The HP Officejet Pro 8500 is the latest inkjet to try and topple the laser printer from its sturdy perches. And, in some respects, it actually succeeds.

Inkjets aren't known for their low running costs, but the HP Officejet Pro 8500's highest-capacity cartridges are bursting with ink. In fact, it destroys every other inkjet we've seen on running costs. And with black cartridges capable of turning out as many as 2,200 pages, it's on a par with lasers as well.

And the HP Officejet Pro 8500 is almost as economical on colour, making it a cheap model to run, even after taking into account the added replacement cost of heavy-duty printheads.

Inkjets always struggle to beat laser printers on speed and text quality, but the HP Officejet Pro 8500 fares better than most. At its fastest, pages arrived at 15.8 pages per minute. Few colour lasers are significantly faster then this.

And while the HP Officejet Pro 8500's text is quite serviceable in fast mode (almost at the level of many a cheap inkjet at highest quality), it's certainly nowhere near to laser-level.

Standard mode sees a marked improvement in quality, although the rate then drops to 12.2ppm. And really, for important documents, you'll need to be aiming for the Best mode, at which point speed falls to just 3.7ppm. Even here, the text is slightly fuzzy when examined closely. On the upside, characters are very dark.

The HP Officejet Pro 8500 is kitted out with an automatic duplexer for printing to both sides of the page. This isn't terribly fast, though, with normal mode plummeting from 12.2ppm to 3.5ppm.

In colour mode, the HP's palette is bright and easy on the eye, although even in the Standard mode (where prints appear at 5.6ppm), there's evidence of banding. This disappears completely only at the highest quality mode, at which point speed falls to a pedestrian 1.8ppm.

As a general office device the HP Officejet Pro 8500 works well. It's fully featured, and its robust (if large) chassis should withstand knocks. And, while we experienced no problems with installation, we understand from the HP's support area that not all customers have found it a trouble-free experience.

We also heard complaints about loud running noises and, while this is hardly a quiet printer, we didn't find it much louder when printing than a typical inkjet or laser. When not in action, the HP Officejet Pro 8500 is mostly completely silent.

An extra £50 buys a version of the HP Officejet Pro 8500 that adds wireless facilities to ethernet and USB 2.0. Other enhancements include a memory boost from 64MB to 128MB, while the 35-sheet auto-document feeder is upgraded to 50-sheets - useful should you want to tap into the HP's strong scanning and faxing facilities. One final addition to the Wi-Fi version is a touchscreen, although we found the standard version's two-line LCD to work effectively.

HP Officejet Pro 8500: Specs

  • Multi-function printer/scanner/copier/fax
  • print resolution 4800x1200
  • optical scan resolution 2400x4800
  • quoted print speed B=35ppm C=34ppm
  • actual print speed B=15.8ppm C=11.5ppm
  • USB 2.0, ethernet
  • 4 cartridge costs B=£26 C=£17 x 3
  • print life (pages) B=2200 C=1400 x 3
  • flash memory drive
  • 25-sheet input tray
  • 94x479x299mm
  • 11.9kg
  • Multi-function printer/scanner/copier/fax
  • print resolution 4800x1200
  • optical scan resolution 2400x4800
  • quoted print speed B=35ppm C=34ppm
  • actual print speed B=15.8ppm C=11.5ppm
  • USB 2.0, ethernet
  • 4 cartridge costs B=£26 C=£17 x 3
  • print life (pages) B=2200 C=1400 x 3
  • flash memory drive
  • 25-sheet input tray
  • 94x479x299mm
  • 11.9kg

OUR VERDICT

As an all-round inkjet, the HP Officejet Pro 8500 works very well. Its low running costs will make it far cheaper than other inkjets - even lasers will find it hard to keep toner costs this low. We just wish it had produced cleaner colour prints on the middle quality setting. Despite what HP say, laser printers are still the best choice for offices requiring large text jobs.

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