Small and home office all-in-ones are getting slicker and better attuned to the needs of the teleworker. This latest HP offering includes photo printing, a comprehensive fax facility, duplex print and a wireless connection. HP has also taken a step towards reducing print costs, a long-term bugbear for many inkjet customers, and claims prints from the OfficeJet 6500 Wireless can cost up to 40 percent less than those from an equivalent colour laser. Given that there aren't many colour lasers costing under £180, least of all multifunction machines like this, it probably has a point.
Sporting HP's new black and white business inkjet livery, the OfficeJet 6500 Wireless certainly looks functional. Its near-flat, 30-sheet Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) has a jaunty quiff at the end of the feed tray and a blend of textured and high gloss black gives the machine character.
The control panel, which is comparatively small and all the busier for it, still includes separate function sections for scan, photo, copy and fax and there's a full number pad for fax dialling, as well as 100 quick-dial numbers, which should be enough for most SOHO customers.
Although there's no colour LCD display, the two-line, backlit mono LCD provides sufficient feedback for most uses. HP scrolls a variety of different status and guidance messages through the screen to provide feedback. Under the control panel is the machine's only feed tray, which can take up to 250 sheets of plain paper or, alternatively, glossy paper for photo prints.
The output tray, as is usually the case with HP devices, fits directly above the feed tray and extends quite a way forward from the front of the machine, when it's fully extended, as it has to be when printing. In the bottom left of the front panel are twin memory card slots, but these don't cater for CompactFlash cards any more, just MemoryCard, SD and xD. There's no USB socket at the front, either, which is a shame as they can now often be used for printing from USB drives and scanning directly to them.
At the back are sockets for USB, Ethernet and for a fax cable and optional handset, but many customers will opt for the wireless connection and this is remarkably easy to set up on the OfficeJet 6500 Wireless. Although you need to connect the machine to a PC temporarily via USB - there's a cable in the box - once you've selected wireless connection the whole setup completes automatically; you're not even asked for your WEP key. We're still considering whether this is one up for ease-of-use or one down for network security.
The machine uses a plug-in print head, with four ink cartridges plugging into the head itself. This arrangement and the look of the cartridges themselves suggest that either HP has been taking a good look at Canon's cartridge design or that Canon makes the consumables for this machine. It's open knowledge that Canon has produced HP's laser engines for years, so perhaps the collaboration now extends to inkjets, too.
The standard software bundle you'd expect with a modern HP all-in-one, including basic OCR and management of scanning and printing, is provided and the machine can be connected to versions of Windows from 2000 on or to OS X 10.4 and above. Linux use is supported by HPLIP and is known to work with versions of SuSE, Fedora, Ubuntu and Debian.