on March 20, 2014
Ink: Biggest issue: HP totally misrepresents the ink that ships with the printer. On HP’s web site, where you go to get detailed information beyond that available on Amazon, they specify that it ships with standard retail ink cartridges. That implies that you are buying your first set of cartridges and getting the printer with them almost for free. Instead, the cartridges in the box are labeled starter cartridges. As HP clarified when I complained, all HP inkjets ship with starter cartridges, contrary to their advertizing.
Paper handling: Theoretically, this printer handles a wider range of media than its competitors, including heavyweight photo papers and card stock. In reality, this is on its best days with the wind in the right direction. There is no single-sheet feed slot or rear tray with a straight paper path. Anything you feed must be loaded into an enclosed paper tray and contend with tight bends. My brand new printer, with no wear or dust on the rollers, initially had trouble with anything stiffer than plain paper. When I followed the very exacting procedures in the detailed instructions (six conditions and procedures that must be just right), it did feed card stock and photo paper. I don’t expect that it will remain reliable if the rollers are not kept in pristine condition. That said, Canon advises that you may damage their printers if you feed card stock or any media, other than plain paper, that is not specific, limited types of Canon brand, so I guess HP is better in comparison.
I printed an image on photo paper that used only half the sheet. After it dried, I fed it in the other direction to print on the other half. The printer scraped the emulsion off portions of the first picture. I’ve never had that happen on any other printer.
Duplexing: The printer comes with a built-in duplexer to print on both sides of the paper. HP advertizes that this feature will save you money by cutting paper usage in half. It won’t. Even in draft mode, the ink bleeds through 24 lb high-quality inkjet paper. The only way double-sided printing would be useful is with super heavyweight paper or specialty paper designed for double-sided printing. Either is at least as expensive as two sheets of cheap paper.
Print quality, text: The pigment inks are nice and dark. Regular text has great contrast and readability. However, the droplet size and resolution are not conducive to small fonts. Tiny fonts are noticeably ragged.
Print quality, photos: Photo quality is adequate for typical business purposes, but this is not a photo printer. It cannot compete with printers that use 1 or 2 picoliter droplets or additional photo inks. Photos tend to be overly contrasty and areas of light color look grainy up close. This shortcoming is most noticeable on photo paper.
Print speed: Printing is reasonably fast, roughly comparable to other printers in this price bracket.
Reliability: After four previous HP inkjet printers of different models that each died after one to two years, I swore off HP inkjets. Now, it appears that HP is the worst except for all of the other manufacturers. I bought this printer because of HP’s false advertizing about the ink. I thought I was buying essentially a disposable printer where reliability wouldn’t matter. Now we’ll have to wait and see.
Stars: I would have given this printer a middle score of three stars. Its features and performance are all comparable to its competition; a little better on some things, a little worse on others. Nothing about it exceeds my expectations, but as long as it continues to work without the need for excessive maintenance or coddling, it satisfies my needs. However, it was sold through fraudulent representation, so one star.
on August 6, 2014
I have a fairly large number of printers in my office, since I do a variety of specialized printing jobs. Not counting the Xerox and Canon copy center machines (copier/scanner/printer), and not counting the black-and-white and color laserjet printers, I also have a wide format Epson color inkjet printer (my only way to print 11”by 17” paper), a Primera CD/DVD autoprinter, a Brother label printer, a Dymo stamp/postage printer, and finally an Epson color inkjet printer. The latter printer is a Workforce 40, and I wrote a favorable review on it here on Amazon a couple years ago. I use it only for color photos at high resolution (for quicker and less expensive color photos I use my HP Color Laser printer), for envelopes, and for printing custom business cards using the excellent Avery pre-perforated business card stock. Well, that Epson Workforce 40 printer finally got to the point where it was no longer able to feed either the cardstock (Avery) or glossy photo paper for those high quality color photo prints. This is due to the rubber feed roller wearing out, and also to the fact that Epson (like most other inkjet manufacturers) regards their product as non-repairable, so replacement pickup rollers are not available (as they usually would be for laser printers made by almost anyone). So that Epson was dead as far as I am concerned; I don’t use it for printing on normal paper, as I have better printers for day-to-day printing jobs.
