Review: HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One

The HP OfficeJet Pro Wireless All-in-One is the company’s top-of-the-line business-oriented inkjet printer.  While the $399 price tag is somewhat dear, you can take consolation in knowing that it buys you just about every feature you’d likely want in a small office printer/fax/copier/scanner device.  (Note: as of this posting, HP’s Web site is offering a $40 instant rebate which knocks the price down to a more attractive $359.99.)

Paper and Ink

For starters, the 8500 Wireless AIO is adept at paper handling. An automatic two-sided (duplex) printing attachment comes standard, as does a 50-page automatic document feeder (ADF) and 250-sheet tray that handles letter or legal size paper. The printer’s scanning surface can accommodate 8.5- x 14 –inch legal documents.

The 8500 Wireless AIO lets you minimize wasted ink by using a four cartridge scheme for its pigment-based inks. There’s one for black and one each for Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. The standard 940 ink cartridges (a set comes with the printer) are rated for about 1,000 pages black or 900 pages color.

There’s also a 940XL high-capacity series that ups the page yield to 2,200 and 1,400 for black and color, respectively. Ink cartridges are easily accessible through a door at the lower front corner of the 8500 Wireless AIO, so you don’t have to visit the printer’s innards to replace them. (You do need to “pop the hood” initially to install a pair of print head modules, however.)

The 940XL cartridges cost $35.99 for black and $29.99 each for the colors. That works out to a very reasonable 1.6 cents per page for black and 6.4 cents for color. (As with most inkjet printers, buying the least expensive lowest-capacity ink cartridge is a false economy.) The printer’s software actually lets you adjust the volume of ink used in five increments from light to heavy.

LCD’s a Touch Quirky

A large 3.4-inch color touch screen LCD sits front and center on the printer, and you can use it in lieu of the physical buttons on the control panel to initiate most printer tasks. You can also use the touch screen to configure the printer, obtain the device status and select, preview and print photos found in one of the four memory-card slots or on a camera connected to the 8500’s PictBridge port.

We do appreciate the 8500’s touch interface and the well-designed menu system. It could still be frustrating to use at times, though, given that in our testing, the touch screen often failed to acknowledge contact with a button, register a double-press or even activate an unintended and adjacent button.

The printer’s 19.5- x 18.9-inch footprint is compact enough to fit in a tight office space. Anyone caught sitting next to or near the 8500 Wireless ought not to get distracted by the noise—the printer goes about its business emitting relatively hushed tones, and it’s one of the quietest inkjets we’ve ever used.

Connectivity and Software

If you forgo the 8500 Wireless AIO’s direct USB interface, you can connect it to your network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (a lighted indicator on the front of the printer tells you which network link is in use). We didn’t have any trouble connecting our unit to a WPA2-encrypted WLAN. Bluetooth connectivity isn’t standard, but it’s available as an option.

 HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One
The feature-laden HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One.

HP’s bundled Solution Center software for Windows Vista and XP provides access to the configuration features of a network-connected 8500 Wireless AIO. (The software’s also available for Mac OS X.) We’re pleasantly surprised that the installation process isn’t nearly as interminable as it once was, at least on Windows. With previous HP business inkjets we’ve used, you could practically read a novel—maybe even write one—waiting for the bundled software to install.

The 8500 Wireless AIO’s also has an embedded Web server, which you can take advantage of by pointing a browser to the printer’s IP address. You can’t execute print/fax/scan tasks via the browser, but you can view and modify most of the configuration options this way.

Print Speed and Quality

The 8500 Wireless AIO promises laser-quality output as fast as 15 pages per minute for black and 11 ppm for color. In high-speed draft mode, it’s 35 and 34 ppm, respectively. Not surprisingly, the 8500 Wireless AIO wasn’t quite that fast in our stopwatch-based tests, but it still managed to spit out our test documents with reasonable alacrity, especially in draft mode.

The printer produced 24 ppm of text in draft mode, though it managed only six in best-quality mode. Draft-mode output is clear and easily readable, if not especially dark or sharp. In best-quality mode, the 8500 Wireless AIO’s text quality is bold and crisp, and in our estimation, very laser-like. (We used standard multi-purpose paper).

Digital Document Management

A printer’s primary function is to convert digital material into printed form, and just about any printer will help you churn out countless reams of printed information (this one’s duty cycle is a hefty 15,000 pages per month). But HP uses the 8500 Wireless AIO’s network connectivity in ways that can not only improve small office productivity, but can also cut down on paper consumption and needless printing.

For example, the 8500 Wireless AIO’s Digital Fax feature can automatically store incoming faxes in a network folder or forward them to a particular e-mail address. (There’s also a 100-entry junk fax blocker list.) 

With the 8500 Wireless AIO’s Direct Digital Filing feature, you can walk up to the printer, press a few buttons to scan a document or photo (at 2400 x 4800 dpi resolution) and then save it to a network folder or have it delivered to an e-mail recipient. The 8500 Wireless AIO can store up to 10 e-mail addresses and 10 network locations.

The Direct Digital Filing Feature requires that you save a set of account credentials to the printer for network access, and since it doesn’t support Active Directory, it can’t grant or deny folder access to specific users. You can, however, assign a PIN code to each network folder or e-mail address to prevent unauthorized people from scanning documents to them. 

It’s worth noting that there are two other products in the HP’s 8500 printer line.  Spending another hundred bucks on the 8500 Wireless AIO “Premier” version gets you the same printer but a second 250-sheet tray, an extra set of color ink cartridges and a paper sampler kit. Conversely, the lower-end ($299) 8500 AIO omits the wireless networking and Direct Digital Filing features and makes do with a 35-sheet ADF and a smaller and non-touch-screen LCD.

All in all, the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One hits the right notes in terms of quality, speed, paper handling and network connectivity, and it’s a good choice for small offices that need a versatile and heavy-duty workgroup printer. 

Joe Moran spent six years as an editor and analyst with Ziff-Davis Publishing and several more as a freelance product reviewer. He’s also worked in technology public relations and as a corporate IT manager, and he’s currently principal of Neighborhood Techs, a technology service firm in Naples, Fla. He holds several industry certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

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