Product review HP OfficeJet Pro L7680

SAN FRANCISCO – At US$400 (as of June 6, 2007), the HP OfficeJet Pro L7680 All-in-One is pricier than many other inkjet multifunction printers, but it comes loaded with nearly everything a small-office could want in a networked MFP. In addition, it combines strong speed, good print quality, and low consumables costs, making it a viable alternative to colour laser devices that cost much more.
The HP’s basic printing and scanning specs are impressive. Its single paper tray holds 250 sheets or 30 envelopes. To increase the printer’s paper capacity, you can add a 350-sheet second tray for US$100. A built-in duplexer makes double-sided prints. Even better, the automatic document feeder can turn pages to scan both sides, generating double-sided copies. While the ADF holds 50 sheets in up to letter size, the glass plate accommodates legal-size paper.

The L7680 can fax in colour and it has a 125-page memory for handling incoming faxes, in case the paper runs out while you’re away. You can program up to 99 speed-dial numbers for destinations you fax regularly. To print photos, either attach a PictBridge-compatible digital camera to the 7210’s direct-print port or slide your camera’s memory card into one of the four media-card slots, which together read all major formats. The MFP also lets you print a proof sheet of the images on your card, mark up your favorites, and run it through the scanner to select your prints.

Alternatively, you can preview the images on the 2.4-inch colour LCD. The L7680’s editing functions permit you to adjust or crop the image, remove red eye, and apply effects and borders prior to printing. After plugging a USB flash drive into the PictBridge port, you can print any photos that it contains. Scanned images and documents store as JPG or PDF files on the drive, a memory card, or a network folder (preprogrammable as a list of digital filing locations). You can print PDF files only from a PC, not directly from a media card or flash drive navigated through the L7680’s control panel. An optional (US$40) Bluetooth adapter allows you to print photos wirelessly from a mobile phone or other handheld device.

The L7680 prints with four inks packaged in individual cartridges, including a pigment-based black ink optimized for text. If you purchase HP’s high-capacity replacement cartridges, you can, in theory, achieve page yields similar to those for a low-end colour laser printer, at a fraction of the price. A black ink cartridge rated by HP for 2450 pages costs US$35, for an estimated ink cost per page of 1.4 cents; the three colour cartridges are rated for 1700 pages and cost US$25 each, so the cost per colour page based on HP’s predicted yields is 5.8 cents. In contrast, the similarly priced US$400 HP colour LaserJet 2600n offers estimated toner costs of 3.0 cents per black-and-white page and 15.4 cents per colour page.

In our print quality evaluations, text prints looked less sharp than those we usually see from laser printers, and we noticed some slight horizontal banding. A line art sample exhibited strange banding patterns on a few parts of the page. This may be because the paper didn’t lie flat enough at the speed it traveled through the printer mechanism. Plain paper graphics had a grainy appearance, uninspiring colours, and occasional white horizontal bands. For our plain-paper tests, we use multipurpose paper that lets us compare output from a variety of printer types.

While photos printed on glossy paper were clearly superior to those from colour laser printers, they fell short of the best output from some inkjet printers we’ve tested recently. We saw bright, natural colours with plenty of contrast, but images were noticeably grainy, especially in skin tones. Scan quality was merely adequate, while photocopies earned high marks.

HP claims that the L7680’s print speeds rival those achieved by colour laser printers. At 13.1 text pages per minute in our tests, it certainly outperforms any other inkjet MFP we’ve tested to date, but it doesn’t beat many lasers. On the other hand, it outruns most colour lasers on plain-paper graphics, with a speed of 4.2 ppm. Our glossy photo printed in 79 seconds, which trails the average marks for both inkjets and lasers. Still, it’s a notable achievement, considering the high quality of the photo output. During our tests, we noticed that the HP printed more noisily than most laser printers.

All in all, the HP OfficeJet Pro L7680 All-in-One is a good solution for a small office that needs to perform a wide range of printing, scanning, and faxing tasks. It offers fast text printing for an inkjet, better photo quality than a colour laser and economical ink costs.

— PC World (US)


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