What constitutes a printer has changed radically over the last few years: once a printer printed and that was it! Today printing is just one of the functions as the technology contained has morphed into a scanner, fax machine and Internet-capable device. HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer stands out from the others not so much due to its competent and efficient technology, but because it loses the worst bugaboo of any inkjet printer: running out of ink just when you need it most.
The 8620 has a fairly large sized chassis with a decent sized “footprint.” This is due to it not just being an inkjet printer, but including a number of office-caliber devices (although its use for the SOHO or even the pro-sumer individual shouldn’t be discounted). Because of built-in WiFi, placement is freed from the cable and it can be located pretty much anywhere within a reasonable radius: for my testing it was over 50 feet from the WiFi transmitter (including a wall) and the connection was never lost, most likely due to the use of the “N” WiFi standard. Nor must you first attach a computer to the 8620 — a bright 4.3 touch screen can be used to do the overall setup as well as operate all of the functions possible (complete with colored lights and icons to indicate what the printer is up to). The screen provides help menus and, during the initial setup, text that details what must be done — for example, attaching the optional duplexer that does double-sided printing. There’s even includes animated sequences to provide a visual confirmation of what’s to be done — such as inserting ink cartridges. So for those looking to avoid reading manuals, it’s pretty much of a fast ride.
The top loaded flat bed scanner holds material up to 8.5″ x 14″ inches and has an optical resolution of 1200 (interpolation can take it higher). That is more than sufficient for scanning documents at 300 dpi or greater. There’s also a built-in 50 sheet document feeder which will take sheets and run them through automatically. HP doesn’t provide OCR software, but the standard sw provided for PC and Mac use is sufficient for everyday uses and, at a basic level, doesn’t require an learning curve to speak of. Mac computers, such as mine, automatically recognize the correct printer driver, while procedures for loading the right one in for PC use is no more difficult either. There are also dedicated icon touch buttons that will activate printer apps; these include being able to “send” a scanned image directly into an email, send a file to a network folder and more. The printer will also work as a fully functional bxw or color fax machine, necessitating the addition of a telephone line connection. The fax portion of the printer can also automatically receive faxes. For those without landlines, this feature is defunct, although faxing through the Internet is an acceptable alternative.
The resolution of the printer is more than sufficient for documents and for casual photo printing (but not what is needed for high-quality color printing of photographs). As the printer was not designed for photos specifically, as some are, it shouldn’t be held to account because of that. As an example, I compared a high resolution scan of a scenic printed on a photo-specific color inkjet printer with that of the 8620: the OfficeJet didn’t come in first place but wasn’t so far behind as to be told to sit in the corner. For the occasional and non-pro use, it does fine. The resolution of the printer also makes it less useful for scanning negatives or slides, and since it doesn’t include the hardware for doing this, it’s fair to say that it’s not designed to handle such work.
Printing is certainly an important “function” of a printer, and one that moves along at a better than reasonable speed — especially when black and white is being printed instead of color. The 8620 can print up to 21 bxw pages a minute, with color far from far behind at 16.5. Realistically this speed was never quite attained, but short of massive print documents hogging the use of the printer, the “wait” time for any queuing will be brief enough not to cause a conniption fit. But for those who are impatient, I say just stick with black and white printing. The paper trays consist of a 250-sheet input tray and 150 output.
All of the features noted above can be duplicated through use of the built-in color LCD touch-screen panel, as opposed to using a computer or sending a file to print from a mobile device’s app. One nice feature of using the panel is the ”Help” function noted earlier, and it’s a quick press to select from the setup or initiate the WiFi settings through the Setting menu. Additionally, using the panel is the most direct way to access files placed on a thumb drive which have been inserted into the USB socket.
We now come to the ink cartridges, arguable the more expensive and replaceable part of this $299.00 retail printer. Similar to most color inkjet printers now on the market, there are separate cartridges for cyan, magenta and yellow, along with one for black (and which is about twice the size of its companions). These cartridges fit easily into their designated slots and, following the loading procedure, result in the printer being ready for action within a few minutes. The normal procedure that now follows is to use the printer, doing color and black and white as needed, until one gets a warning that a color or the black is running low. Then you try to squeeze out every drop you can until it’s time to replace the cartridge with a fresh one purchased earlier and that’s lying in a drawer (versus the more “green” method of waiting till the cart expires and then going to the store to get a new one and give them back the old for disposal). HP, however, has another idea and it’s a doozy.
HP sells a subscription service called Instant Ink. What it does is to place you in monthly plan. For a set amount, you are “allowed” to print a designated amount of sheets (color and/or black and white). For example, the basic plan cost $2.99 and lets you print 50 pages. If you print less than 50 that month, it rolls over into the next month’s total (up to 50 sheets worth) and if more, you pay a $1 fee per each additional 15 pages. The real value of the plan is that you’re sent a replacement ink cartridge(s) before you know you need one. The ink cartridges you’ve installed (and which are “geared” to the printer) transmit their status to HP which sends out a replacement through the US mail when needed. You get the cartridge(s) in the mail, replace that which was sent with the one in the printer and then return it in the postage-free box for HP to properly dispose of (although I think it likely they reuse it). You never pay for the ink itself, which saves money like billio. Since HP is not monitoring WHAT is being printed, just the volume of ink outputted, even those leery of the NSA shouldn’t take umbrage. Just don’t toss out the aluminum foil hats, they’re hard to make! Also, don’t toss out the starter inkjet cartridges that come with the printer — you have to install them as normally before applying for Instant Ink replacements. Additionally there’s a bit of a time lag between signing up for the service and getting the cartridges, but once they’ve come and been inserted, the service charges begin as the printer informs HP that all is now in progress.
Bottom line: The HP OfficeJet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer is a moderately sized printer, scanner and all around useful office e-device. Taken into account with the Instant Ink service, the sum of its parts is well worth the cost of the whole.
LCD control panel. Color phone/Internet faxing
Must use HP approved ink cartridges for Instant Ink
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.