Multifunction devices such as the range from HP are built with the small home office user in mind. Because space and money are both limiting factors for this target market. This G Series range is an ideal solution. Although it comprises a colour inkjet printer, scanner, fax machine and photocopier, this has a very small footprint on the desk, taking up no more space than a basic printer does. This is quite a feat, considering what this device can do, but how does it perform? The printer is based on HP's 900 series inkjets . The 6oodpi printer performs extremely well, producing bright, sharp results on images as well as text. The paper tray holds up to 150 sheets, so it wont require frequent refills. The start button is split into two so you can be 100 per cent sure that you are printing in either black or colour and the cancel print job button works immediately, which is definitely a big improvement over the Windows method, which often takes up to a minute to take effect. Scanning is simple and effective using the fit-to-page button for scanning photographs and fitting them to fill a page, without an obvious drop in print quality. The fax has a memory of 50 pages, so if you run out of paper, it will store up to 50 faxes until you replace it. You can also fax in colour, if you're feeling flamboyant. Photocopying and scanning are made a lot easier by the sheet-feed system. Unlike the more common flatbed design, this allows you to dump 20 different pages in the feeder for hassle-free scanning and copying of multiple pages, although scanning smaller items can be tough. The device will also function as a standalone fax and photocopier. The G Series is also extremely easy to set up and use with a cheerful and concise interface, which is approachable and simple. One minor criticism is the lack of a parallel port, as it only has a USB connection, so owners of old PCs are advised to steer clear.
I’m hugely impressed. No, I’m not really speechless – I’ve got lots to say about this wonderful product. I am writing about my new OfficeJet G85; but the others in the G series – G55 and G95 are similar, with the G55 doing less. See the website for differences. And if you can get hold of an “xi” model, they sound like even better value – but I don’t think they are available in the UK. This OfficeJet does it all. Printing, faxing from a sheet feeder, flatbed or from the PC, photocopying, and scanning. And it does them all in black and white or colour. So, lets be clear, for less than the cost of a decent scanner and fast-ish inkjet printer, I get a device which (a) has both a flatbed and a sheet feeder (a flatbed + sheet feed scanner costs much more), and (b) uses only one PC port, and (c) is integrated so it actually works first time straight out of the box. Brilliant. And what a box, by the way. Big. PC base-unit-box size. Remember that before you try to bring it home in the back of your car. The unit itself is big too; and you must allow at least 6 inches (15cm) behind it if you want to lift the lid to use the flatbed. Actually you really want more than that, otherwise the document feeder paper supports, which can bend back when you lift the lid, end up scratching the wall or whatever is behind the unit. As well as space, another thing you need for this is a fast PC. I could barely believe the “minimum” specification quoted on the box: Windows 95 and Pentium 200MHz(!) or MacOS 8.6. Windows NT, 98 and Me are supported, but not 3.x. Another thing you’ll need if you want to use it on a USB port is a USB cable. Yes, that’s right, HP is selling a USB device without a USB cable! Silly. There is a parallel cable in the box though. Once installed, the unit works really well. It warms up in a couple of seconds (unlike
my last Epson inkjet, which took seven minutes), and then sits quietly waiting for work. You can control it from its clear, well-labelled front panel (HP could teach some others a thing or two about ergonomics!) or through its software on-screen (where the ergonomics are OK, but not as good). The quality of its printing is, on “best” setting, really excellent. A photocopy of a colour photo onto Epson glossy photo paper was almost indistinguishable from the original. And text and graphics turn out excellent too. The photocopy function has a few tricks, such as enlarging over several pages, printing several images on one page and so on. Absolutely no complaint in the scanning, printing, faxing and copying department. And its fast, unless you use “best” mode, which is slow (as with other inkjets). “Normal” is very good, certainly good enough for most uses. ICR software (ReadIris) is included. I have only played with it a little, but it seems very capable. But avoid its online registration software - it doesn’t