People have been talking about paperless offices for decades, but in reality we all need to commit things to paper from time to time and that means owning a printer.
There is of course a massive choice on offer depending on your needs, HP’s latest OfficeJet is aimed at those who only print occasionally but don’t want to sacrifice quality.
It’s a colour ink jet printer which will print text at around 10 pages a minute though you can halve this speed when images are thrown in. There’s also a scanner with a 35-sheet automatic feeder, a fax feature for nostalgia fans and built-in Wi-Fi. A monochrome touchscreen on the front controls the printer’s functions.
The first thing you notice when you open the box and set it up is that the 3830 is quite a lightweight device. Some of the flaps and covers feel a bit flimsy and it tends to skid around on the desk as you’re loading paper and cartridges, opening the scanner lid, etc. Talking of which, the ink cartridges are deep inside the machine and it's a bit gloomy in there so installing them isn't the easiest task.
It uses a two cartridge system, one for black, one for the three colours which isn’t normally the most economical option as some colours inevitably run out before others. A twin pack of cartridges costs around £23 for standard and £40 for high-yield.
However, the 3830 qualifies for HP’s Instant Ink service which lets you enrol in a monthly plan and have the printer order new cartridges automatically before the ink runs out. The plans are based on the number of pages printed, not cartridges used and prices start from a monthly fee of £1.99. You also get sent a pre-paid envelope to recycle your old cartridges.
Drivers are supplied on CD and there’s also a web address in the instructions for those whose devices don’t have an optical drive. It comes bundled with HP Photo Creations software which lets you turn your snaps into calendars, greetings cards and so on, though you can choose not to load this if you prefer. The drivers include plug-ins for Dropbox and Google Drive. You can automatically configure your wireless settings as part of the software install without having to enter them directly into the printer. It also adds a Printer Assistant to your desktop that lets you manage most of the machine's settings more easily than from the touchscreen.
The input and output trays are quite small – 60 sheets in and 25 out – but big enough for home and light office use. The input paper is stacked at the back rather than in a covered tray so it will collect dust if you don’t print very often. The flip side of that of course is that it’s easy to grab a sheet of paper for making notes or paper darts.
There’s a USB 2.0 connection but no Ethernet port so for network use you’re dependent on Wi-Fi. The printer acts as an access point so you can print to it directly rather than via a router if you prefer, it also supports Apple AirPrint so you can print from your iPhone or iPad.
It's not all that noisy in normal operation, there is a quiet mode which reduces the noise level a little but at the expense of slower printing. To be honest this seems to make very little difference to the amount of noise it makes – which mainly comes from the clanks and whirrs of the mechanical bits – you're better off just leaving it in its normal mode. While we’re on the subject of noise the 3830 plays a happy little tone each time a print job is complete, thankfully you can turn this off as it gets a bit annoying after a while.
And so to print quality, black text is clear and sharp though doesn’t quite have the crispness of a laser printer. Photo print quality is impressive with strong, bright colours, though on plain paper there's some evidence of banding if you look closely. Colour copies using the scanner are true to the originals.
The 3830 can do duplex printing but you have to turn the paper over yourself. It’ll cope with photo paper and envelopes and it supports borderless photo prints.
The 3830 has a list price of £60 including VAT but shop around online and you can find it for around the £50 mark, so basically you’re getting the printer for the cost of two packs of ink cartridges. At that price it’s hard to quibble about the slightly flimsy feel. The print quality is perfectly adequate and certainly as good as anything else at this level of the market.
If you want a reasonably basic printer for occasional use with running costs that won’t break the bank it’s worth taking a look at.