We put HP's Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One inkjet printer to the test. It's affordable, but is it suitable for small business?
The HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One Printer integrates color printing with copy, scan and fax capability. Unlike the laser Samsung CLX-4195FW Color Multifunction that we reviewed late last year, the Officejet -- an inkjet printer --is easier on the pockets with a list price of $299.99.
Of course, price is just one factor when shopping for a small business printer. Is the all-in-one HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus worthy of your consideration? Let's take a look.
Small Business Inkjet Specifications
The Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One comes with a built-in 4.3-inch color touchscreen that offers an easy way to navigate its various functions. The resistive touch-screen offers adequate sensitivity compared to some other printers that we’ve tried. So while we would welcome a capacitance touch-screen, we have no real complaints about the printer's touch-screen.
The paper input tray holds up to 250-sheets of paper, and accepts a range of paper sizes up to Letter and A4 sizes. The printer uses three separate color cartridges (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow), as well as a larger black cartridge. HP claims that the Officejet Pro 8600 produces professional color at a 50 percent lower cost than the majority of color laser AIO printers.
HP's Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One small business inkjet printer.
long the bottom of the printer's front panel, you'll find two memory card slots for common card formats such as Memory Stick, SD (Secure Digital) and MMC (MultimediaCard). It also sports a USB port for plugging in USB devices such as a flash drive. You can access, view and print photos or scanned documents stored on these storage devices from the printer's "Photo" menu.
Connectivity-wise, the Officejet 8600 Plus offers a range of options including wired USB and Ethernet, as well as built-in wireless. On the Wi-Fi front, you can configure the multifunction printer to join an existing wireless network, and simultaneously support printing direct from wireless client devices.
Setting Up the HP Officejet Pro 8600
You change or install the print cartridges by pulling down the front panel, which causes the printer to automatically move the cartridge tray toward the opening for easy access. The cartridges slide easily into place. Pressing on the spring-loaded cartridge causes it to ease out of the holder like an old-style VCR tape cartridge. An internal LED light lights up to eliminate any fumbling.
The Officejet Pro 8600 Plus supports both Windows and the Mac OS X operating systems. A bundled CD disc comes with the requisite software drivers for both platforms, though it wasn’t necessary for the Mac. We set up the printer on both platforms uneventfully, and we were able to check on the ink levels of the various color and black cartridges from the computer.
We configured the Officejet 8600 Plus to connect to our wireless network by selecting the "Setup" option on the printer’s touchscreen and tapping on "Network." A wizard made joining the printer to an existing Wi-Fi network simple; and the printer supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup, too. You set up Wireless Direct printing in the same sub-menu, and you can secure it with a password if desired.
Working with the Officejet Pro 8600
Like practically every small business inkjet printer out there, the Officejet Pro 8600 makes a fair amount of noise when printing. Though we won’t describe it as particularly noisy, the internal space where the print heads move around seemed to accentuate the sound somewhat.
Overall, the inkjet produced vibrant color printouts, which dried very quickly, even for full-page photo printouts. Of course, the inkjet technology the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus uses means that the ink smudges slightly upon contact with water, and text was not as crisp as a good laser printout. Still, the quality is perfectly usable for business printouts.
We were very impressed by the Officejet Pro 8600's high print speed -- even with color HTML emails or full-paged photos. This includes copying full color pages too, which in our tests took 10 seconds to print after completing the scanning portion. And did we say that the Officejet Pro 8600 supports duplex printing too? This excellent feature helps you cut down on paper consumption.
The printer comes with HP’s ePrint, which lets you print via a uniquely assigned email address. We suppose this could be useful for getting things printed en-route to the office, though it’s probably not a must-have feature. On a separate note, we were able to print from an iPad tablet using its built-in AirPrint feature.
To maximize on its touch-screen panel, HP added support for a variety of apps. They runs the gamut from news and games to, yes, even comics. We're not convinced that they're practical in a business setting though, and accordingly did not explore them in depth.
One major downside to the Officejet Pro 8600: it doesn't have a sheet feed capability. This means there's no easy way to insert non-standard paper sizes and envelopes for printing, including paper of varying thickness such as stock paper or labels.
To be clear, you can still load smaller-sized paper from the paper tray, though you will have to empty it and set the internal paper guides accordingly first.
Another minor gripe has to do with the printer' bulk. While it's not particularly large when compared to multifunction printers with comparable capabilities, the protrusion at the back (for the paper path) and on the front (for the flaps) means that you won’t be able to put it on a narrow desk or shelf.
Conclusion: Officejet Pro 8600
The Officejet 8600 Pro offers a very credible range of capabilities beyond print, scan, copy and fax, including direct wireless printing, support for tablet devices and even an auto-duplexer.
Taken together, the wealth features make the Officejet Pro 8600 a highly appealing purchase. It offers excellent value for the money, and should serve well as the main office printer for smaller businesses or for deployment at a branch office.
If you are currently shopping for a printer, you may also want to read our Tips for Buying a Small Business Printer and Small Business Guide to Multifunction Printers.
Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.
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