We tested the HP Officejet Pro 8630 e-All-in-One printer for speed, text and color accuracy as well as other factors, like setup and ease of use. Here's our comprehensive SMB HP printer review. The final verdict: the Officejet Pro 8630 revitalizes ink-based printing.
Many years ago, there was a bit of a format war between inkjet and laser printers. At the time, laser printers had almost every advantage and pretty much took control of the entire market, at least for anything beyond personal photo printing. But ink-based printers never really went away. Now HP is trying to bring them back to the mainstream with new ink technology, faster print speeds and lower cost per page when compared to most laser printers.
One of the entry-level units in the new inkjet line is the HP Officejet Pro 8630 e-All-in-One printer. The unit retails for $399, but comes with a lot of high-end features that don't normally ship on a printer at that level regardless of the technology used. One of those extra features, a 4.3-inch color LCD touchscreen, came into play almost right away during the setup process.
Printer Setup & Configuration
The Officejet 8630 is incredibly easy to setup, thanks in part to the large screen that walks users through the process of building the unit. The Officejet 8630 ships in three main pieces that are snapped together. Once the basic pieces are in place, the unit can be powered up and the screen walks through the rest of the processes. For example, if you don’t know how to load the four ink cartridges, you simply touch the play button to watch a video of how to do it.
There are videos for every step along the way, including loading the paper trays and getting the paper handling component snapped into place along the backside of the printer. The 8630 can be set up to connect to a network using an Ethernet cable, a USB 2.0 port or wirelessly using 802.11b/g/n. As with all speed testing in this series of reviews, documents were sent using the USB cable.
The only real disappointment in the setup process was a message that popped up on the computer screen of the PC that was going to drive the review. It said that a reward had been earned for using genuine HP ink in the new printer. Following the link and entering in data like an e-mail address was required to claim the prize. The reward turned out to be $5 off a gift card from a site that allows the creation and printing of those cards. The catch is that most cards had a minimum value requirement of $25. You can't print a $5 gift card and claim your reward without spending $20 of your own money. At best, that is a pretty cheesy thing for a company like HP to do. At worst, it’s a bit of a deceptive advertising campaign. Other than that annoying diversion, the setup process went smoothly.
Once setup and running, the biggest surprise was the speed of the Officejet 8630. It was able to crunch a 30 page text document about half a minute faster than most laser printers in the same class. As in our other printer tests, the speed test was conducted in the printer's normal printing mode and the first document was 30 pages of text made up of mostly black text with a few pages of color mixed in.
Speed Test Results: The Officejet Pro 8630 was able to print the document in 1 minute and 35 seconds, for an average of 20 pages per minute.
The second test we put the Officejet Pro 8630 unit through was another 30 page document; this one however, has both text and huge graphical files where the letters go directly over, around and through photos at different points, while some graphics take up an entire page. This proven test was designed to give a simulation of a worst-case scenario when it comes to printing
Color Test Results: The Officejet Pro 8630 finished printing the document in 2 minutes and 16 seconds, which is almost 15 pages per minute.
The color test on the Officejet was even more impressive; the fact that the unit could continuously print the 30 page graphically laden test document in just over two minutes without pausing to load more data at any point, is huge. That is almost a full minute faster than most comparable laser printers.
Its average first page out time of 16 seconds is about on par with most printers, but being able to push 30 pages with heavy graphics out in just over two minutes is highly impressive, especially given that the print head on the 8630 has to move back and forth, line by line. HP says that new inkjet models will have nozzles that take up the entire page, eliminating the moving parts and ratcheting up speeds to 70 pages per minute or faster. Even with the moving print head in this entry level unit, the speed is impressive.
Print & Color Quality
Many of the ink-based flaws of the past have been fixed, or at least automated, in the 8630. Before each print job, the unit can be heard making a few clicking sounds. That is the sound of the unit wiping and cleaning the print head before starting each job. This automatic process is done without user intervention and HP says the print head itself has been designed to last for the life of the unit.
The 8630 also uses pigment-based ink instead of the older dye-based ink. Ink based on pigments dries fast on the page; it is waterproof, smear and highlighter resistant, and much less prone to jamming or drying out. The tradeoff is that photos printed on the 8630 don't pop quite as much as with units that use dye-based ink.
The color quality however, is still quite good with the new ink. Colors are accurately represented on the 8630 and even very light shades printed over darker backgrounds are properly rendered. The only negative is that brighter colors come out a little darker than they should when printed on standard office paper.
