seconds. Using the automatic document feeder, it took four minutes to copy a 10-page document and just under eight minutes to make three black-and-white copies of a five-page document. Five color copies of a magazine cover took a tad under three and a half minutes.
Speaking of the ADF, arguably our biggest gripe with the Officejet was that it doesn't collate multipage copying jobs -- while print jobs default to last-page-first so page one is at the top of the output stack, you'll have to shuffle copies yourself. This gets old fast for all but the shortest jobs: Reading from the top of the stack, our three copies of a five-page document arrived as pages 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, and so on.
Our most pleasant surprise with the inexpensive HP? Its print quality. Even on plain paper, solid color areas in Normal mode were virtually free of banding, while black text was maybe a little thin but legible as small as 6 point. Switching to Best mode naturally slowed printing -- from 23 to 53 seconds for our one-page letter -- but made only a slight improvement (slightly darker text, also achieved by staying in Normal mode but switching from plain to inkjet paper).
Photos (in Best mode on glossy paper) suffered from the moderate grain and mediocre skin tones familiar to four-color printing, but were attractive at anything greater than magnifying-glass distance. Borderless 4- by 6-inch and letter-sized pix averaged 2 minutes and 32 seconds and 8 minutes and 33 seconds, respectively.
Got a Microbusiness?
Naturally, we weren't expecting a $130 multifunction to match the business-class $300 and $400 models we've tested, but the Officejet J4680 proved to be more than just the cute compact we saw at first glance. It's too petite for a five- or six-person, or frankly even a three-person, office, but we could genuinely see it meeting a startup or not-yet-full-time solo operator's needs for perhaps 20 or 40 pages per day.
Adapted from Hardwarecentral.com.
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