When it comes to office supplies, one of the most important things to have is a high quality printer. These days, we expect a lot more from our printers than we used to. We aren’t happy with something that can just print off our documents, we also want a high-quality scanner, copier, and fax machine. And most importantly, we want it for an affordable price.
Unfortunately, finding a printer that can meet all of these criteria isn’t always easy. You can’t always rely on specifications to give you the full story, sometimes you have to go hands on.
Since stores rarely demo printers, we had to go hands-on with the latest offering from HP’s OfficeJet line. OfficeJet products have historically been high quality, affordable competitors in the printer marketplace. But the 4650 isn’t sold as just an OfficeJet, we’re told that it’s also a competent photo printer. So is this printer a worthwhile addition to your workspace, or should you look elsewhere? We’ve answered this question for you.
The HP OfficeJet 4650 Wireless All-in-One has a professional look about it, with a few modern touches that we liked. It’s got a very curvy, rounded design. The paper tray gently slopes into the hopper, while the curved face gradually opens up into the lower tray.
Although there are very few highlights designed to pull your attention away from the front of the printer, the one thing that does stand out is the high-resolution LCD. This is a 2 inch touchscreen interface. While it’s not the largest we’ve come across, this display represents an easy way to get information about your print job at a quick glance.
Getting the OfficeJet 4650 setup is a pretty straightforward procedure. As with most wireless printers, you need to go through a quick setup wizard. This is done most easily from a PC or Mac computer, but can be done from an Android or IOS device as well. The wizard will ask you a few simple questions like your network information, and how you want to access the printer. One some computers, you may be asked to allow access through the firewall. This is pretty standard stuff, and setup took us about 5 minutes.
Once you’ve got your printer set up, it’s time to send some documents it’s way. Like most of the OfficeJet printers we’ve reviewed, HP offers a wide range of connectivity options. If you just want to use it as a drop-in replacement for an older printer, you can easily connect to it using a USB type B cable. But in 2017, we personally recommend using one of the wireless options. The HP photosmart software you installed as part of the setup procedure should provide you with the ability to use Wi-Fi direct printing. This is a direct connection from your computer to the printer, bypassing the router. This allows for features like turning the printer on when you request a print job, although the range is slightly reduced.
WiFi direct printing is ideal for use with mobile devices using HP’s free app. For desktop or laptop computers, we’d recommend instead using standard Wi-Fi printing. You do need to leave the printer on (or in standby) for this to work, but you’ll be able to print from anywhere you get a WiFi signal.
One of the things that surprised us was just how many paper sizes this printer supports. Typically, with a printer in this price bracket, you only get three options: letter, legal, photo. The 4650 supports all of these sizes, but also 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, and envelopes.
For any page that is 8.5 x 11 inches or under, the printer supports edge to edge printing. An edge is nice to have with documents, but if you’re printing photos you’d definitely prefer the borderless printing.
We started our testing expecting an office printer that just happened to be competent at occasional photo printing. But what we found was that the quality went well beyond our expectations.
Our first test was a simple text document. We’re always underwhelmed with inkjet printers, since we’re used to the razor-sharp quality of laser printers. But what we found was that HP’s unique ink produces text that has a very rich, deep black that is almost comparable to that of a laser printer. There was still some very mild fuzzing around the edges of the letters, which is typical of an inkjet printer. If you’re coming from an inkjet platform, we suspect that you’ll notice a significant improvement with the OfficeJet 4650.
But where we were really impressed was with photo printing. The printer created images that had very vibrant colors and sharp detail. Colors were fully saturated, without being overblown. Of course, these images looked the best (approaching lab grade) on glossy paper, but on plain paper the image was acceptable as well.
Comparing the images to that of higher end photo printers did reveal a few downfalls. The dark, rich ink that HP uses produces a slight loss of detail in the darkest areas. Even though a dedicated photo printer will produce slightly better images, we think that most casual users will be satisfied with this printer.
This is both the best quality, and the worst quality of this printer. If you’re printing text documents, it’s lightening quick. We managed to print five pages in a zippy 32 seconds, a rate of roughly 9 pages per minute. This is comparable to that of laser printers, almost unheard of for an inkjet printer.
When we were printing high quality photos, the print speed dropped a little. It took about 20 seconds to complete a high-quality photo, which is much slower than dedicated photo printers.
It takes about 15 seconds from the time you turn the printer on to the time you print your first page. Scanning was also a little sluggish, taking about 30 seconds on the highest quality setting.
The printer itself is very affordable, but consumers who have been printing for a long time often learn the hard way that the cheapest printers have the highest ink cost. For this reason, we’re automatically skeptical of any printer that appears to be too good to be true in the price department.
Fortunately, the HP OfficeJet 4650 didn’t disappoint us. Using the included low capacity ink cartridges, our costs averaged out to 10 cents per page. We also tested the high capacity cartridges, which dropped our cost down to 8.4 cents per page. For casual usage, we’d highly recommend splurging for the high capacity cartridges as they drop your cost by nearly 20%. But if your printing is more consistent, you might want to consider HP’s ink subscription service. Their rates break down to 6 cents per page for 50 pages a month, 5 cents per page for 100 pages per month, or 3.3 cents per page for 300 pages per month. This is one of the first times we’ve seen such great value for ink subscription services, offering up to a 70% discount on your ink cost.
The only issue we had with the printer was its slow speed at higher quality settings. This is a non-issue with documents. In fact, we’d say that this was one of the fastest document printers we’ve come across. But if you’re looking for photo printing that can rival that of more expensive printers, you’ll have to wait a little longer for it.
For casual users to intend to print between 100 and 400 pages per month of black and white documents, the HP OfficeJet 4650 is a no brainer. It’s got excellent print quality, giving you the same rich, dark text that you’d get from a laser printer. Even the speed is comparable to printers that often cost several times the price.
If you want to print high quality photos, the 4650 gives you that option as well. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the quality is well beyond our expectations for this price bracket. Unfortunately, this comes at a small price: time. High quality photos take quite a bit longer than we’re used to, so you’ve got to be prepared to spend a minute waiting for a couple images.
If you’re not willing to wait the extra time, it might be worth considering a dedicated wireless photo printer. You will have to spring a few extra dollars, but high volume users will appreciate the mild bump in quality and the large bump in print speed.