Network inkjet printers for small office/home office (SOHO) use face a stiff battle from the cheap crisp quality of laser output. HP's Officejet Pro 8000 also has to compete with inexpensive multifunction devices, as it's a single function only device. HP's pitch for this is that it's cheaper to run than a colour laser and faster than most multifunction devices.
The A809's size belies its single use function. We've seen small multifunction devices in this size casing before, which means as a single use device it's on the larger side. The flip side of that argument, however, is that it's smaller than most SOHO colour laser printers.
Most printer set-ups involve the same tedious steps. Remove the sticky plastic, chuck in a few print cartridges, hook up the power and install the drivers. The Officejet Pro 8000 slightly bucks this trend, as it comes with what at first glance appear to be more print cartridges than it could possibly accommodate. That's because HP has taken the interesting step of making the printhead a separately installable part that slots in at the top in two pieces. The actual ink tanks reside in a well dug into the left-hand side underneath the printhead's resting place, and are slotted so that it's not possible to incorrectly insert them. There's no struggles here to install fiddly printheads as we've seen on many other models, but a slightly longer physical installation period as there's more individual bits to install.
The feature set of the Officejet Pro 8000 marks it out solidly as a SOHO option. Networking is standard, as is duplexing with a supplied module that easily slots into the rear of the print unit. The adjustable front-mounted paper tray will take up to 250 standard sheets of paper.
One feature that almost every inkjet we test seems to come with these days, which the Officejet 8000 omits, is any kind of media card reader. Within a SOHO setting it's a less vital item, but if your office printing needs include any kind of photography printing you'll have to do so indirectly from a computer.
HP's own figures suggest print speeds of 35 pages per minute (ppm) in draft black and 34ppm in draft colour. If you want near laser quality, those suggested speeds drop to 15ppm and 11ppm respectively. We say suggested, as we're yet to see a manufacturer accurately quote ppm figures that hit anywhere close to the results in real-world testing. HP's aim for the Officejet 8000 is to take on laser performance and price, and it does this with a claimed 50 per cent reduction in cost per page, although it should be noted that this is for colour page print costs.
While the physical set-up of the Officejet 8000 was easy enough, if a little time consuming, we hit a much longer roadblock when performing our software installation on a test system. The supplied driver CD reported Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit edition as an "unsupported operating system" and suggested we "upgrade". Aside from perhaps switching camps to Linux or a Hackintosh (depending on your OS preferences) we're not sure how that's possible, but the solution was to download a fresh, Windows 7 compatible driver pack from HP's website.
A 234MB driver pack — for a printer that only prints. Perhaps we're being picky, but that seems like massively bloated code to us. It also seemed odd to us that HP, a company that sells server products, has an exceptionally slow download server for its printer drivers. After 45 minutes of downloading on an ADSL2+ connection, we finally had compatible printer drivers to play with. For what it's worth, OS X picked up the Officejet 8000 via Bonjour and was up and running within a minute.
Once we'd downloaded the Windows drivers and chosen between direct USB or network (wired or wireless) installation things went a little more smoothly.
Testing out the Officejet Pro 8000 we were surprised by its speed at both ends of the scale. As previously noted, we tend to rank ppm figures as amongst the greatest works of IT fiction in the modern age, but the Officejet 8000 seemed on track to prove its non-fiction status. Printing an ordinary text document in draft mode, the Officejet 8000 spat out — and there's no other word for the force and violence this printer uses — its initial page in seven seconds, racking up 28ppm in total across our tests. That's very fast, and the actual print quality was perfectly readable, if a little expectedly soft. We were keen to see how quickly the Officejet 8000 could manage best quality black printing, given HP's claims of a rough 50 per cent speed drop.
Switching the print quality over to "best" did a lot for the overall print quality, which was sharp enough to pass for laser, but at the extreme cost of speed. The first print page crawled out of the printer in a sedate 21 seconds, and the printer only managed a total of 4ppm in total. The middle ground "normal" setting did hit HP's claimed target of 15ppm, but you wouldn't mistake it for laser quality output. As you might expect from a printer dedicated to text rather than image printing, photo printing wasn't a core strength of the Officejet 8000. Photos were acceptable but rather washed out in appearance in most of our tests.
HP's standard black replacement colour cartridge is rated for 1000 pages at a cost of AU$52, working out to 5.2¢ per page if printing in only black. That drops to 3.2¢ per page for the larger capacity XL cartridge. Colour cartridges are rated for only 1400 pages with no larger or smaller capacity options. HP's local website wasn't listing prices for the colour cartridges at the time of writing, but checking online stores we saw prices at around AU$35 per cartridge.
For many SOHO operators, the Officejet Pro 8000 would be a good match, as long as you're not looking for absolute best quality printing, or have a lot of time to wait for it to happen.