There's a kind of law in working out the costs of owning a printer, which says that the less you pay for the machine, the more you pay for ink cartridges. This would be true of HP's low-end Officejet 3830 if it wasn't for the company's Instant Ink service, which offers low-cost ink on subscription.
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This printer, aimed at the home and student markets, is quite large for a £50 device, and includes a 35-sheet Automatic Document Feeder under its gently curved top. A section of this folds over to reveal a feed tray for the scanner, which also includes a standard flatbed under the hinged lid.
The paper-white display screen on a small, slanted control panel offers touch controls. They're reasonably sensitive, although not as light and positive as a smartphone's. It offers scrolling, too, as well as tap response.
Paper feeds in from a pull-up and fold-back tray at the rear, which holds a fairly meagre 60 sheets and ends up on a tray formed from the folded-down front panel, with a swivel-out and flip-over extension. Having to enter details of paper size and type each time you add paper is pretty annoying, but at least you don’t waste it printing images the wrong size.
Behind the front panel is another fold-down flap. When this is down, the twin cartridge carriers slide to mid-carriage, to make changing the cartridges easier. It’s still a little fiddly to slide the cartridges in and click them up into place, but there are no awkward retaining clips to lock in place.
There's a single USB port on the rear of the Officejet 3830, but I'd recommend choosing the wireless connection instead since this enables virtually any device to link to the printer. There's no NFC connection, but HP's print apps on Android and iOS are easy to use and offer a good range of printing control. Software includes HP Photo Creations and Update, as well as the driver.
The HP Officejet 8380 is rated at 8.5ppm for mono pages and 6ppm for colour, using ISO figures. In our tests, the maximum mono print speed was 7.0ppm mono on the 5-page test, increasing to 9.0ppm for the 20-page version. It’s rare we see test results that exceed manufacturer claims, so this is impressive.
Our 5-page colour print wasn’t as fast, however, at only 2.4ppm. A colour copy from the flatbed took 32 seconds and a 5-page mono copy from the ADF completed in 1min 49secs. 15 x 10cm photos took 1min 50secs from a PC and 2mins 19secs from an Android smartphone. These speeds are all fair for a budget all-in-one such as this.
Text print is a little thicker than from printers further up HP’s range, although some people may prefer this. The machine has a good draft mode, which saves ink, although not time to print. Colour graphics on plain paper are dense and bright, while those in photos are smooth and fairly accurate – although darker than originals – by default.
Using the cheapest prices I could find for the XL cartridges, running costs are 4.6p for a mono page and 9.7p for colour. These aren't particularly low, even for a machine at this price, but if your ink use is regular enough and you're happy to buy it on subscription, HP's Instant Ink service can reduce this to 2.7p per page.
If you print a high proportion of photos in your document mix, this is particularly good value, since you pay as much for a page with a single line of text as you do for a full A4 colour photo.
There isn't much competition in the sub-£50 all-in-one end of the market, particularly units that include a built-in ADF. Brother’s machines start at more than £100, but the Canon MX495 costs around £45, and offers the majority of the features of this Officejet – although print costs are much higher than with Instant Ink on the HP. The Canon is also noisier. Epson’s cheapest all-in-one, the Expression Home XP-225, is priced around £35, but it has no ADF.
This is a good, basic all-in-one with many of the features you'd be looking for in a home office. If you don’t like the idea of buying ink on subscription, then running costs are relatively high. If Instant Ink makes sense to you, though, this is one of the cheapest to run budget printers on the market.