HP's Premium Peripheral

By Eric Grevstad | Posted November 17, 2004

Could sticker shock scare you away from HP's newest small-office solution? At first glance, you might wonder why the Officejet 7410 costs $499: Can't you find a combination color inkjet printer, flatbed scanner, and copier these days for about $100? OK, the Officejet also has fax functionality and an automatic document feeder for multi-page jobs, but you'd still budget only $200 or $250 for such a peripheral, right?

As the ad says, but wait, there's more. The 7410 comes with a photocopier-style second paper tray, boosting its capacity from 150 to 400 sheets between refills and giving you an easy way to switch between plain paper and letterhead or other special stock.

A snap-on duplexer provides automatic double-sided printing. Ethernet as well as USB connectivity comes standard — and so does an 802.11g wireless adapter so that notebook-toting co-workers or family members can easily share all of its features (not just printing).

Speaking of family, home office dwellers seeking a single printer for work and leisure — or small businesses that depend on a digital camera for newsletter or Web-site images — will find the HP 7410 is also a full-featured, borderless photo printer, with flash-card slots, six-color ink support, and a 2.5-inch color LCD for selecting and tweaking pictures.

And finally, the Officejet offers excellent output at impressive, industrial-strength speed — it's rated at up to 30 pages per minute (ppm) in black and 20 ppm in color. It printed our test files faster than many color lasers we've tried.

In short, despite the bundled photo-project software, this is no light-duty, consumer-level multifunction device: It's a premium peripheral with pretty much all the imaging power many offices need. (And if you're still uneasy about the price, you can subtract 802.11g capability and the second paper tray and get the model 7310 for $100 less.)

Keeping It Legal
Both the printer and scanner accommodate legal- as well as letter-sized paper, although the duplexer is limited to letter-sized stock. Setup is straightforward: The Officejet with its150-sheet main paper tray rests on top of the 250-sheet second tray (so you need to be careful, as well as comfortable lifting some 32 pounds when moving the pair). Its power supply is a notebook-style external brick (with adequately long cords on both ends).

Printed pages appear face up — by default, the HP prints multi-page jobs in reverse (page 1 on top) order — on a lid that covers the main tray. The lid has a pullout prop to keep printed sheets from shooting into space. We found it took a bit of care to load either tray — the stacked design makes it more like sliding paper into a slot than dropping it into a drawer — and to replace the lid after filling the main tray. Twice it wasn't seated properly and ejecting pages actually pushed the lid off.

The unit takes some 17 by 22 inches of desk or table space and stands 15 inches tall; HP says it draws a maximum 75 watts of power. You lift the hood (picking up the front control panel rather than just the scanner lid above it) to access the two ink-cartridge carriers. These normally hold a black cartridge with an estimated life of 800 pages ($30) and a tricolor cartridge rated for 450 ($35), which works out to a price (not counting paper) of 3.8 cents per black and 7.8 cents per color page — relatively low for inkjet but predictably higher than laser consumable costs.

Photo buffs can replace the black ink cartridge with a photo cartridge for six-color printing or a gray cartridge for top-quality black-and-white images; each costs $25. The Officejet's rated duty cycle is 5,000 pages per month.


HP's Officejet 7410 All-in-One
Oh-So-Worthy: HP's Officejet 7410 provides high-quality printing, scanning, copying and faxing. And that's just for starters.

Hardware That Does a Lot, Software That Does Even More
HP placed the 7410's Ethernet and USB ports (we used the latter in our tests) around the back, along with two phone jacks for fax use (one for the phone line, another for a desk phone).

Up front, to the right of the paper trays, you'll find a PictBridge port for printing images directly from new digital cameras and CompactFlash, Secure Digital/MultiMedia Card, SmartMedia/xD, and Memory Stick flash-card slots for printing not quite directly from cameras.

The control panel sports enough buttons to fly the space shuttle, but the 2.5-inch color LCD, four-way arrow compass, and numeric keypad in the middle make it easy enough to navigate menus. You can use the LCD and arrow keys to preview images on a flash card, leafing through them one at a time (and occasionally waiting a second for an image to load); zoom in on or rotate an image before printing; or print a proof sheet of thumbnails which you then mark up and slap onto the scanner to print selected images.