Sheets of paper that are totally covered in photos or graphics spit out of the 8630 feeling slightly wet to the touch. Though they are in no danger of smearing even when subjected to a harsh rubbing, it's clear that some of the ink does get absorbed into the paper, which seems to dull the brightest of colors by a slightly noticeable amount. Even so, the color quality is good, and better than what many comparable laser printers could produce.
Text quality is adequate and readable, though there is some jaggedness around the letters of standard 12-point type if the text is examined closely. There are also some instances of the white background of the paper peeking through in pinhole-sized gaps around letters that are printed over graphics. Again, this is only noticeable on very close examination, but might be enough to keep graphics professionals away.
Capabilities & Features
One really nice feature for enterprise users is the addition of HP Web Jetadmin. This free tool allows administrators to manage almost any size fleet of HP printers and scanners on their network. For smaller workgroups, Embedded Web Server (EWS) might be a bit easier and can be accessed and used by simply typing the IP address of the printer into a web browser.
One of the features that can be customized includes Color Access Control, which sets who can use color and when. You can also define when to activate secure printing which requires a PIN. For mobile users in remote offices or who are on the road, you can manage printer lists. In addition, either Jetadmin or EWS can be used to set up an email chain alerting the correct people about events like the printer running out of paper, ink alerts, the printer going offline or other error conditions.
There are also some nice features for BYOD users. The printer can be set up with an email address that lets any BYOD user mail in print jobs. There is also an HP All in One remote application that can help an iOS or Android devices find the printer wirelessly for printing. It even works with NFC capabilities, allowing users to print by tapping their phone against the printer. All of these features can be managed or disabled using either Jetadmin or EWS too, so it doesn't present a backdoor around printing policy, just an extra convenience for authorized mobile users.
In terms of environmental features, the 8630 is Energy Star qualified, though most devices are these days. There are Eco mode setting available right on the front LCD screen where users can set up things like forcing two-sided copies, scheduling a sleep mode for non-office hours and even lowering the brightness of the screen. In general, the 8630 produces a lot less waste than a comparable laser printer too, given that the ink cartridges are tiny, measuring less than four inches wide and two inches tall. HP offers recycling envelopes too so that the old cartridges can be returned each time new ones are ordered.
The 8630 also uses less power than most laser printers when printing. While the sleep mode power draw of 2.5 watts is about the same as others in its class, the fact that the 8630 doesn’t have to drive a big drum unit and doesn't have to heat up a white hot fuser to print equals a much lower power consumption overall. When fully printing a document, the unit only draws in an average of 28 watts of power, with peaks no higher than 32 watts. And the 8630 doesn't get hot like laser printers either. Pages always come out cool, but more importantly, the printer won't significantly contribute to the cooling needs of a busy office, resulting in indirect savings by not taxing the HVAC quite so much.
Officials at HP say they are bringing the OfficeJet to the mainstream business community to offer a lower cost per page along with faster printing when compared to lasers. The cost per page for the 8630 works out to about 7.2 cents per page for color, which is very economical even if the inks need to be changed more often than the toner cartridges of most laser printers. The standard color cartridges for the 8630 last for about 700 pages, assuming normal color coverage. Special extended cartridges push that up to 1,500 pages each.
In addition to just the printing features, the 8630 is an all-in-one model, meaning that it has a fax and a flatbed scanner at the top, which can double as a small copy machine. Those features are outside the scope of this review, but were tested briefly and worked fine.
On the negative side, the 8630 seemed to have more trouble with paper handling than other units in its class. Out of every 100 pages run through the machine, there were an average of seven slight errors detected where the paper wasn't grabbed properly. This sometimes produced lines running across photos where the print head suffered slight registration errors, printing over a place it had already been, but mostly just making for a very messy return paper tray. In one instance, several pages came out blank as the unit fumbled to complete the final page of a long document. The 8630 had been set up in the lab on a rolling cart for testing. The cart seemed sturdy, but the 8630 shakes quite a bit when printing because of the fast-moving print head inside. The printer really needs to be anchored down to a completely solid surface. When moved to a solid floor, the page printing errors were reduced down to two or three pages per hundred, but never completely eliminated.
The HP Officejet Pro 8630 e-All-in-One Printer offers a more environmentally friendly option to laser printing, and a low cost per page for color printing. Its speed is its greatest asset, though its quality is also quite good for an entry level unit. Even without the extras like wireless printing, faxing and a flatbed scanner, the Officejet 8630 would be a good choice for home users and small workgroups. As a complete package, it may give laser printers their first real competition in many years.
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