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HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One Printer N911a
on January 9, 2012
HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One Printer N911a
I had an HP Officejet R40 printer for over 14 years, and it finally broke. After considerable research, I replaced it with the HP Officejet Pro 8600. There are "Plus" and "Premium" models of the 8600, but I got the cheapest. As far as I could tell, the Plus and Premium models did not have much to offer that I cared about - a higher capacity document feeder, a larger touch screen, and a second paper tray. I was pretty happy with the R40, and I thought that 14 years was pretty good for a printer. I print less that 1000 sheets a year, I think. So I was predisposed to get another HP. They have "Photosmart" printers that allow you to edit photos on the printer, but I am happy to do my editing on my computer using Picasa. The 8600 does have slots for inserting several types of memory cards (SD, Memory Stick Pro Duo, etc.), which would be handy for photos. The Officejet 8600 does lots more than the R40 did, so it is just as well that I had to get a new printer.
Apparently this model replaces the HP Officejet Pro 8500, which was rated in PC World and Consumer Reports in December, 2011. PC World gave the 8500 four stars out of five, and rated it number one in their list of ten multifunction printers. They said the ink costs 1.6 cents for black and 7.2 cents for four colors, per page. The other printers cost two or three times as much for ink. Consumers Reports gives it a "Best Buy" check and rates it "very good" in all areas (quality and speed). I bought the 8600 model, and I believe it is essentially the same as the 8500.
The printer uses a black HP 950 ink cartridge and three HP 951 color cartridges (cyan, magenta, and yellow), so you can just replace the cartridge that is empty. The cartridges come in standard capacity and XL high capacity, but the high capacity cartridges may be hard to find - my local Walmart didn't have them and the Best Buy salesman said that they don't always have them. The high capacity cartridges have way more ink and cost only a little more, according to the Best Buy salesman.
During installation I hit some speed bumps but I was able to resolve the problems reasonably easily. I have a desktop computer, a laptop, and a Linksys wifi router. Both are about four years old and run Windows Vista Home Premium. The first decision was how to connect the printer to the desktop. I had two choices. I could run an Ethernet cable from the desktop to the printer, or I could let the printer use its wifi to receive data wirelessly from the desktop. I initially chose the wireless method, based on something I read in the HP documentation. The printer has wifi, and my desktop has an Ethernet connection to the router (which has wifi), so they were connected through the network. Later, at someone's suggestion, I ran an Ethernet cable from the router to the printer. Everything continued to work fine. This is a superior way to connect because Ethernet will be faster and more reliable. I thought the documentation could have more clear, but I think I figured out the optimal solution and it is working fine. (This paragraph edited 3/19/14)
To summarize, if you have a router with wifi and Ethernet ports, connect your printer to your router via Ethernet. Your laptop, smart phone, and tablet will communicate with the printer through the router via wifi, and your desktop will communicate with the printer through the router via Ethernet. Given this setup, do not connect the desktop to the printer via the USB ports. (This paragraph added 3/19/14)
I ran the included CD on the desktop and it installed without a problem, and I was able to print and scan. Now, how to install the printer on the laptop. The documentation does not discuss how to install the printer on a second (or more) computer. My first (wrong) guess was to find the printer in Windows Explorer, right-click on it, and select `install'. I did this, and it was unsuccessful. I tried the CD, and that didn't work. One of the failure screens guided me to an HP web site that had a help file to download. The help file had a convenient button to launch msconfig, and instructions to disable some startup programs and services, and reboot. The help file had a button that sent me to an HP download site to download the latest version of the printer software. I downloaded it, ran it, restored the startup programs and services that had been previously disabled, and rebooted. Now everything was fine. Printing from the laptop over wifi works great. We have an iPod Touch, and we can print from it using the Airprint protocol. The iPod did not require any installation or setup of any kind - it just prints, since I had already set up the wifi on the printer. Some people might think that I had quite a hassle installing the printer on the laptop; I wasn't bothered by it too much. I think if the quick-start documentation had just a little more information, I might have gotten it all done the first time without having to get the help file.
I have tried the scanner and it works fine. Launch the HP Scan application and it gives you a choice of PDF, JPEG, or Editable Text (OCR). OCR means optical character reader - scan a page of printed text and it recognizes each character and saves everything as text characters, and you can save the document as TXT or RTF (rich text format.) (This paragraph edited 1/29/2012.)
I have not tried the FAX. I don't have much reason to use a FAX, and don't even know who I would send a FAX to as a test. The documentation makes kind of a big deal about using the provided "special" telephone line to connect to the phone outlet. I don't know why an "ordinary" telephone line wouldn't work.
I printed a color picture on 4 x 6 inch HP Everyday Photo Paper, and it looks very good.
If the installation had been flawless, I would have given five stars.