The affordably priced HP Envy 5540 ($130) is an all-in-one inkjet printer that offers solid performance and consistently high image quality on both plain paper and specialty media. A duplexer can make two-sided prints, though not very quickly, while a second, fixed paper tray gives you a place to store photo paper.
To help minimize ink costs down the road, you can use high-yield ink cartridges or attempt to cut costs further by subscribing to one of HP's ink plans, available in three levels depending on how much you print. If the printer is connected to the Internet, HP can automatically detect low ink levels and send you supplies.
Editors Note 8/14/18: Security researchers have discovered a flaw in fax-enabled all-in-one printers (including this model) that can let an attacker take over your printer and other connected devices with a malicious fax. HP has issued a patch to protect against this flaw, so please visit HP’s support page for this printer and update your firmware.
The front panel of the Envy 5540 sports a 2.2-inch color touch screen. While that's on the small side, you can swipe the display to browse menu icons instead of having to tap an on-screen arrow.
The 125-sheet input tray sits in a drawer that sticks out from the front of the unit. You slide it out to load and unload paper. On top of that, there's a 15-sheet photo-paper tray that's fixed at 4 x 6 inches, so you can't load other sizes. Above the input tray, a 25-sheet output tray occupies a cavity inside the body of the unit, with a spring-loaded extension that pops out automatically when you initiate printing.
If you have a small workspace, you may appreciate this model's quiet mode, which causes a moderate drop in noise level. Speaking of noise, the Envy 5540 makes quite a lot of it. After every print job, it seemed, the device continued to whir and make sputtering noises, sounding like it was realigning and expelling ink to prevent a clogging of the printhead. A replacement unit made similar noises, though it did so less frequently. That said, the noise is unlikely to bother anyone except more peevish users.
In our speed tests, the Envy 5540 did quite well, printing graphics and glossy photos quickly, though copy speeds were less impressive.
The Envy 5540 printed text at roughly average speeds in our tests, kicking out a five-page text document in 36.9 seconds, or 8.1 pages per minute (ppm). Using draft mode, the same document printed at 8.8 ppm (34 seconds). Turning on quiet mode slowed the print time to 58 seconds, or 5.2 ppm.
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Using the duplexer slowed down print speeds considerably. Printing our five-page text document on two sides of paper took more than twice as long as a one-sided document, at 1 minute and 24 seconds, or 3.6 ppm. The slowdown is partly due to a wait before the second side of a page is printed, while the screen displays the message, "Ink is drying; please wait."
The Envy 5540 printed our six-page mixed text and graphics document at a brisk 2:40 (2.3 ppm). This was significantly faster than its workplace-oriented sibling, the HP OfficeJet 4650, which took a minute longer to print the same document.
The Envy 5540 also printed full-page color glossies quickly, kicking one out at the best quality settings in 2:12. Knocking down the quality setting to normal shortened the time to 1:40. By contrast, the Epson ET-2550 took almost 6 minutes longer to print a photo at the best quality settings.
Copy and Scan Speed
The Envy 5540 made copies of color documents in the roughly average time of 36 seconds. Black-and-white copies emerged in 21.9 seconds, which was significantly longer than the Epson ET-2550's time.
The Envy was much more impressive at scanning documents in black-and-white to PDF, doing so in 9.7 seconds, versus 38.3 seconds for the Epson ET-2550. This was partly because the Epson performed a preview scan and then a final scan in this mode, whereas the Envy simply allowed me to click Done after the preview scan was performed.
The Envy 5540 delivers very high print quality across the board, both on plain paper and specialty media. Text was printed on plain paper in dark, sharp letter forms, though not quite as razor-sharp at the edges as those produced by laser printers. Similarly, color graphics printed on plain paper were full of rich colors, smooth textures and fine details.
Photographs printed on HP's glossy media looked excellent, with sharp details and accurately reproduced colors. When they were compared side by side to glossy prints made by the Epson ET-2250, however, I did see a couple of minor differences: The Envy 5540 printed some flat, deep colors with a slight cloudiness to them, and some really small, fine details lacked the extreme sharpness of the ET-2550's prints. These gave the Envy 5540's prints a little less "pop" than the Epson's prints, but it was a very minor difference.
On the other hand, the Envy 5540 made more attractive copies on plain paper than the Epson ET-2550, reproducing colors and details more accurately. Text in copies looked heavy and sharp. Both models made excellent scans of photographs.
Ink/Toner Cost and Yield
If there's one thing about printing with an inkjet printer that gets someone's blood boiling, it's the high cost of ink. Using standard cartridges with the Envy 5540, costs per page are 8 cents for text and 21 cents for color. High-yield cartridges reduce these costs to 6 cents and 16 cents, respectively.
It's possible to lower this cost further using HP's ink subscription plan, called Instant Ink, whereby low ink levels are detected and new cartridges are mailed to you. How much you'll save will depend on how much you print and possibly other factors, such as how much ink your typical print requires.
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A basic plan covers 50 pages a month and costs $3 (or 6 cents a page). A 100-page plan comes out to 5 cents per page, for $5 a month. A 300-page plan for $10 a month equals 3.3 cents per page.
In sharp contrast, the Epson ET-2550 uses refillable ink tanks to keep costs low, and boasts per-page costs of 0.3 cents for text and 1 cent per color page. However, its upfront price tag is four times as high as the Envy 5540's.
Setting up the Envy 5540 was a simple affair. I just removed some tape from the outside of the chassis and some cardboard inside the cartridge bay. Then, I printed a scanner alignment sheet and scanned it.
Inserting the software disc in both a Windows PC and Mac prompted me to go to a company website to download the software. In the meantime, a video ad promoting the company's Instant Ink program plays as the software downloads. Attention Mac users: The software requires OS X 10.8 and up, though a print driver is available for earlier versions. (I was able to print on a Mac running OS 10.7.)
The Envy 5540 started up in roughly average time, at 11.9 seconds. But choosing to make a copy did not result in an immediate response. Rather than spit out the copy in the usual 22 seconds, the printer continued to make noise, seemingly realigning the printhead and clearing the ink nozzles, taking a further 38 seconds to make the copy. This operation was a regular occurrence after I opened and closed the paper tray, but it also happened randomly.
HP's included software is a basic suite for printing, scanning and copying, with additions such as Photo Creations for making your own invitations, calendars, announcements, collages, fliers and various photo gifts. The company also offers what it calls Printables, which span the gamut from coloring pages and puzzles to forms for making calendars, playing Sudoku and other games, or simply printing your own graphing paper.
The HP Print Service app on my Android phone simply added the Envy 5540 to my printer list automatically, without requiring any action on my part.
The Envy 5540 is a very good all-around performer, prints graphics quickly, and delivers very high print quality on both plain paper and specialty media. Although copy speeds aren't quick, PDF scans happen in a snap. It doesn't qualify as a small office workhorse, but the Envy 5540's overall versatility make it a solid all-around all-in-one.