In all the hubbub with HP killing the TouchPad and spinning off its PC division, one might forget that HP still has a strong connection with Apple: They’re the only printer manufacturer with printers that fully integrate prinitng from iOS, thanks to HP’s inclusion of AirPrint on many of its printers.
The HP Officejet 6500A Plus ($200), with its all-in-one features, automatic document feeder, wifi connectivity and removable duplexer for double-sided printing, is already an attractively spec’d printer. Toss in AirPrint capability and you’ve got a strong contender to fill any iDevice-toting home/small office manager’s priniting needs.
Installation was dead simple. I nixed the installation disk and installed directly using the Print & Fax pane on the System Preferences app; the 6500A then performed an automatic over-the-air firmware update and everything was good to go. All three categories of devices — my MBP, iPad and iPhone — were able to locate and print to the 6500A quickly and without any trouble.
All of its functions (with the exception of its fax capabilities, which we didn’t test) seem straightforward and easy to use. In fact, it’s probably the most painless printer I’ve ever used. Printing and copying worked flawlessly, scanning with the LED-equipped (so no warmup time) scanner was easy whether initiated from the printer or my MBP — in the latter case, thanks in part to an uncluttred, easy-to-use HP interface.
It’s pretty heavy, and it’s not small; but at 18 x 10 inches, it doesn’t have the behemoth footprint of many other powerful all-in-ones, and the added office features like the duplexer and ADR seem more compact on the 6500A than on other printers in this class.
Black and white print quality at the highest setting is good. Draft quality printing is very good, with little discernible difference between the two. Both rendered sharp lettering even at tiny point sizes, with draft quality slightly fuzzier. Similarly, color printing looked great on inkjet paper, with crisp, bright colors. Printing photos was another story (see below).
This guy’s fast. I clocked draft black-and-white printing at about 22 ppm — that figure’s slower than HP’s claimed redline of 33 ppm, but it’s still comparatively quick. Full color, pages dense with color images at the best quality printed at about 42 seconds per page, with 4×6 photos printing in about a minute — on the fast side.
Ergonomics are solid. Like many other HP printers, the 6500A’s touchscreen display is small but responsive and easy to navigate. The access panel sports a clean design, with the backlit buttons hidden when not in use. nothing seems confusing, everything is where it should be. The output tray, which needs to be lifted in order to add paper to the 250-sheet paper tray, flips up and stays put with a gentle click for access.
It’s thick with features. The 25-sheet automatic document feeder s a big plus, as is the duplexer. The printer also comes with a preset selection of web apps that allow you to print forms, newspapers (for instance, fully formatted pages from USA Today) or other pre-formatted pages from HP’s ePrintCenter.
AirPrint is one of the strongest reasons for someone with an iPhone or iPad to pick an HP printer. Yes, other printer manufacturers have solutions that’ll let you print from your iDevice (Epson’s PrintJinni, for instance) — but nothing is as smooth or as deeply integrated as HP’s AirPrint. I just wish there were more options when iDevice printing, like being able to select quality; but that’s another discussion.
It looks good. It’s either a sleek, glossy black butler of a printer dressed in a tux, or a simulacrum of Darth Vader’s helmet in printer form, depending on your geek creds; either way, it fits perfectly in a professional setting.
This isn’t the best choice for printing photos. To be fair, HP doesn’t market this printer as a photo printer — that’s what their Photosmart line is for — and it shows. Photos, especially those with higher contrast, tend to come out looking over-saturated and muddied, and color gradients aren’t as smooth as they should be. The results are more than adequate if you’re only printing occasionally though, or if you’re not too picky.
No USB stick port? What’s the deal? There’s an SD card slot, and even one for Sony Memory Sticks — but I had to hunt around for a point-n-shoot camera and pillage its SD card in order to save a scanned document when I couldn’t save to my MBP because it was otherwise engaged. C’mon, HP.
The printer shakes with an almost animalistic frenzy when printing at high speed — markedly so than any other printer I’ve used; not a big deal, really, as long as it’s not on a rickety table.
A solid, seamless, highly user-friendly workhorse of a printer with the added capability of AirPrint; and while it isn’t an outstanding bargain, it stands squarely in good bang-for-buck territory nonetheless.