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TCPglobal Special: Hewlett-Packard enhances functionality on new Officejet All-in-One range, including A3, while retaining proven cost-effectiveness of HP920 inkjet engine. Part 1 of 4.

Issue #1011 – Note: This series of articles has been sponsored by Hewlett-Packard Company prior to being published in TCPglobal. But, as with all TCPglobal articles, it is nonetheless an independent assessment of the hardware and solutions concerned and expresses only the views and opinions of the author and not those of Hewlett-Packard. VIEW ARTICLE FREE OF CHARGE. – Hewlett-Packard’s new Officejet product range for 2010 not only includes wide-ranging functionality enhancements, making the most of its network interface for internet connectivity, but is also the company’s first venture into the A3 inkjet All-in-One arena. All of this is built on the engine using the HP920 cartridge series with its class-winning Total Cost of Printing. The only print engine to provide lower Total Cost of Printing for small businesses is the Hewlett-Packard’s own HP940-based Officejet Pro range (which provides colour printing at up to 65% less cost than comparable laser-based products – see TCPglobal Issue #0907).

Three models are involved in this year’s September Officejet launch by Hewlett-Packard:

  • Officejet 6500A eAiO – replacement for the current Officejet 6500
  • Officejet 6500A Plus eAiO – replacing the Officejet 6500 Wireless
  • Officejet 7500A eAiO – a brand new category for Hewlett-Packard attacking the A3 business inkjet class, currently occupied only by Brother

For competitive comparison purposes, these devices have been categorised as:

  • Mid-Range Business Inkjet (Officejet 6500A)
  • High-End Business Inkjet (Officejet 6500A Plus)
  • A3 Business Inkjet (Officejet 7500A)

Professional Business Inkjet, as a class, is reserved for the Officejet Pro range.
There are, of course, a number of features that are common to the new range and these will be reviewed first. Each model will then be considered for competitive advantage within its category, together with an analysis of Total Cost of Printing and overall value proposition.

HP New Officejets - Sept 2010

As always, specifications have been made available by each of the manufacturers concerned and a Median Street Price for each hardware and supplies unit has been obtained by means of primary research. Further notes regarding Total Cost of Printing computations will accompany subsequent tables and charts.

Note that comments here are comparisons with competitive colour inkjet devices and no comparison to colour laser technology is made. However, information detailing the benefits of inkjet technology over laser technology for small businesses can be found in TCPglobal articles #0907, #0921/1 and #0803/1.

Part 1 of 4 – Hardware/Software Functionality

As indicated, the new A4 models are based on the existing Officejet 6500 series A4 AiOs, utilising the HP920 series ink cartridges and permanent (but user-replaceable in the event of need) print heads and enabling use of both standard and XL Officejet ink cartridges. The new A3 Officejet 7500A also utilises the same cartridges and print head and is based on the existing Officejet 7000 Wide Format single-function printer.

In brief, enhancements (compared to existing Officejet 6500 products) include:

  • ISO print speed up to 10/7ppm (mono/colour) from 7/7ppm
  • 4800ppi optical scan resolution – up from 2400ppi
  • 802.11n wireless networking (6500A Plus model)
  • ID Copy
  • ICC profile for Macintosh users
  • 2.36” TouchSmart colour LCD touchscreen display
  • Web Apps
  • ePrint

Print Speed
In addition, models claim a faster set-up time. By all accounts (based on experience of the latest iterations of the Officejet 4500) this is likely to be in the order of 15 minutes, which is a tremendous improvement on previous models and will certainly enhance the user experience.

An increase in print speed places the new Officejet 6500 models towards the top end of the speed spectrum for inkjet devices and ahead of most of the competition (where ISO speeds are quoted) in the classes represented by these models. This is the result of Hewlett-Packard’s advance print head design that enables the creation of large print heads with a high native resolution (resulting in single-pass printing for many document types). These inkjet print speeds are comprehensively beaten only by Hewlett-Packard’s own Officejet Pro range.

Scan resolution
Similarly, an increase in scan head resolution to 4,800ppi enables faster scanning at high resolutions for detailed acquisition of fine graphics.

Wireless-n networking
Where wireless communications are concerned, the ‘n’-class wireless interface (6500A Plus and 7500A) is a significant advancement, enabling typical communication speeds of around 110-125Mbps (and up to a theoretical maximum of 300Mbps). This pushes wireless speeds above the 100Mbps level generally found in small business wired networks.

While those businesses that have invested in Gigabit networks will still experience slower data transfer from wireless-n capable devices than they will from their wired networks, the availability of the wireless-n standard in a printer improves general print performance considerably – especially for those using the devices in a home office environment.

ICC Profiles
Macintosh users have tended to feel that they have been treated as second class printer users with printers not providing adequate support for that operating system. With the provision of ICC Profiles for Macintosh, Hewlett-Packard is providing as much support as possible for graphics intensive environments where the Macintosh is the computer of choice. The profiles will enable precise colours to be achieved from the inkjet printer where colour accuracy is critical (e.g. corporate colour schemes) and accurate proof prints where material such as marketing collateral is being placed with a commercial print shop for high volume printing.

ID Copy

ID Copy
ID copy functionality enables a double-sided ID card (or similar) to be scanned for single-sided copying without the need for re-feeding the paper and undertaking a second copy operation. The ID card is simply turned over and the scan process restarted, upon which the device compiles the two sides of the card onto one side of paper. This is ideal for all sorts of environments, such as vehicle hire, where copies of drivers licences need to be taken for ID purposes, or property purchases and creation of bank accounts where formal proof of identity is required.

Touchscreen LCD Display
It is the inclusion of the 2.36” touchscreen, together with direct internet connectivity, that enable some of the most interesting enhancements for this new range of AiOs, however.

