I’ve been intrigued by HP’s new line of connected printers that anticipate when you’ll need ink refills — and they send them to you before you run out! The service is called HP Instant Ink, and to try it, I was sent the new HP OfficeJet 4650 MultiFunction Printer.
HP has a whole new line of Instant Ink-enabled and Instant Ink-ready printers; this one retails for $99.99, and it is aimed at small business owners like myself.
The OfficeJet 4650 measures approximately 7.5″ tall by 17.5″ wide by 14.5″ deep, and it weighs about 14.4 pounds. The exterior is composed of matte black plastic, and the design is one that will look nice on an office desk or side table.
Included in the box are the OfficeJet 4650 All-in-One printer, an HP 63 black Instant Ink Ready Cartridge (which can print about ~190 pages), an HP 63 Tri-color Instant Ink Ready Cartridge (which can print ~165 pages); a software setup CD, a setup flyer; the power cord, a print guide, and a phone cord.
The OfficeJet 4650 has an up to 100-sheet hopper on the bottom that serves as the only paper tray; if you switch from printing documents to photos, you’ll need to manually swap out the paper. If you connect the 4650 to a phone line, it can transmit faxes at 4 seconds a page, and it can receive and print faxes in either color or black & white; it can hold up to 99 fax pages in its 64MB memory (there is no option to add a memory card).
When printing in black and white from a computer, the OfficeJet 4650 has a resolution of up to 1200 x 1200 rendered dpi. When printing in color from a computer, the 4650 can have up to a resolution of 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi color when using selected HP photo papers and 1200 input dpi. Black and white prints made on the 4650 look crisp and clean; color prints look sharp and vibrant. Perhaps the biggest caveat is that printing speeds seemed about average to slow; HP says that the printer can do up to 20 black and white print pages per minute, but your mileage will vary based on the size of the paper used, graphics involved, and the amount of print on the page. Some printers will be faster than this one, but since I am not a high-volume printer (and since the Canon I was using before seemed just as slow), this isn’t a deal-breaker for me.
The OfficeJet 4650 does all the usual things a multi-function printer does — it prints (including dual-sided pages), copies, scans, and faxes, but with the addition of the HP Instant Ink service, it goes a step beyond.
Setup is straightforward: you unpack the printer, and either use the included setup disk or download the installation software directly from HP. A new part of the setup process is the addition of the option to add the HP Instant Ink service. There is a promotion going on right now so that you can get an initial three months for free, and you’ll get at least an additional three months free with the current promotions for whatever level you select before you have to start paying.
Interestingly enough, I started the printer and HP Instant Ink setup process on my Dell XPS 15 and was offered the three free months promotion in addition to the original three months. I completed the registration process on my MacBook Pro, however, where I was offered a six free months promotion in addition to the original three! I’m not sure why the offer jumped, but if you can, definitely hold out for the extra six months.
I’ll talk more about the service shortly, but let’s talk a bit about the printer itself. One of the things I really like about it is that the display is a touchscreen — not only does it make the printer look sleek, but it also means that there is no guesswork when trying to enter WiFi network passwords like I had to deal with on the Canon this printer replaced. Every step of the setup process is explained, and you are walked through with either visual prompts or diagrams; it could not be easier.
Prints made with the HP OfficeJet 4650 are very crisp and sharp, which is what we have all come to expect from modern printers.
Of course, the other thing we have come to expect with modern printers is that while they may not cost much to initially purchase, you will pay and pay again when it’s time to buy ink refills. That’s where HP’s Instant Ink program comes in. Users can decide, based on how many copies they usually make in a month, which level of service they would like to subscribe to. We generally don’t do that many hard copies, so 50 copies/month at $2.99/month seems about right, and of course, there are plans for people who need more.
HP says that you will save up to 50% on ink with their service, and based on what it has cost me the last few times I’ve had to replace cartridges, the $36/year for the service seems incredibly low. HP estimates the cost of standard cartridges for our level of usage at $132/year, and that actually sounds about right. So if HP Instant Ink works as promised, it should save us significant money over time.
How does HP keep track of your usage? Over Wi-Fi and through your Instant Ink account, of course. Not only do they see how many copies you are making (but not what you are printing), they are also alerted to your ink levels so that they will know when you are running low, and it is time for a refill.
When the time comes, HP will send new cartridges directly to your shipping address. The cool thing about this setup is that if you print a high-quality photo, it will only count as one print, so there’s no penalty if every print that you make happens to be an amazing glossy color photo for your album. In other words, the service is not charging you by the cartridge — it is charging you based on the actual amount of copies that you make (so be aware that a double-sided copy counts as two copies 😉 ).
There’s no need to remember to buy new cartridges, no need to shop around for the best prices, and no need to even consider one of those online or in-person ink refill services. That, in and of itself, makes the service totally worth it to me. Even better — if you don’t use all of your pages for a month, they will roll over to the next month, but you can purchase additional pages for a low cost when needed. Best of all, HP includes postage-paid shipping materials so that you can return your used cartridges to them for recycling through one of their HP Planet Partners.
I should mention that if you are someone who only does one or two print pages per week (or per month), the attraction if signing up for the Instant Ink account will be greatly diminished. Let’s say that, like me, you sign up for the $2.99/month plan: this roughly translates to $0.06/page. But let’s say that if you were to only do two pages per month, you’d be looking at a cost of $1.49/page, which is hardly a good deal. If you only print two pages per week, making 8 pages per month, that’s $0.37/page. So as with most things, it’s a numbers game; as long as you actually use the service at about the rate you are paying for, it is worth it. If you use significantly less than whatever tier you’ve signed up for, it stops being a good deal.
Using an HP-connected printer means you have access to the HP AIO (all in one) app on iOS or Android. Through the app, you can select pictures from your device to print, capture documents on your device that need to be printed, as well as monitor your printer’s settings. This is really handy if you use your phone to take most of your photos, as there is no need to move them to your computer first for printing.
HP has added the Instant Ink service that sets their printers ahead of the others. Having the Instant Ink service means never running out of ink, never having to look for the best cartridge price, and ultimately saving money. Your printer basically manages itself, and that means one less thing that you have to worry about. You should also check out HP Printables — a service that delivers puzzles, recipes, news, and even coloring pages directly to your printer; it’s kind of fun, even if it will run up your monthly usage. 😉
And of course, if you are one of those who have privacy concerns about owning a “connected” printer, you will still have the option of declining the Instant Ink service and instead paying full price for replacement cartridges … but honestly, why would you want to?
The HP OfficeJet 4650 All-In-One Printer retails for $99.99, and it is available directly from the manufacturer and from other retailers, including for $89,95 on Amazon [affiliate link]. The HP Instant Ink Service starts at $2.99/month.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Excellent HP printer that is easy to set up and easy to work with; Instant Ink service means that you never have to worry about running out of ink and buying expensive replacement cartridges again; If you have a concern about your print quantities being monitored, you can refrain from connecting to the service and buy replacement printer cartridges at the regular price; HP sends a postage-paid mailer for your used cartridges so that they can be recycled
What Needs Improvement: Color photo and back & white text page printing speeds seem average to slow; If you don’t do many prints a month, even the lowest HP Instant Ink Service plan will seem expensive