The wide ink swathes of the heads ensure this printer is quick for an inkjet. HP quotes three different print speeds, in Draft, Normal and Best print modes, which begins to show a more accurate picture of its true performance. However, these speeds are still a bit optimistic, as HP quotes 15ppm for black print in normal mode and our five-page text print took 33 seconds, or 9.1ppm. When we increased the page count to 20, we saw a normal mode speed of 11.3ppm, closer to the claimed speed. A five page A3 print took 1:06, or 4.5ppm.
Things weren’t so good when we printed colour, though, as our five page text and graphics print completed in 53 seconds, or 5.7ppm, against the spec sheet figure of 14.5ppm. The printer produced a 15 x 10cm photo in 1:35 and a full bleed 19 x 13 inch (A3+) in 3:37, which is very respectable. That’s in normal print mode; if you whack the printer up to Best mode, the print time increases to 9:18.
Comparing the two prints, though, there little reason to use Best mode, unless print quality is really important for a particular image. Normal mode is very close and both do excellent jobs with colour variation, fidelity of hues and image clarity. The only thing we noticed was a single, slight band near the left-hand edge of the Normal mode print.
Business graphics are cleanly reproduced on plain paper, with good bright colours and excellent registration of black text laid over them. Text itself is clean and shows very little sign of spatter or jaggies, thanks to the printer's natural resolution of 1200dpi.
Although you plug the heads in when you install and set up this printer, they can be considered a lifetime component, which means the only consumables are the four ink cartridges. The cheapest prices we could find for these are the same as for the OfficeJet Pro K5400n, giving a cost per page of 1.59p for black text and 4.30p for colour. Both these costs are reasonable, in comparison with other inkjet printers in the same price range and cheaper than most A3 lasers, too.
HP’s OfficeJet Pro K8600 is very much a wide-carriage version of the K5400n, but without the upgrade options and with a much higher price. Although the smaller market for A3+ printers puts a certain premium on them, when you look at the actual differences - increased carriage width, a different paper tray and modified firmware - it's hard to see why this machine should cost £250.