Discover & Learn
Firstly, at a purely ease-of-use level, to help users get the most out of their four-function AiO, Hewlett-Packard is introducing an all-new learning and discovery mode. The touchscreen makes it easy for users to take a product tour, obtain eco tips, Work Smart tips and discover the benefits of the digital office.

Discover & Learn

Web Apps
Secondly, as with selected members of the existing Photosmart range (September 2009 launch), the 6500A and 7500A eAiOs will be able to communicate with the internet for direct printing of internet content without the need for live PC connectivity. As on a smartphone, apps are very quick to select, with just a couple of clicks, using the touchscreen.

A constantly growing list of partnerships will enable business and consumer AiO owners to obtain rapid print output of business, news, weather, directions and entertainment items without committing their PC to a boot/shutdown sequence, together with the time that takes.

Apps range from global, e.g.:

Dreamworks entertainment
Nickelodeon entertainment
Weathernews weather
Reuters news
Google Calendar schedules
Snapfish photos
WebSudoku entertainment
Tabbloid news

… through Regional, e.g. (Europe):

Mappy directions
France 24 news
Free-Scores (sample)
Free-Scores (screenshot)
… to apps available for selected local countries, such as:
Free-Scores music GB/FR/B/CH
SeLoger.com property FR
Biztree document templates GB
FORMblitz documents & forms DE/A/CH
Allocine movie schedules FR
beforeIshop discount shopping vouchers GB
Marmiton recipes FR/B/CH/ES/I
Scan to Google Docs

However, internet connectivity now goes much further than this. First of all, Hewlett-Packard has taken existing scan-to-web functionality and extended it into a full-blown cloud storage and archiving capability. Users can scan documents to the internet, where they can be stored for immediate use from any location, and can be retrieved and printed not just from an internet PC but also directly from a Hewlett-Packard internet-enabled eAiO.

And secondly, Scheduled Delivery, using the ePrintCentre. Here, users will be able to set criteria for a specific web information mash-up that they want to have delivered to them on a regular basis. So, for instance, a businessman might want to have a piece of paper delivered into the printer’s paper output tray at 06:30 every morning providing the latest exchange rates, stock quotes, weather forecast and top news stories.

Just when you think printer technology is on the verge of stagnating again, a new surprise awaits!

ePrint
Also featured on the new 6500A and 7500A eAiOs is Hewlett-Packard’s ePrint function, primarily designed to enable documents, PDF files and photos to be printed directly from smartphones to either the user’s own eAiO or to any ePrint enabled device. This is achieved either by using simple email as the carrier or by downloading the ePrint app to the mobile device and searching for the closest enabled printer.

Cloud printing

EPrint enabled AiO devices will offer to establish an opt-in email address (assigned by the device) at device setup. Users can then email their eAiO at the allocated email address (hosted by Hewlett-Packard’s IT infrastructure) and the email, and any attachment, will be printed.

Because this email account is accessible directly through the device’s network/internet connection, access to this feature is not restricted merely to mobile phones. The device can be emailed from any internet connected email device, thus allowing users to print to their own eAiO or to print important documents either through a bureau service while on a business trip or even on a customer’s device. There are no limits to where a print job could be sent from.

For instance:

  • Photos could be emailed to non PC owning relatives, even from the other side of the world
    … or …
    Print photos on your home eAiO while on holiday or a business trip
  • Purchase orders could be printed directly on the suppliers ePrint enabled eAiO
  • Written confirmation of a future hotel booking could be printed straight to the hotel’s device
  • Quotations could be printed easily and quickly to the customer’s eAiO while on-site
ePrint

All via a simple email. All it requires is the owner’s permission to print to the eAiO in question.

And … this opens up the market further for Hewlett-Packard – an ePrint AiO owner does not have to own a computer to make good use of all this functionality!

But … users can rest easy. Spam filtering and an approved senders list (white-listing and black-listing) will protect them from unwanted or unauthorised communications and wasted paper and ink.

MarketSplash
(European launch – tba)

MarketSplash

Always with an eye on enabling business users get the most out of their printers, and produce professional output, Hewlett-Packard has taken the production of marketing collateral one step further with the introduction of MarketSplash.

MarketSplash is an online service available to owners of Hewlett-Packard internet-enabled eAiOs that offers access to professional marketing designs, templates and logos, etc., from leading designers. These can be customised online with the user’s own content for production of the highest quality materials.

A much more important development than it might at first seem, MarketSplash will help serious small businesses combat the substandard DIY marketing materials syndrome symptomatic of the universal availability of computing power and page layout applications that mean anyone can throw together a page of information with little or no thought to design principles and effective use of design, layout and colour.

Finished results are printed directly from the MarketSplash web site (www.marketsplash.com) using the Hewlett-Packard internet-enabled eAiO , meaning that, once created, they can be printed easily and quickly at any time, again without the need for PC to be started and connected.

HP920HY inks

Supplies
In terms of supplies for these models, as with existing HP920-based models, black ink is pigment, for maximum text print quality and durability, while colour inks are dye-based for highest quality photo reproduction.

High capacity (XL) cartridges are available for all devices, in line with Hewlett-Packard’s policy of offering maximum flexibility of choice – between low out-of-pocket expenditure and low long-term Total Cost of Printing. While ink yield is rated at 420 pages and 300 pages from the individual black and colour standard cartridges, XL cartridges yield an impressive 1,200 and 700 pages respectively. Even in the A3 inkjet AiO category, there is no other printer that offers a higher black ink yield per cartridge than the HP920XL black.

Competitive comparisons
In Part 2, we’ll begin to to look at competitive comparisons between these models and the available competition, starting with the Officejet 6500A.

~ END OF PART 1 ~