HP's Officejet 6500A Plus is a more feature-rich version of the vanilla Officejet 6500A. It adds Wi-Fi support and a duplexer that allows you to automatically print on two sides of a page. Best of all, it will only cost you an extra tenner, as you can buy this printer online from HP for £100.
The 6500A Plus looks identical to its lesser-featured sibling, so like that model it's housed in a big and bulky chassis. At 409mm high it's certainly tall, and its footprint is also large at 476x258mm, so it'll take up a fair amount of space in the average sized home office. Nevertheless, the glossy black finish makes it look more stylish than your average business printer.
On the sloping panel at the front you'll find the 6cm touchscreen, as well as a numerical touchpad for dialling fax numbers. The touchscreen really helps make the printer easy to use, especially when you're setting it up to work with Wi-Fi or want to quickly change the number of photocopies.
Sitting on top of the scanner lid there's an automatic document feeder that lets you quickly copy or fax multi-page documents, while the bottom of the printer is home to a 250-sheet feeder. Next to this you'll find the memory card reader that caters for Memory Stick Duo, MMC, SD and XD cards, but sadly the printer lacks a PictBridge USB port.
Getting the 6500A Plus up and running is very straightforward, largely thanks to the touchscreen, which guides you through the process on a step by step basis with clear instructions and handy animations. You can choose to connect the printer directly to your PC via USB, or instead hook it into your network using either a wired Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi.
It's best to use one of the networking options, as you can then take advantage of the printer's Web features. This includes support for HP's ePrint service that sets the printer up with its own unique email address, so you can email documents and photos to it from any Internet-connected device anywhere in the world. You can also use this email address to sign up the printer with Google's new Cloud Printing service.
Along with this, the 6500A Plus also supports HP's Web Apps, which gives you quick access to online content such as Yahoo and Reuters news services or Disney and DreamWorks printouts, so you can print a round-up of the day's news or colouring materials for the kids.
Scanning and copying
The automatic document feeder that sits on top of the printer can handle up to 35 sheets at a time and allows you to copy or fax multi-page documents without the hassle of manually placing each sheet on the scanner's glass surface.
The scanner has a resolution of 4800dpi and produces impressive quality results. Detail in scans remains crisp and sharp, and colour accuracy is also good. The printer is also reasonably quick when it comes to making photocopies. It copied our test black and white sheet in 14 seconds, which is quicker than most other inkjet multifunction models.
Speed, quality and cost
The 6500A Plus has a fair lick of pace when it comes to print speed, too. It completed our 10-page text document in a speedy 1 minute 15 seconds, took 2 minutes 24 seconds to print our business presentation and 2 minutes 53 seconds to produce our graphics test. These times put it up there with the very best performing multifunction models, which is impressive considering the low price.
It isn't that fast when it comes to duplex printing, though. It took 3 minutes 40 seconds to print five double-sided pages of our text document, which is about a minute longer than other recent inkjet models that we've tested. Part of the problem is that it pauses for up to 17 seconds after printing the first side to let the ink dry, which obviously has a negative impact on its overall speed.
Despite the fact that it's designed primarily for business use, the 6500A Plus actually does a good job of printing photos, and took only 37 seconds to produce our 4x6-inch snap. The quality was a match for many consumer models, thanks to the bold colours and lack of any serious dither.
In fact, overall print quality is impressive. Text is dark and dense and there's very little feathering or bleeding into the page. Our business presentation also printed with bold colour and without any of the banding that you often see on cheaper inkjet models.
The 6500A Plus will also prove cheap to run over the longer term. It costs just 2p to print a black and white page of text, while a colour sheet works out at a very reasonable 4p. Both those costs are among the lowest that you'll find on a inkjet multifunction model.
While duplex printing is on the slow slide, the 6500A Plus is a great performer in pretty much every other area. Add in the fact that it's stacked with features and doesn't cost that much to run, and you've got a seriously impressive printer, especially considering the bargain basement asking price.