Multifunction Printer Review: HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus

Wi-Fi, Duplex and Its Own Email Address

If there’s one thing that most home office and small business users can agree on, it’s that space is always an issue. So it’s not surprising that when it comes time to shop for a printer, many opt for a multifunction device. If you know you also need copying, scanning, and faxing capabilities, after all, it might be a no-brainer. And even if you don’t, you might want to look ahead to a time when you might.

Enter the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus, one of the latest offerings in HP’s line of multifunction inkjet printers. As one would expect, this stylish black number prints, faxes, copies and scans. And as with HP’s other “e-All-in-One” printers, the 8500A Plus has some Web-enabled capabilities and will let you print directly from mobile devices.

This model is currently listed at $330 on HP’s website, right in between the 8500A and 8500A Premium, which are priced at $250 and $400, respectively. The main differences between the three models are the sizes of their input and output trays and their memory amounts. The basic model offers less memory than the Plus and handles fewer pages in its automatic document feeder (64MB of memory and a maximum of 35 pages), while the Premium, which has the same 50-page automatic document feeder and 128MB memory capacity as the Plus, adds a second 250-sheet paper tray. But otherwise, all three models are functionally identical.

Getting Started
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Getting up and running with the 8500A Plus was a breeze. You can choose to connect to the printer via USB, Ethernet, or wirelessly. We went with the last option, and with only moments added to the general setup time, we had the HP on our Wi-Fi network and ready to print. This adds a level of convenience in home and small office environments where running additional cable isn’t feasible or desirable.

While most printing-related interaction with the 8500A Plus will happen through the control panel software running on your PC (or Mac), a fair amount of its functionality can be controlled through its 4.3-inch touchscreen. With its bright, crisp display and its intuitive interface, copying, faxing, accessing Web applications, and printing photos from cameras and memory cards (including a bevy of various flash-card types, along with USB flash drives) is about as easy as HP could reasonably have made it.

In considering the Officejet Pro, it should be noted that the inkjet is not designed to serve a large office with heavy printing needs. With its 128MB of memory, which cannot be upgraded, and its 15,000-page monthly duty cycle, businesses with heavy printing volumes will likely want to look at higher-end laser multifunction offerings. But despite its limitations, the 8500A Plus should easily be able to handle the needs of most home office users, as well as those of small businesses that are not printing out telephone books on a daily basis.

While the 250-sheet capacity of the 8500A Plus’ only standard paper tray should be sufficient for most users, some might be annoyed by the fact that if you want to print onto envelopes, photo paper, or any other special media, you’ll have to take out the plain paper and make adjustments to the tray’s feeder. Doing this once in a while is no big deal, of course. But those who go back and forth between different media types are going to tire of this pretty quickly. So if printing on multiple types of media is a concern, you might want to consider spending the extra $70 and opting for the 8500A Premium with its second 250-sheet tray … especially considering that HP sells the second tray as an accessory for the Plus for $80.

The 8500A Plus’ output tray, meanwhile, can hold up to 150 sheets and the automatic document feeder, as mentioned above, can hold up to 50 sheets. Given that there are much more expensive multifunction printers on the market that hold the same amounts, this is pretty impressive for a $330 printer. And equally impressive is that when we tested that ADF with jobs that went right up to that 50-page maximum, we didn’t experience a single misfeed or paper jam. Unlike our past history with many entry-level multifunctions, everything went in and came out as expected, without any unpleasant surprises.

Rounding out its features, the 8500A Plus comes with a duplexer, which is just one of its many eco-friendly features. Combined with its Energy Star certification and its claims of lower consumption of resources and energy, this makes the 8500A series the latest of a long string of environmentally friendly computer peripherals that we’ve looked at in recent months.


Jack of All Trades?

As for performance, the 8500A Plus doesn’t disappoint. With single-sided printing at the default quality settings, we saw the unit perform pretty much in line with HP’s claims. A single-page black-and-white text document printed in under 10 seconds, with a 20-page document printing in 1 minute and 45 seconds … so close to the claimed speed of 15 ppm that font choices and margin settings can account for the difference. Double-sided printing, meanwhile, took considerably longer, with the same document printing in 4 minutes and 45 seconds. Most of the extra time, though, seemed to come as a result of the 8500A Plus pausing to let each side dry before continuing.

Copying speeds were similarly sprightly, with a 10-page job taking 2 minutes and 15 seconds. And faxing performance is about what you’d expect it to be, given that it’s a technology that’s probably older, at this point, than many of the people using it. Another one of those eco-friendly touches, though, is the 8500A Plus’ ability to digitally store incoming faxes to your PC, rather than print them out and waste resources.

Print quality, meanwhile, was consistently solid. Text was crisp at both the normal and “best” quality settings and images, including photographs, printed at a quality pretty much comparable to that of a dedicated home-use photo printer.

Moving, finally, to the 8500A Plus’ Web-enabled functionality, we’d have to say that while it’s a nice addition to this multifunction printer’s feature-set, it’s not going to be the main thing any purchasing decisions are based on. Perhaps the most useful of these capabilities is the ability to email documents, as attachments, directly to the printer. And if you’re worried that this will result in tons of printed spam, rest assured that you can set it to only allow emails from specific addresses.

The web apps, meanwhile, that come preloaded onto the device and can be modified and expanded through HP’s ePrintCenter site are of questionable use to business users. Despite the 8500A Plus being marketed as a business-worthy multifunction printer, most of the apps are what you’d expect to see on one of the models HP markets for home use. If you have your heart set on being able to print out daily weather forecasts, stock updates, or news headlines, this might be a welcome capability. But for most, the feature will be little more than a novelty.


Closing Thoughts

Is the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus e-All-in-One going to meet every potential user’s needs? Of course not … but then no such device ever could. While we’d personally prefer having a second tray and would likely choose to spend $70 more for the 8500A Premium, it’s nice to have both options available.

At the end of the day, it’s always going to come down to what your specific needs are. But with the 8500A Plus, HP has produced a device that should meet the needs of a fair number of SOHO (small office and home office) users.

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