You would probably expect a SOHO all-in-one printer with Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) and fax facilities to cost quite a bit over £150, but the HP OfficeJet J4500 (a brand new model that's not currently on sale) will be available at around £130. On paper it's a stunning deal, but can it deliver quality as well as value?
This is a good-looking device, as long as you’re very fond of high-gloss, black plastic. The top of the heavily curved case and the input tray for the ADF are shiny, though the front of the case is ribbed, which gives it a bit of character.
Projecting from the front of the machine, at the left-hand end, is a small, well-designed control panel, centred on a single-line, 16-character LCD. This display also shows a number of symbols to indicate the mode the device is switched to and status conditions, like 'low ink' or 'cover open'. Controls include simple menu navigation and a number pad for fax dialling.
There are no memory card sockets, which is fair enough on a machine designed for home office duties, but it would have been good to see a compromise, with a front-panel USB/Pictbridge socket, so you could print from USB drives and cameras.
The paper feed tray clips on the front of the machine and a further paper support has to be pulled out from its front lip to catch printed pages. Pages feed from the front, are rolled over and end up on top of the input stack. As with other inexpensive HP inkjets, this gives the machine a comparatively large footprint when in use. There's also no cover to the paper tray, so you may need to store the paper away when you're not printing.
At the back are a USB socket and others for phone line and a third-party handset. Most people will choose the wireless connection, though, which comes as standard and is easy to set up, as long as you can position the OfficeJet J4500 close enough to your PC to temporarily connect the supplied USB cable.
The setup is automatic and includes HP applets for scanning and a version of I.R.I.S. OCR. Cartridge installation is a little bit fiddly, as the two cartridges (one black and the other tri-colour) slide in horizontally and then click up into position in the head carrier. The whole of the front cover folds down to give access to the print mechanism.