HP has obviously got really excited by its ePrint technology, which enables its printers to be directly Web-connected. It's building the feature into more and more of its laser and inkjet machines and the OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus is a top-of-the-range office inkjet with colour laser pretensions.
Judging by all the low-tac film stuck to the panels of this printer, HP really wants you to see it at its black, glossy best. It's also sexed things around a bit so the fairly substantial Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) now sports a jaunty backwards lean and the control panel hinges out from the right-hand end of the front panel, looking vaguely like an elongated iPhone attached to it.
This panel is based on a wide-format touchscreen and HP makes very good use of its 109mm display, which gives plenty of room to use long text descriptions and instructions, and to display helpful animations for tasks such as fitting printheads and replacing ink cartridges.
Below the control panel, and set roughly in the centre of the machine, is the main paper tray, which has a generous (for an inkjet) capacity of 250 sheets. It's purposeful look is modified somewhat by the need to pull out an extension to form the paper output tray on the cassette's top.
In the bottom right-hand corner of the front panel are twin memory card slots for SD, Memory Stick and xD cards, and a USB port that can also handle PictBridge cameras. At the back are sockets for phone line and handset, to provide for the machine’s fax functionality, and USB and 10/100 Ethernet data sockets, though most people will probably choose the wireless connection.
This is pretty straightforward to set up and if your router has a secure setup button, the whole process can be completed automatically in under a minute. Once you've made the network connection, the printer can go out onto the Internet and check for updates, before you’ve installed any of the supplied software. Setup is a tad more long-winded than normal, as part of the software installation on PC or Mac involves establishing an ePrint account – why can't this be done from the printer itself?
You can then download applets from the website to run on your OfficeJet Pro 8500A Plus and send the machine e-mails, with or without attachments, which can be printed directly, not needing a connected computer. Apart from sending pictures of babies in dalek-bases to loving relatives (see TV ad), we’re still to be convinced this is the printing revolution HP thinks it is.
HP has used the same fixed-ink system as on the Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless, where four substantial ink cartridges are linked to the two twin-colour heads via flexible tubes. The system works remarkably well and increases the page yield into the thousands for a single tank.