'Value' printer for small biz

16th April 2009
'Value' printer for small biz

Anand Parthasarathy reviews the Officejet 8500 Pro wireless print-fax-copy-scanner
Small businesses worldwide, find the going tough in these downturn days. When it comes to paring a rupee here and a rupee there, every bit helps -- and printer leader Hewlett Packard has brought into play its canny sense for what this cash crunched section of canny buyers wants, to whip together its latest offerings in the All in One (AiO) inkjet printer sector.

Seeing that even the top of the line Officejet Pro 8500 AiO is just shy of Rs 23,000, (This is almost the same as the international dollar price of $ 400 after conversion),give or take a few rupees), we decided that it was pegged at a price that most SMBs or even micro SMBS deciding between an inkjet and a laser, would find within reach and decided to it through its paces during a recent product showcase in Delhi.

The main attraction of this series, ofcourse, is the zippy speed -- around 34- 35 ppm for both colour and black and white in draft mode. More interestingly its speed when set to a print quality comparable to laser is a respectable 15 ppm monochrome and 11 pm colour. Pigment inks have evolved to a stage when most users would be hard put to tell prints from an inkjet of this class from a laser print ( the printer has four separate cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow and black and one has the choice of loading higher capacity cartridges which reduce somewhat the per page printing cost).

The scan feature has a basic optical resolution of 4800 which can be tweaked to 19200 dots per inch with some clever processing. We found copy speeds almost the same as the draft print speeds with resolutions up to 1200 by 600 dpi. Faxes come out at around one per 3 seconds. Operations are made intuitive and almost ' for dummies' by adding a3.45 inch touch screen.

The elements that will appeal to cost conscious buyers include duplex (that is both sides) printing, with a 50 page auto document feeder; a wireless (WiFi) interface that allows up to 10 users to share the printer; and a couple of neat software tricks. These include Direct Digital Filing where scanned documents or incoming faxes can be directly sent to a folder on the network or sent as an email attachment, without having to take a copy or even use a PC; and HP's Smart Web Printing solution that allows one to mix-n-match stuff from multiple web pages into a single printed page. The PictBridge interface allows one to print direct from digital cameras, bypassing a PC.

HP claims that using LEDS instead of fluorescent bulbs for the scan/copy functions allows the printer to use a fourth of the energy normally consumed during idle periods and 1.4 times less during copy mode. As a result, an Office jet like the 8500 might end up guzzling about half the power of a laser that produces similar output.

The printer is no lightweight -- at just under 13 kg -- and the Indian visual media at the launch event which requested HP's Sr Veep, Chris Morgan to hold up a printer for the photo op., clearly didn't know the difference between desktop and portable printers ( we recorded this moment in our Picture of the Day a few weeks ago on this page).

HP has also announced a Pro Seeding Programme for SMBs where they don't pay for the printers like the Pro8500, Pro8000, Pro K8600 or 2800 -- only for an approximately equivalent stock of cartridges.

Either way they might well decide that in these difficult times the Pro 8500 is what they would rate as paisa vasool or value for money.