Unfortunately, Epson has discontinued the Workforce 40, and has no replacement for it (I even called their pre-sale support and discussed it with them…..the closest they could come was the Workforce 30, but it was missing features so I gave it a pass). After looking at all inkjet printer makers, it seemed that all of them have decided to treat inkjets as disposable, and worse, most current models are all-in-one types, which don’t suit me for various reasons.
I was looking for a straight-through-paper-path inkjet, since it would have the easiest time feeding unusual or specialty paper. Some makers such as Canon had them, but nobody had them available at the time of this review.
It seemed that only HP had a current color inkjet model that was not an all-in-one, or otherwise a really cheapo low end model (e.g. $25), and that was the Officejet Pro 8100. I called HP pre-sales support and discussed my needs, explaining about the glossy photo paper, Avery business card stock, and envelope printing. After some checking with colleagues, the HP representative said that the 8100 was designed for feeding card stock, and was also listed for envelope printing, and of course it was also good at color photos. So even though I have for a long time thought that Epson had the best overall inkjets while HP had the best overall laserjets, I decided to take a chance in the 8100. Note that one of my key issues with HP inkjets is that they have always used a paper path that folds the paper back on itself fairly sharply, rather than a straight-through path or at least a top-feed path that bends the paper less, and this HP 8100 is no different in its tortuous paper path.
The 8100 looks nice enough, and does not seem cheaply made. I do dislike the current trend towards making printers out of shiny smooth black plastic that attracts dust like crazy, and also shows fingerprints, etc. The 8100 has an edge on many inkjets in that is has a color LCD display that shows prompts and also bar graphs for the ink levels, and it has a set of separate buttons for different functions; I do prefer the nice screen and dedicated-function buttons, as opposed to the cryptic flashing LEDs and single multi-purpose button (or two) that most inkjets these days come with.
The 8100 measures approximately 19.5” wide x 18” deep (not counting the pull-out paper exit tray that makes the overall depth 23” in LETTER position or 25.5” in LEGAL position, and 8” tall. This is larger than the Epson Workforce 40 that it replaces on my desk, and the extra room on my desk comes dear; I can see no obvious reason why this printer needs to be so large, except maybe it shares an internal platform with its all-in-one relations in the HP Officejet Pro product line.
The 8100 comes with an AC power cord (no wall wart power supply here), and rather unusually for printers in this price range, it comes with a USB cord. I bought this printer at OfficeMax since I wanted to see it before buying, and of course the sales ‘expert’ swore that the printer did not come with a USB cord, and that not only would I need to buy one from him, but since this was a COLOR printer, I needed to buy the gold plated USB cords he sells; but that foolishness is another story.
The 8100 takes four ink cartridges, the usual black, magenta, cyan, yellow. It comes with a set of cartridges that are clearly marked “STARTER” in big red letters. This seems to suggest that they are not full capacity cartridges, although I suppose it might mean that they have some special quality to them that helps the printer prime its ink system when first used, and if this is the case then these might actually have a full ink capacity. Unfortunately, I cannot advise on which of these scenarios is true. I can advise that, like many newer inkjets, the cartridges do not include the actual print heads; they are simply ink reservoirs and the print heads are elsewhere in the printer and are apparently not replaceable. I note that compared with the Epsons and the Lexmark (which is the engine used in my Primera CD/DVD autoprinter), the newer HP ink used on the 8100 is noticeably stinky. Every time I have used it so far, it stinks up the room with a lingering unpleasant odor. I have also noted that this HP ink has a flat finish when dried, and this has the effect of making color photos printed on glossy paper into matte photos whether you like it or not. I consider this to be a big problem, and this 8100 is the only inkjet printer I have experience with that cannot actually produce a photo print that is actually glossy!
One nice aspect of the 8100 is that the ink cartridges insert easily from the front, and there is no fooling around with pushing buttons to make the ink cartridge carrier move into the right position; as soon as the front door on the printer is opened by flipping it down, the carrier moves to center position to expose the cartridges. Each cartridge presses into the carrier and clicks into place. Pressing a seated cartridge will cause it to eject to the front. This insertion and removal action is just like what you see with SD memory card slots on cameras.
