The HP Officejet Pro 8500 wireless all-in-one inkjet printer is a near-perfect solution for small businesses and home offices hunting for a device that can print, scan, fax and copy in record time, all with high-quality results. This printer sets the bar high in terms of all the features it manages to pack into a relatively small footprint: auto-duplexing, 802.11b/g, a 3.45-inch touchscreen, 50-sheet automatic document feeder, and a legal-size scanner are only some of the extras this machine has to offer. Some will baulk at the AU$499 price tag, but spend half an hour with the Pro 8500 and we're sure you'll want one of your own.
Design and features
The Pro 8500 is the HP Officejet J6480's older, more accomplished brother. The larger capacity paper trays actually make it larger than the J6480, measuring a meaty 49.4cm wide by 47.9cm deep and 33.1cm tall. Most of the bulk is because of the built-in features including the auto-duplexer, 50-sheet automatic document feeder, and legal-size scanner bay, all of which contribute to the footprint, which isn't so unwieldy when you consider the average size of a heavy-duty colour all-in-one laser.
Like the J6480 and other HP printers in the Officejet line, the Pro 8500 retains the matte white and grey panels with a glossy black cockpit in the centre that blends easily into a variety of decors. The centre console is neatly organised with a 3.45-inch colour LCD touchscreen display right in the middle. Although competitive devices like the Brother MFC-990CW do have larger screens, bigger isn't always necessarily better; in this case, HP proves the rule with a highly functional, easy-to-use heads-up display. The home screen shows all of the most commonly used option menus including Copy, Fax, Scan and Photo preferences, a quick set-up menu, and a graphical gauge that shows you almost precisely how much ink you have left in the tanks.
The rest of the front panel has a full telephone keypad for typing in fax numbers, a collection of quick access fax and copy buttons, a "Digital Filing Networking Folder" button that lets you scan and manage your images over a network, and a general "Email" button for one-touch scan delivery. Finally, the bottom of the front panel also has an external card reader that supports PictBridge USB, xD, Memory Stick, SD and Compact Flash.
HP gives you the option to pair the Pro 8500 to a host computer in three ways: over a network with the built-in Ethernet port, direct connection through a USB 2.0 cord, and through 802.11b/g networking. We followed the on-screen instructions and successfully paired the printer with our desktop computer in less than 10 minutes. From there, we connected satellite computers to the printer by simply installing the driver onto the other desktops. The process of setting up a wireless network with your printer is typically a painful process, requiring special network configurations and system changes, but the Pro 8500 slowly guides you through the set-up with on-screen instructions that we found easy to follow and troubleshoot.
The large 250-sheet input drawer is fixed into the machine, but the top comes off for when it comes time to refill your media. In addition, you can extend the tray outward to accommodate A4 and legal-size paper and it also has an arm to corral loose prints; we liked that the tray doesn't come out of the machine and is made of a sturdy plastic, but we found ourselves wishing for the dual photo and letter-size paper tray that we loved so dearly on the HP Photosmart C8180. We understand that few businesses will print more photos than straight text and presentations, but at this price point, a more versatile tray would have been nice.
If you expect to print an astronomical number of documents, HP also sells an optional 250-sheet input tray that fits directly underneath the printer. The top of the printer houses a 50-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning and/or copying, and a small auto-duplexer installs in the rear for double-sided printing. Finally, since this printer is aimed at the business market, the duty cycle runs up to 15,000 pages per month, which should be more than enough to satiate any small- to medium-size business.
In addition to the drivers, the Pro 8500 also ships with HP's Photosmart Essential and Solution Center software. The former helps you import, organise, edit and share your digital photos, and the latter helps you fax and scan documents as well as order additional supplies to use with your printer. The printer draws ink from four individual cartridges and two printheads that house an additional two colours. We used HP's XL print cartridges that offer the best deal and found that a full page of black-only ink will cost 2.9 cents per page and 3.3 cents per colour; both costs are well under the per page average by today's modern printing standards.
The scanner on the 8500 comes with on-board Optical Character Recognition software that allows the scanner to interpret graphics into editable text. The HP Solution Center software has a "convert to text" option as well as an embedded "save as editable text" feature that automatically converts as it scans. We tested this functionality using several different documents, including handwritten notes as well as simple text doc printouts and we received mixed results. Large, clear text translated well and the software even matched the original fonts, but the algorithm couldn't recognise our smaller letters and any of the handwritten portions, no matter how uniform the characters were. Instead, the scanner changed our letters into a font that looked a lot like Wingdings. All in all, the OCR isn't perfect, but you can count on it to work for light editing on presentations and other large-format scans.
Once again, HP doesn't fail to impress us with its lightning-fast print speeds. In this case, the Pro 8500 registered competition-stomping results in three out of the four benchmark tests, most notably in text, where it printed 11.35 pages per minute — double the speed of the next fastest (and still impressive) Epson Stylus Photo TX800FW. The rest of the categories proved equally impressive with the exception of the photo speed test, which scored 1.39 pages per minute — by no means disappointing, just average. Regardless, busy offices that have little to no time to waste waiting for a document to print will undoubtedly appreciate the performance speeds of the Pro 8500.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||Presentation speed (PPM)||
||Photo speed (1 sheet)||
||Colour graphics speed (PPM)||
||Text speed (PPM)|
We also couldn't be more pleased with the output quality of the photos and documents. It's true that most offices won't put as much importance on the quality of prints as the speed, but it's good to know that no matter what the settings say, the device will still give you pinpoint colour accuracy. Our test photos exhibit evenly saturated colours and thorough shading that few other printers can achieve. Our litmus test for all printers is how the ink lays on plain 20-pound paper, and the Pro 8500 easily passed this test, showing an impressive range of dynamic detail. The skin tones in our portrait shots blended well with their backgrounds and showed a rich colour palette, including dark purples and lighter shades of blue and green.
Service and support from HP includes a one-year warranty. In addition, online classes, FAQs, driver downloads and basic troubleshooting can be found at HP's website.