work, and it gives a totally unhelpful error message when it fails. And failing is the only thing this registration software does well. There is one part of the software I don’t use at all. It is a small window which shows (well, should show, actually, it works most of the time) exactly what the control panel LCD display shows. Doesn’t do much for me, but I daresay it would be welcome to network users. The paper handling is tolerant of stationery I usually use. I have, without difficulty, used cheap office paper, inkjet paper, envelopes, card (160g/m2), Viking Laser labels, and 3M inkjet transparency film. The driver software has a multitude of options for combinations of paper types (3 type of inkjet paper, for instance), sizes, quality and special stationery. It would take an age to try them all out, so I can’t test all possibilities. I did test the printer
for speed though, with a simple 10-page text document. Just for interest I tested it against a LaserJet 5. Both LaserJet and G85 were connected to a 1GHz PC with Windows Me and used Word 2000. The results are at the end of this opinion. The final “Wow!” for me is getting a duplex (that’s two-sided printing) unit for only £50. If you buy a G95, it’s built in; for the others it is an optional extra. I got one, and it works. Installation is trivial (take off the back hatch, push it into place – the longest part of the operation is deciding where to keep that back hatch!). The duplex unit slows the printing a lot if you use it though. HP slow it down on purpose to give the ink on the first side a chance to dry before it gets pulled back into the machine to print the second side. If you fit it and don’t use it, the machine prints as fast as before. OK, double-sided printing may be slow - but I am still amazed that I have a fast, high resolution printer with double-sided printing - and sheet feed scanning etc. etc. – for less than £400 +VAT. The HP software installation is not brilliant. It is unreasonably fussy about the order in which you do things. Worse, if you make a “mistake”, it isn’t graceful – it just hangs. An example was when I connected through a printer switchbox: the software hung. True, there is a small-print warning about not using switchboxes and not using non-compliant cables; but I would have saved a couple of hours if the software had been better-behaved and responded politely rather than hanging. A similar problem arose when first trying to scan – the trick eventually turned out to be to set up the “scan to” software list from the control panel first, not from the PC, which is not in any small print I could find. Now having got it all working, changing from a parallel cable (remember, there wasn’t one so I had to wait whi
le one was ordered and delivered) was not straightforward. This seems to be because it required a re-installation; and, like I said, the software is fussy about the order in which you do things. My attempts actually caused serious crashes, restarts in Windows Safe Mode, and general heartache. I suspect that (a) if I hadn’t been able to restore the system because I have Windows Me I’d be in deep dudu, and (b) if I had simply de-installed the thing first then re-installed it as USB everything would have been peachy. Ah well, you’ve been warned. In the end, I called the HP help desk, who were very helpful, diagnosed a faulty cable (incorrectly, I think – but who knows?), sent me a free cable (nice) and some spare ink cartridges (nicer!) It all works fine now. With an installation experience that unpleasant, I would not normally rate a product as five stars. But this OfficeJet is so good to use that I am prepared to overlook the installation as a once-off nuisance. This product definitely rates five stars. After all, how often does software install smoothly under Microsoft Windows? PERFORMANCE TEST RESULTS OfficeJet – Fast mode, plain paper: time to first page 21 sec, time for 10 pages 91 sec, average speed 6.6 ppm (HPs Rated speed “up to 12ppm”). OfficeJet – Normal mode, plain paper: time to first page 25 sec, time for 10 pages 146 sec, average speed 4.1 ppm (HPs Rated speed “up to 6.5 ppm”). OfficeJet – Best mode, inkjet paper: time to first page 107 sec (!!), time for 10 pages roughly 710 sec (!!!!)(I couldn’t be bothered to time this one properly), average speed less than one ppm (HPs Rated speed “up to 4.7 ppm”). OfficeJet – Normal mode, plain paper, DOUBLE SIDED: time for 10 pages 480 sec, average speed only 1.2 ppm. LaserJet: time to first page 22sec, time for 10 pages 68 sec, average sp
eed 8.8 ppm (HPs Rated speed 12ppm, I think). To be fair, the test document used Times and Arial fonts, neither of which are built in to the printer. Maybe I could have achieved faster speeds by using built-in fonts, I don’t know.