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Officejet 7500A From HP

High Technology Product Reviews | Trends and News | Officejet 7500A From HP
Many small businesses could use the ability to print documents on larger than legal-size paper, but few affordable options have existed, particularly in multifunction printers (MFPs). The HP Officejet 7500A Wide Format e-All-in-One joins the Editors' Choice Brother MFC-6490CW in this small niche. Moreover, the 7500A's combination of supertabloid printing (up to 13 by 19 inches), fast print speeds, and a wealth of all-in-one and ePrint features edge it past the Brother (which is restricted to tabloid (11 by 17) format) as the new Editors' Choice for a wide-format inkjet MFP.

Specifications
Printer Category
Ink Jet
Type
All-In-One
Color or Monochrome
4-pass color
Ink Jet Type
Standard All-Purpose
Connection Type
USB, Ethernet, Wireless
Maximum Standard Paper Size
Wide Format
Direct Printing from Cameras
No
Standalone Copier and Fax
Copier, Fax
Duplexing
No
The 7500 builds on the HP Officejet 7000 Wide Format Printer ($229 direct, 4 stars), one of several wide-format single-function printers to have appeared in the past year. The 7500 adds MFP features, ePrint functionality, and WiFi connectivity to the mix.

The HP 7500A prints, copies, scans, and faxes, and works as a standalone copier or fax machine. It can scan to a fax directly from the printer's front panel, or it can fax from within a document on your computer (PC Fax). From the touchpad it can scan an image as an attachment to your default e-mail client. From a program like Photoshop that uses TWAIN or WIA drivers, you can scan an image directly into the program. You can scan a file to a memory card (as PDF or JPEG) as well as print from a card—most standard memory-card formats are supported—or to a computer. One feature I would have liked to see is the ability to scan to or print from a USB key.

The 7500A has a single 150-sheet paper tray, which fits paper up to super-tabloid size. The relatively small paper tray (with no optional trays available) largely limits the printer to micro or home offices; an office that prints more than 30 pages a week will be filling the tray more than once a week. The Brother MFC-6490CW provides 400-sheet capacity between a 250- and a 150-sheet tray, which is more than enough for most small offices. The HP (as with the Brother) lacks an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. The 35-page automatic document feeder (ADF) aids in scanning and copying multi-page documents. The 7500A can scan documents up to legal size.

ePrint Functions
As with all of HP's e-All-in-One line, the 7500A can print selected content directly from the Web as a standalone device, using HP's Web apps. You can output business forms, topical or custom daily newsletters, coupons, recipes, even coloring book pages with Disney and Nickelodeon characters, and much more. Additional free apps are available for download from HP's ePrintCenter.

The ePrint function also lets you e-mail an attached image to the printer for it to automatically print out. ePrint is easily configured; when you register at the ePrintCenter, the printer is assigned an e-mail address. From a single e-mail it can print out up to 10 attached files with a total size of up to 5MB, printing out first the cover e-mail and then the attachments.

Setup
The HP 7500A has a curving, glossy black frame. At 23.9 by 16.9 by 11.6 inches (HWD), this 30-pound machine is too large to easily share a desk with. Its tilt-up front panel has a 2.4-inch color LCD screen and an alphanumeric keypad, which light up on an as-needed basis. The LCD screen controls MFP functions including Web apps, and lets you preview photos for printing.

I tested the 7500A on an Ethernet connection to a PC running Windows Vista. It can also be connected via WiFi (802.11b/g/n) or USB 2.0. This MFP comes with drivers for Win XP (32 bit), both 32- and 64-bit versions of Vista and Windows 7, and Mac OS X v. 10.5.8 and 10.6. You can also download a full set of drivers for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008 (32- and 64-bit), as well as Linux print and scan drivers, from HP's Web site.

Setup was simple and straightforward. The 7500A uses four ink cartridges: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, with both large and small black cartridges available. Getting the fax up and running is integrated into the setup process.

Performance
The 7500A has a rated speed of 33 pages per minute (ppm) black and 32 ppm color. It took 10 minutes 52 seconds to print our business applications test suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing), the fastest among wide-format inkjet printers and MFPs that we've tested. It edged the Officejet 7000, which took 11:15, and easily bested the MFC-6490CW ($300 street, 4 stars), which plodded in at 19:10.

The 7500A was also fast at photo printing, less critical for business printing but still a nice touch. It took an average of 1 minute 6 seconds to print a 4-by-6 photo and 2:28 for an 8-by-10, once again edging out the Officejet 7000 (1:31 and 3:28) while trouncing the Brother (3:49 and 8:50).

Quality
The HP's text quality was on the low end for an inkjet MFP. The majority of test fonts were easily readable at 8 points, with two requiring 12 points to reach that threshold, and one font only 5, but three required 20-point type for the characters to be both easily readable and well formed. The type was not crisp, and loops and narrow spaces between letters were often bridged by traces of ink. The text quality was acceptable for most business needs, but not for creating professional-looking documents or uses requiring small fonts.

The 7500A's graphics were on par with the vast majority of inkjet MFPs we've looked at, good enough for most business uses including PowerPoint handouts. Some graphics exhibited posterization—the tendency for shades of color to shift suddenly in areas that should display a more subtle gradient. Other images showed banding: faint, regular stripes of uneven brightness, particularly in solid areas.

Photos were about the quality you'd expect from drugstore prints. Our monochrome test photo showed a slight tint and relatively poor contrast. Color prints fared better, though one photo showed a trace of aliasing, the tendency for straight lines to appear wavy. The photos proved to be water-resistant.

Tabloid-size (and larger) color MFPs have mostly been laser-driven, but those can be quite pricey. Prices listed on Xerox's site start at $6,999, for example. Ricoh is also a big player in large-format color laser MFPs.

The choice of a wide-format inkjet MFP hinges on specific strengths and shortcomings. The Brother MFC-6490CW will appeal to companies that need greater paper capacity than the HP Officejet 7500A Wide Format e-All-in-One can offer, as well as those that demand professional-look text. The catch is that you'll spend a long time waiting for the MFC-6490CW output, longer than many businesses can afford. The HP can print office documents much more quickly. Add to that the wealth of all-in-one features, including ePrint functionality, and the ability to print at supertabloid size, makes the 7500A a better overall package than the 7500A and our new Editors' Choice.

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