I timed the 8100 using a stop watch:
- 2 page black & white text document on plain paper, NORMAL quality, 13 seconds total
- 2 page black & white text document on plain paper, NORMAL quality, printed both front and back on a single sheet of paper using the printer’s automatic duplexer, 20 seconds total
- 1 page color photo, printed on 8.5” x 11” plain paper, NORMAL quality, 17 seconds total
- 1 page color photo, printed on 8.5” x 11” plain paper, BEST quality, 34 seconds total
- 1 page color photo, printed on 8.5” x 11” glossy photo paper, NORMAL quality, 58 seconds total
- 1 page color photo, printed on 8.5” x 11” glossy photo paper, BEST quality, 1 minute and 45 seconds total
- 1 page color photo, printed on 8.5” x 11” matte photo paper, NORMAL quality, 47 seconds total
This is not as fast as my Epson Workforce 40, but it is decently fast.
The duplexer is a separate unit that comes packaged with the 8100 and snaps onto the back of the printer. When duplexing is selected using the HP printer driver, the 8100 prints the front side, then pulls the paper back in from the exit tray, flips it, then prints on the back side before sending the paper to the exit tray again. This is a fairly normal way of handling duplexing on less expensive machines these days. The printer driver allows selecting the back side image or text to be printed flipped either long side or short side, relative to the front side printing, and this is useful depending on how you might want to bind the two-sides pages.
I did some testing on envelope printing. I don’t use my inkjet for printing single envelopes for mailing things, and instead use my HP black & white laserjet for that purpose. But I do prepare donation envelopes for a charity that I work with, and we customize the printing on the envelopes for each event; this makes it impractical to have large batches of them printed by a print shop, so I make small runs for each event using my Epson Workforce 40, and now the 8100 in place of the Epson. I use 3-5/8” x 6-1/2” envelopes for this purpose, and I have a template made in a page layout program (e.g. Microsoft Publisher, Serif PagePlus, etc) that has the boilerplate text which I can modify easily, in the correct position for printing. On the Epson, envelopes were positioned to one side of the paper tray, so my template just used a normal letter size page, but with the envelope image positioned in a corner of that page so that it would come out right on the envelope. With the 8100, it requires that I pull out the paper tray, move the horizontal and vertical sliders to position the envelopes in a central position. This required some experimentation with my template. The HP driver recognized that I was using a template based on a letter size page, and refused to print since the tray sliders were positioned to the center and a size smaller than ‘letter’. I learned that the HP driver does not have a setting for my size of envelope, so I tried a 4” x 6” envelope setting, and reformatted my envelope template to a 4x6 page, and then it printed OK. However, since the 8100 has that hard bend in the paper path, the envelopes make a horrible crumpling noise when they feed through the printer. They do come out alright, but with some slight wrinkles. This is another reason why I think HP hitched its inkjet printer fortunes to a crippled horse when it selected this kind of paper path so many years ago, and perversely stuck with over the years.
A BIG disappointment with the 8100 is one that should probably send many potential buyers to other kinds of printer. The 8100 cannot feed the photo paper made by most manufacturers! Since I had Epson inkjets, I have a stock of Epson brand glossy and matte photo papers. I tried using them with the 8100 and over many trials it never once succeeded in picking up the paper from the tray, and would give a “tray out of paper” message. My local stores carry Epson papers exclusively, so I had to order some HP glossy photo paper online. In the meantime, I called HP support to ask whether this printer is supposed to be able to handle non-HP branded photo paper (note that the 8100 driver has options for HP and non-HP photo papers!). Of course I got a call center in India or somewhere, with a person reading from a script. After patiently playing their game and trying every inapplicable experiment they requested (for three hours!), I was finally transferred to a “product specialist” for the 8100, who was also in a foreign call center, and who advised that yes, the HP 8100 is supposed to be able to feed any brand of photo paper, and so my brand new 8100 was apparently faulty, and she was going to send me a replacement printer…..it was going to be an all-in-one version of the printer, and was also going to be a used, reconditioned printer. I told her that I would not accept a larger printer model and also I would not accept a used printer in place of a new one that was only a couple weeks old. She said that was all she was authorized to offer, and I requested that I be transferred to somebody with more authority. Surprisingly, I was transferred to an ‘escalation’ representative in the States, who agreed that it was crummy and low class for HP to offer a used printer in place of a defective new one, and that yes, the 8100 is supposed to print other brands of papers beside HP. So she sent me a replacement new 8100. Sadly, it also is unable to feed all non-HP papers that I have tried.
