HP’s Envy all-in-ones started life as small-format lifestyle printers, designed for living rooms. They’ve since developed into more conventional home or home-office devices, and the Envy 7640 is a bigger, more technically-sophisticated multi-function printer than those early machines.
The Envy 7640 is a low-profile, but large-footprint, all-black machine. It features a 25-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) on top and a large, sloped acrylic control panel running the full width of the device. The ADF is discreet and the control panel has no physical buttons, relying on a large 88mm touchscreen and a single-touch button to control all functions.
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The touchscreen is light and responsive, and supports swipes and taps – all that’s needed to control the device. It also displays useful status information and instructions – and, in collaboration with the HP Connected site, enables straight-from-the-printer offerings such as Printables, which include pre-designed forms, quizzes and puzzles.
There are two trays as standard, one for paper up to A4 in size and the other for photo blanks at 15 x 10cm or 13 x 18cm. Each time you refill either tray you have to confirm the paper type and size, which is a little irritating.
A flip-open panel on the left-hand end of the case reveals USB and SD card slots for connecting camera cards and non-wireless devices.
The main connections are via USB 2, 10/100 Ethernet or Wi-Fi. The wireless link is the most versatile, since it provides direct connection to phones and tablets. The twin ink cartridges – black and tri-colour – clip in easily under the flatbed deck and are available in two capacities. You have to print and scan an alignment page following every cartridge change.
A fairly standard software bundle is supplied with the Envy 7640, but it does include OCR software. You can also print to the machine remotely via ePrint.
HP rates the Envy 7640 at ISO speeds of 14ppm printing black and 9ppm in colour. Our five-page black text test gave 7.9ppm, rising to 11.3ppm for the 20-page document. This isn't too far off the claimed speed. The five-page colour document came through at only 4.5ppm, however, which is half the rated throughput. Objectively, these aren’t bad speeds for an inkjet printer at this price, even if they don't quite match HP's claims.
The 20-side duplex print gave a speed of 5.7ppm, a single-page colour copy took 32 seconds and a five-page black copy from the ADF completed in 1min 11secs, all of which are respectable speeds. 15 x 10cm photos took around 50 seconds no matter which device we sent the print job from.
Print quality is pretty good across the board, with black text coming out at near-laser quality and draft mode being more acceptable than that of its competitors. Colour graphics have smooth colour fills, with no signs of banding or dither patterns. Photos are also clean and smooth, although there is some loss of detail in darker, shadowed areas in landscapes.
There are two ways of running the HP Envy 7640. You can go either purchase replacement cartridges yourself once they run out, or you can subscribe to HP’s Instant Ink service. With the latter, the printer communicates with HP and orders replacement cartridges that arrive in the post before those in your printer have run out.
If you print similar quantities each month then heading down the subscription route can save you money. You pay by the page for 50, 100 or 300 pages per month, and that's whether a page is a single dot on the page or a complete A4 photo. If you print a lot of photos, the HP Envy 7640 beats some other machines on cost.
Buying cartridges as needed, we calculate a cost per page of 4p for black and 8.8p for colour, including 0.7p for paper. With Instant Ink these costs change to 4.04p for black or colour, assuming the most economic £7.99p, 300-page per month subscription.
There’s some lively competition in this section of the colour inkjet market. For example, the Canon MAXIFY MB2050 comes in around £20 cheaper, prints faster and costs less to run, even if signing up to HP's Instant Ink service. Brother’s MFC-J4620DW costs only a little more and again beats the Envy 7640 on speed and black print costs. Print quality on plain paper isn't as good from the HP, however.
The HP Envy 7640 is a well-designed and easy-to-use MFP, with useful features such as front-panel USB and SD card slots and twin paper trays. However, these may not be enough to steer you away from rivals that offer better speed and value for money.