HP may be a comparative latecomer to ink tank printing, but with the HP Smart Tank 5105 it’s pretty much nailed it. Only its annoying scan interface and leisurely colour print speeds detract from an excellent small multi-function printer, which represents exceptionally good value. If you want low-cost home printing and scanning, it’s a great choice.
- Decent features
- Great plain paper print quality
- Very low running costs
- Slow colour printing
- Ink bottles could be mis-inserted
- A basic MFPThe Smart Tank 5105 can print, scan and copy, but it has no fax
- Refillable ink tanksInk comes in big bottles, so it’s much cheaper than cartridges
The HP Smart Tank 5105 is a relatively basic multifunction printer (MFP), with refillable ink tanks.
It can print, scan and copy, but it can’t send or receive faxes. It also doesn’t have duplex (double-sided) printing or scanning, or a particularly sophisticated paper tray.
Still, there’s Wi-Fi, so it’s easy to connect and share on your home network. If you don’t run a particularly busy home office, it could have everything you need.
Design and features
- Refillable ink tanks
- Basic paper handling
- Basic controls
HP is a comparative newcomer when it comes to refillable ink tank printing. Epson’s EcoTank printers have been around for nearly a decade, with Canon’s first MegaTank range arriving about five years ago. By contrast, HP snuck out its first refillable printers at the end of 2019, and this is the first chance we’ve had to review one.
The HP 5105 sits towards the bottom of the brand’s growing Smart Tank range. It’s a simple MFP, with an exposed paper feed at the rear and no fancy paper handling features. Its scanner doesn’t have an automatic document feeder, so it’s not ideal if you’ll regularly make multi-page scans or copies.
The on-device controls are reasonably basic, too. There’s a simple mono display, paired with dedicated black and colour, and ID copy buttons. Pressing them repeatedly increases the number of copies to be made.
The 5105 arrives empty, with four large bottles of ink. The first job is to disgorge their contents into the tanks at the front of the printer. The bottles won’t leak, but they may need a small wiggle to encourage the ink to start draining.
While the Epson and Canon systems include shaped plastic to prevent you offering a bottle to the wrong tank, this one doesn’t – it’s critically important to double-check you’re filling a tank with the right colour.
The next task is to fit the print heads. It’s a one-off job, and no more complex than inserting cartridges into a standard HP printer. I had to nudge the head carrier slightly to get it into the proper place – if it’s not, the surrounding plastic will prevent you inserting the cartridges.
While other ink tank printers spend a good 5-10 minutes on ink priming, I was surprised that this one was happily delivering a calibration page within moments. It then seemed to press on with some housekeeping, but this didn’t get in the way of finishing the setup. I used the HP Smart app to join it to my network, after which I finished my tests using the full PC software, available by searching for HP’s Easy Start app.
Like other ink tank printers, the Smart Tank 5105 certainly isn’t cheap. You’d usually expect to pay around £60-70 for a printer with this specification, not £200. But it’s important to look at the total cost of ownership. A £60 printer would likely cost around 9p a colour page to print, so if you bought it and printed 6000 pages over its lifetime you’d pay nearer £600.
This HP printer comes with roughly 6,000 pages worth of ink, so printing that much wouldn’t cost you any more than you paid for the 5105 itself. The economies add up over time: use up the supplied ink and you’ll find that keeping it in ink costs only around 0.7p per colour page.
One significant caveat is that it can take home users some time to reach these kinds of volumes – many home printers won’t hit 6000 pages over their lifetime. For this reason, it’s vital to know that a refillable printer will last long enough for you to recoup your initial investment through ink savings. Happily, HP is backing the Smart Tank 5105 up with a three-year warranty, although this requires registration.
Print speed and quality
- Great plain paper print quality
- Reasonable speeds, except on complex colour jobs
- Acceptable scan performance
I’ve had some issues setting up HP printers recently, but I could join the HP Smart Tank 5105 to my network with no problems, and it didn’t give me any trouble at all during testing. It’s not a particularly quick printer, needing 35 seconds to produce a first page of text, and taking exactly a minute on our five-page test.
Printers are often quicker when you ask them to make many copies of a single page, and on this test the 5105 delivered a first page of text in 16 seconds, and went on to hit 10.9 pages per minute (ppm). That’s not quick, but it’s quite acceptable for a comparatively affordable home printer.
I saw a similar pattern with colour graphics printing. This printer happily spat out five copies of our mixed text and graphics page at a fair 4.5ppm. However, faced with a longer test with some more complex graphical content, it limped along at an underwhelming 1.7ppm.
We test photo printing at the highest possible print quality which, on an HP printer, means delving into the settings to tick the ‘Print at Max DPI’ box. I soon wished I hadn’t: I literally had time to make and eat lunch in the 28 minutes it took to print six borderless, postcard-sized photos.
Happily, the wait is generally worthwhile. Plain paper print quality was extremely good. Black text was dark and sharp, all the way down to a 5pt minimum size. Colour graphics were exceptionally good, with no obvious banding or graining – two common inkjet grumbles.
Unfortunately this run of good form didn’t extend to photo prints. While they were fine for occasional use, skin tones were somewhat washed out, and our black and white test photo had a slight greenish hue. The colour accuracy of photocopies wasn’t perfect, either, but they were well exposed, without too much loss of detail in darker areas.
The HP Smart Tank 5105 has a good enough scanner for office use, capturing A4 documents crisply at low to medium resolution. It needed 11 seconds to complete a preview, or a 150 dots per inch (dpi) scan of an A4 document, while a 300dpi scan took 20 seconds. I’m not a massive fan of HP’s TWAIN scan interface, which doesn’t follow the Preview/Scan format more typically found in other software, but it’s easy enough to use once you get used to it.
Higher resolution scans of photos weren’t bad, but like many other HP scanners I’ve tested, when I zoomed in they showed signs of digital sharpening. As with my complaints about the photo quality, this would be unlikely to matter in occasional use, but I wouldn’t recommend this MFP if you’ll be doing a lot of high resolution scanning.
It needed a lengthy 49 seconds to complete a 600dpi scan of a 10x15cm photo, and more than two and a half minutes for the same job at the maximum 1200dpi.
Should you buy it?
You want a great value home MFP:
The HP Smart Tank 5105 delivers decent results for a reasonable price
You need to print and scan photos:
This MFP isn’t the best at photo printing or high-resolution scanning
I’ve often been critical of HP’s ink pricing for those who don’t want to choose an Instant Ink subscription. The HP Smart Tank 5105 side steps that completely. You can just buy cheap HP ink when you need it – perfect.
Not only does this MFP have very low running costs, broadly in line with other ink-tank printers, but it’s fairly affordable in the first place, perhaps underlining increasing competition between the big brands. While the HP Smart Tank 5105 won’t suit everyone, it really is a great value all-purpose home MFP, provided you’ll use it to print more than a couple of thousand pages in its lifetime.
If you don’t think you’ll be printing that frequently, then check out our best printer round-up for additional options.
How we test
Every printer we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including print quality, speed and cost.
We’ll also compare the features with other printers at the same price point to see if you’re getting good value for your money.
Measured the time it takes to print with various paper
Compared print quality with other printers
Tested printing with monochrome and coloured ink
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They can take a little more setting up, particularly if you need to fit their print heads. However, once set up they usually require less maintenance. Often a single charge of ink will last for thousands of pages, whereas you’ll be lucky to get a few hundred from a set of cartridges.