Hands On with HP's PageWide Pro Printer: A Speedy Inkjet

There's something new in the world of business printing. HP calls it PageWide Pro, a series of small business inkjet printers and multifunction printers (MFPs) that deliver speeds on a par with laser printers.

I had the chance to take one of HP's new PageWide models out for a spin and found a printer that can deliver blazing speeds in multiperson offices — if you don't mind the price tag.

The new PageWide Pro series replaces HP's Officejet Pro X printers. The most basic PageWide Pro model starts at $599. A final price hasn't been set on the 577dw model I tried out, but a more basic version without a scanner will cost $699.

MORE: Best All-in-One Printers - Inkjet and Laser Printers

If you're considering a printer at that price, you are serious about your printing and plan to print a lot: The 577dw has a monthly duty cycle of 6,000 printed pages.  The printer also has a big chassis: The installation brochure shows two people carrying it for good reason — it weighs roughly 50 pounds. The main paper tray holds 500 sheets and can accommodate up to legal-size paper; a secondary tray on the side can be used for envelopes or specialty media.

A New Approach for Inkjets

But the big story here is the technology under the hood. Your typical inkjet printer has a printhead that moves back and forth across the page as it lays down ink on the paper. With the PageWide, the printhead goes all the way across the paper (hence, its name), so you hear no moving arm sliding the printhead to and fro while printing. The result is quicker print speeds than what you'd normally see from an inkjet.

Also, your typical business inkjet printer cartridge has a somewhat low page yield — probably not much more than 2,000 pages. The PageWide cartridges have page yields starting at 3,000 pages. These color cartridges cost $80; the black cartridge (3,500 pages) costs $70. This delivers costs per page of 2 cents (black) and 10 cents (color).

HP says there are high-yield cartridges with page yields of 13,000 pages for color and 17,000 pages for black. I'd expect these to deliver even lower costs per page (though the price of these hasn't been set yet). These cartridges are significantly larger than your typical inkjet cartridge, of course. To install them, you drop a door on the printer's front panel, sliding each of the four cartridges into its labeled slot, snapping it into place.

How the PageWide Performs

Copying and scanning are integral parts of office life, so HP optimized those functions on the PageWide Pro multifunction printers. The 577dw can scan both sides of a document simultaneously if you feed it through the automatic document feeder on top of the unit. As such, you don't have to wait for the paper to be turned over in order to be scanned, which can slow copy times down significantly.

In my tests, the PageWide Pro made a black-and-white copy in 10.6 seconds, which is faster than any inkjet MFP I've recently tested and roughly the average for laser all-in-ones. More impressively, the 577dw made a two-sided copy in just 13.6 seconds. An eight-page double-sided document copied in a rapid 29.3 seconds (or, 3.7 seconds per page). 

HP promises print speeds up to 70 ppm, but this requires that you print in draft quality mode. In draft mode, business inkjets of this caliber are usually specified to print at roughly half that speed. Using default settings I still got lightning-quick speeds from the PageWide Pro 577dw. This model spat out our five-page text document in 12.6 seconds (or, 23.8 ppm). This bested the fastest sub-$300 monochrome laser printer we've tested, the Canon ImageClass MF229dw, which printed text at 17 ppm. The PageWide Pro also prints quickly in duplex mode; the same five-page text document printed double-sided at 13.3 ppm.

Graphics printing was similarly fast. A six-page mixed text-and-graphics document printed in just 31.6 seconds (or, 11.4 ppm). By comparison, HP's $330 LaserJet Pro M277dw printed the document in a much more modest 51.8 seconds (or, 6.9 ppm).

The PageWide Pro 577dw makes very attractive prints. On plain, generic paper, graphics looked detailed, with rich colors; text looked very sharp. However, letter forms did not have quite the razor-sharp edges you'll get from the best laser printers. Upgrading to a third-party high-quality inkjet paper made a noticeable improvement: Text looked noticeably crisper at the edges, on a par with that of laser printers. HP recommends that you use ColorLok brand papers for best results.

Outlook

Businesses looking for a workgroup printer should give the PageWide series a look. Although costs per page with the high-yield cartridges won't be known until pricing is finalized, the low costs per page with standard cartridges are encouraging. These models are also designed to be very environmentally friendly: HP says they will generate roughly 20 pounds of waste over their lifetime, compared to 200 pounds from a typical laser printer.

We plan on comparing the PageWide Pro 577dw to other office all-in-ones in our full review.

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