The 8100 DOES feed the Avery business card stock (so far), and it has no problem with various brands of matte presentation paper I have tried for photos.
I finally got the HP glossy photo paper that I had ordered online, and the 8100 feeds it just fine. I compared the HP paper to my Epson glossy photo paper, and the difference is that while the Epson, like most (or all) other photo papers, has a typical photo-paper-like back side texture that is like, well, the back of commercially printed photos, the HP glossy photo paper has a back side texture like sandpaper. It is as clear as day that HP has recognized that their printers, especially with their disadvantageous paper path, needs help in feeding photo paper, and so they make their own paper with a highly textured back surface TO FIX THEIR PRINTER’S SHORTCOMING. This is very bad, in my opinion.
The 8100 has three methods of connecting to a computer; USB, Ethernet, and wireless. I have only used the USB connectivity, so I cannot comment on the other two methods, other than to mention that they seem to be well implemented based on the instructions and the printer’s screen and buttons associated with those connections.
One odd thing that I noticed; when I installed the driver for my first 8100, a single driver was placed on my computer. When I got the replacement 8100, I simply connected it to the power cord and USB cable that were already laying on the desk, and assumed that the existing driver would work with the new printer. But when Windows recognized the printer, it said “installing new driver”, and after that I saw that there was an 8100 driver and also an 8100 (copy) driver installed. The computer did not ask me to insert the driver CD-ROM, so I assume that Windows installed its own driver for the 8100. No matter what I tried, the original driver now regarded the 8100 as “offline”, and the COPY driver wanted to be active. Printing to the original driver resulted in files in the print queue, but nothing printing because that driver could not communicate with the printer. Printing to the COPY driver did not allow me to select paper types, etc. Deleting the COPY driver did not reinstate the original driver to ‘online’ status, so I ended up deleting it as well, then reinstalling the driver form the CD-ROM. Only after all of this did the replacement 8100 work again.
The 8100 is fairly quiet, and should not be an annoyance in a crowded office.
The paper must be fed from the enclosed paper tray; there is no manual feed slot for problem or specialty papers. The tray must be removed and reconfigured by moving two sliders before other paper sizes or envelopes can be used, then removed and reconfigured again before using regular paper; this is slower and more laborious than most other brands of inkjet that I have experience with. The 8100 does have the ability to have a second paper tray added; this is an accessory that must be purchased separately. The second tray mounts under the printer, making it rise taller above the desk. I have not purchased or tried the second paper tray, so I cannot comment on it. However, presumably the second tray would allow envelopes, for example, to be left in a configured tray while regular sized paper could be in the other configured tray. The 8100 driver does default to AUTO SELECT, where it automatically feeds paper from the first or second tray based on matching the settings with the installed paper, or you can specify which tray to use.
So, to sum up my thoughts on the pros and cons of the HP Officejet Pro 8100:
- Nice looking
- Nice color display, better than the usual one or two flashing LEDs
- Multiple buttons for different purposes instead of one or two multi-function buttons
- Duplexer for automatic 2-sided printing
- Three ways of connecting to a computer
- Comparatively easy access to ink cartridges
- Option to add a second paper tray
- Unnecessarily large
- Smooth shiny plastic attracts dust and quickly looks dirty; fingerprints show up clearly
- Stinky ink
- Apparently the included ink cartridges are not full (?)
- Ink has matte appearance when dry, making even prints on glossy photo paper look like matte photos
- Tortuous paper path, potentially problematic for anything other than regular papers
- HP documents recommend against feeding anything that might separate (such as labels) in the 8100
- Cannot feed non-HP photo papers; requires photo paper with highly textured back side
- Tedious to reconfigure printer for different sized papers, compared to many other brands of inkjet
I have not had the 8100 for long enough to comment on how well it holds up, or how long it remains able to feed the card stock before it gives up on that more rigorous work.