HP Officejet J6480

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The Officejet J6480 is Hewlett-Packard's newest all-in-one printer with a host of features designed to appeal to small-to-midsize businesses that want a low-cost, feature-rich device capable of handling projects across the board. The price and features set make the J6480 one of our favourite do-it-all devices.

This AU$299 multifunction printer certainly delivers everything you want in an all-in-one: Autoduplexing, photo finishing, one-touch faxing, a scanner with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, auto-document feeder (ADF), and built in wireless 802.11g networking.

The J6480 includes all these additional features you don't normally see in a AU$299 printer and does so without sacrificing print quality, software usability, or hardware shortcuts. Even though it prints photos slower than the average speed for an AIO, the rest of the robust feature set on the J6480 make it one of our favourite do-it-all devices.

Design and features
The HP Officejet J6480 is relatively large (47.5 cm wide by 47.2 cm deep) and heavy (7.65 kg), but it manages to keep a low profile by standing only 24.5 cm high. The large footprint plus the fact that the trays don't fold into the body mean you probably won't move it around the office very often. However, the combination of matte-white-and-grey panels and the glossy black cockpit should blend well with the rest of your decor.

At first glance, it seems that the J6480 has a lot going on, but the buttons are organised in such a way that makes navigation fairly easy. The front panel houses a series of shortcuts for the scanner, the printer, the copier, and the fax machine, with the numerical keypad and faxing buttons occupying half of the console. There's also a small, two-line LCD screen to quickly access system preferences and tools to maintain ink cartridges and the printer nozzle, but there are only three autodials for the fax machine — most AIOs have at least four, if not eight one-touch buttons.

The front panel also has an external card reader (supporting xD, Memory Stick, SD, and CompactFlash) and a wireless On/Off button. Unfortunately, the J6480 does not have a PictBridge port for transferring images directly from a digital camera. We understand the redundancy in including both a media bay and a PictBridge port, but PictBridge is quickly becoming the de facto standard for direct printing, and we wish HP would have considered this in the printer's design.

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The 250-sheet input tray has an adjustable arm to fit any paper size — we like that the tray is actually fixed into the machine and made of a sturdy plastic, as opposed to other printers that employ a flimsy tray to corral paper. The printer also has an auto document feeder for scanning and/or copying as many as 35 sheets at a time, as well as an autoduplexer for double-sided printing, accessible through the driver settings.

Finally, HP rounds out the device with built-in wireless 802.11g networking. We followed the on-screen instructions and successfully paired the J6480 with our desktop computer in less than 10 minutes. From there, we connected satellite computers to the printer by simply installing the driver onto the other desktops. The process of setting up a wireless network with your printer is typically painful, requiring special network configurations and system changes, but the J6480 slowly guides you through the setup with onscreen instructions that we found easy to follow and troubleshoot.

In addition to the drivers, the J6480 also ships with HP's Photosmart Essential and Solution Center software. The former allows you to import, organise, edit, and share your digital photos, while the latter helps you fax and scan documents as well as order additional supplies to use with your printer.

The J6480 has a two-cartridge bay with one single black cartridge (AU$16) and another tricolour cartridge (AU$18) for colour prints. We ran low on colour ink during our testing, so we suggest that you purchase the XL cartridge that's available on the HP Web site for AU$37. They're double the price of the standard cartridge but offer three times the page yields in both black and colour.

The scanner on the J6480 comes with onboard Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software that allows the scanner to interpret graphics into editable text. The HP Solution Center software has a "convert to text" option as well as an embedded "save as editable text" feature that automatically converts as it scans.

We tested this functionality using several documents, including handwritten notes as well as simple text document printouts, and we received mixed results. Large, clear text translated well, and the software even matched the original fonts, but the algorithm couldn't recognise our smaller letters as well as any of the handwritten portions, no matter how uniform the character. Instead, the scanner changed our letters into a font that looked a lot like Wing Dings. All in all, the OCR isn't perfect, but you can count on it to work for light editing on presentations and other large format scans.

The HP Officejet J6480 excelled against its competitors in all the speed test categories except photo. In this case, the HP tested dead last at 0.83 photo per minute and couldn't even beat out the Lexmark x7550, which was the previous model to beat for dead slowest photo printer (1.16 PPM). Photos aside, the rest of the speeds were surprisingly quick. The J6480 blew away the Brother MFC-685CW and the Kodak EasyShare 5500 in the speed test, and the 3.4 page-per-minute scan speed is one of the higher benchmarks in the AIO printer category.

Print speed test (in pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Copy (PPM)  
Colour scanning speed (PPM)  
Photo speed (PPM)  
Graphics speed (PPM)  
Text speed (PPM)  
HP Officejet J6480
Kodak EasyShare 5500
Lexmark x7550
Brother MFC-685cw

Those who decide to use the J6480 to print photos will be rewarded for their wait — text, graphics, and full-colour photos are very pleasing with detailed, sharp lines. We did notice some colour casts on some of the prints, but a few tweaks in HP's image-editing software fixed the issue in less than five minutes. The skin tones in our portrait shots blended well with their background and exhibited a rich colour palette, including dark purples and lighter shades of blue and green.

We recommend HP's Premium Presentation Paper for presentations and other high traffic documents — the nozzle had a hard time laying down a smooth colour gradient on plain paper and the matte-coated finish lends itself better to the tricolour inks.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Hardware

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