HP offers more detailed printing options, such as cropping images or applying various touch-up filters, through its bundled software. An HP Director control panel steers you toward Image Zone, Document Viewer, and HP Scanning programs that help you organize pictures and files and break printing projects into goof-proof steps.

As a 33.6Kbps (black and color) fax machine with 50-sheet automatic document feeder, the 7410 offers five one-touch keys plus 110 software-based speed dial numbers. It can fax two-sided originals, schedule a fax for sending at a later time, and includes a 150-page memory buffer for incoming faxes.

The 48-bit color or 256-grayscale scanner offers 2,400 by 4,800 dot-per-inch (dpi) hardware resolution (interpolated to 19,200 dpi if you like). As a copier, it delivers adjustable 25 to 400 percent zoom — or various presets such as shrinking the original to a specified size or fitting two pages onto one sheet — as well as single- or double-sided copying. Using plain (cheap copier) paper, we printed five quite handsome color copies of a magazine cover in just under three minutes. Five black-and-white copies of a laser-printed page took 57 seconds, with one copy of a five-page document using the automatic feeder just a bit slower at one minute and 17 seconds.

Fast and Attractive
Back in July, we confessed to being pleasantly surprised with the print quality — even in its lowest-quality "FastDraft" mode — of HP's low-end PSC 1315. The Officejet 7410 earns a similar reaction considerably faster: The 300 by 300 dpi FastDraft mode, which produces pale, banded graphics but perfectly legible, black instead of gray text, whipped through our 20-page Microsoft Word document in one minute and 8 seconds.

The second ("Fast Normal") and third (Normal) modes both use 600 by 600 dpi resolution, and the former is only slightly faster than the latter, so we gravitated to Normal mode to get good-quality results, with only slight banding in solid-color graphics, on plain paper. The 20-page Word file took two minutes and 45 seconds printed normally. When we printed on both sides of 10 sheets — with the duplexer displaying an "Ink drying, please wait" message on the LCD for 15 or 20 seconds before sucking each sheet back into the printer for the flip side — it took nine and a half minutes.

In Normal mode on plain paper, a one-page business letter with a spot-color company logo took 12 seconds, and was good enough to send to all but the fussiest clients.. So, with just a bit of banding, did a 55-page Adobe Acrobat manual that appeared in a color-laser-class 12 minutes and 34 seconds. Switching to Best mode on plain paper looked almost as good, and took almost as long, as Normal mode with coated inkjet paper, which produced a perfect one-page letter in one minute and 34 seconds.

You can force Best mode into as much as 4,800 by 1,200 dpi resolution when printing high-resolution images, but its default of 600 by 600 with PhotoREt image enhancement yields gorgeous photos with both four- and six-color ink setups. Using glossy photo paper, our 8 by 10-inch digital-camera shots took an average of 4 minutes and 10 seconds; borderless 4 by 6-inch prints took roughly 1 minute and 40 seconds.

Overall, about our biggest gripe with the HP 7410 as a printer was that leaving the automatic media sensor to assess paper quality yielded somewhat dark or heavy text. We preferred a click of the software-driver menu to specify whether we were using plain or coated paper.

Otherwise, we're impressed enough to break out the rare five-star review stamp: Its consumable costs are predictably higher than a color laser printer's, but the Officejet 7410 delivers comparable output with all the convenience of integrated scanning, copying, and faxing; an automatic document feeder and duplexer; both wired and wireless network support; and the bonus of flash-card slots, LCD- and contact-sheet-previews, and six-color printing for both work- and family-related digital images. Don't confuse it with $100 or $200 inkjet multi-functions; this horse is a thoroughbred.

Pros
• Everything a small office or home office needs, from automatic-feed faxing and copying to double-sided printing and 802.11g wireless support, plus six-color photo printing
• Excellent quality and speed; friendly controls and software despite depth of functionality

Cons
• Inkjet consumable costs above, and duty cycle below, that of a color laser printer

Adapted from hardwarecentral.com.

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