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Want to inspire envy in the office? This budget business AOI won’t do that, but it does have all the features you need for working at home, including an excellent touchscreen. It prints a great photo too, but the auto duplex mode is slow, there’s very little ink in the box and cartridges are expensive. Laser Printer Imaging Drum
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The HP ENVY Inspire 7200e (known as the 7220e in the UK) is a three-in-one inkjet printer (opens in new tab) aimed at the home office — an increasingly important market for most printer brands.
As such it is well specified with auto duplex, Bluetooth and self-healing Wi-Fi built in. There’s also a high-resolution document scanner, color touchscreen and two separate paper trays.
It can even duplex print 4x6-inch photo paper. It also looks better than it should for just US$199 (£140 or AU$296).
That’s because HP still adheres to the old razor-and-blade philosophy whereby the printer price is kept low while the real money is made on the ink. But with a six-month free HP+ subscription thrown in, is that such a problem? Let’s find out.
The HP ENVY Inspire 7200e/7220e looks smart in its two-tone off-white livery (other finishes are available), but it is rather large for an A4 inkjet. That means more plastic, and when HP says 45% of it is recycled, it’s admitting that most of it isn’t.
Type: 3-in-1 color A4 inkjet printer
Functions: Print, scan and copy
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, USB
Data storage slots: None
Consumables included: 2x standard cartridges (120 mono, 125 color)
Dimensions/Weight: 460 x 383 x 191 mm (WxDxH)/6.9kg
And let’s not forget that this is a cartridge inkjet, which wastes way more plastic than a refillable inkjet. What’s more, this printer combines the three colored inks in one tri-color cartridge, so you have to replace it as soon as any one of them runs out. Sure, cartridges can be recycled, but a very small proportion are.
The printer feels well made for such an inexpensive item. The US Letter or A4-sized scanner bed is protected by a lid that looks large enough to reveal an A3 scanner. The whole unit hinges open in order to install the two very small ink cartridges in a surprisingly large empty cavity. The main paper tray is a two-tiered affair capable of holding 125 sheets of plain A4 paper below and 15 sheets of photo paper in the secondary tray. That’s a disappointing capacity for a printer with such a large footprint, but at least you are able to load two different kinds of paper at the same time.
The 2.7-inch tilting touchscreen interface is surprisingly high quality. When it is folded flat and all the other flaps are squared away, the design is crips and minimal, except for the paper tray which always projects froward like a jutting chin. At the rear, there’s only one port for a USB cable and no Ethernet cable, but we would still call this a well-connected device because it has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in.
The HP ENVY Inspire 7200e/7220e includes all the key features you would expect from a home office printer and a few more besides. Being a three-in-one, you can print, scan and copy on any size of paper up to A4, but there’s no fax facility. As mentioned, there’s no Ethernet port either, but with a dual-band Wi-Fi antenna and Bluetooth built in, connectivity is not a problem. There’s no USB Host port for walk up printing from a thumb drive, but there is a port for connecting a USB data cable to your PC (cable not included).
It can print on both sides of the page automatically (auto duplex). That’s with A4 and A5-size paper and , surprisingly, 6x4-inch photo paper. HP printers usually come with a decent touchscreen and this color display is particularly responsive. The maximum print speed is given as an impressive 22ppm (pages per minute), but be aware that this is for single monochrome pages in draft mode. 15ppm is the regular top speed, but in all of our tests, this printer was a little slower. If you need speed, the Epson EcoTank ET-3850 (opens in new tab) is faster, especially when duplexing.
The main paper drawer can hold up to 125 sheets, which is disappointing given the printer’s bulk. A second tray within the drawer is able to hold up to 15 sheets of photo paper of varying sizes, but not A4. If you want to print on glossy A4 photo paper, you’ll need to load this in the main tray. It’s not as convenient as having two full size paper drawers, but it’s a lot better than just one, especially as there is no rear multipurpose input. You’ll find some sample photo paper in the box and it includes a few sheets of double-sided 4x6-inch paper and some trendy square 5x5-inch photo paper.
One feature that’s pushed hard is HP+ which entitles the owner of this printer to six free months Instant Ink subscription. Sign up and you’ll benefit from enhanced functionality and receive discounted inkjet cartridges in the post before you run out. HP will even recycle your empties.
So long as you keep your printer online, it will inform HP how many pages you’ve printed and when to dispatch more ink. When you join up, you have to guess roughly how many pages you’re going to print per month and choose the appropriate price tier. You can pay as little as $1 per month for ten pages per month, or more if you’re a heavy user. The 303 inkjet cartridges for this model are expensive and the savings are up to 70 percent with Instant Ink.
However, there are catches. You can carry over pages that you’ve paid for and not printed, but only for three months. After that you lose them. And you’re effectively fined for printing more than your allotted number. It also requires that your printer remains online, otherwise you’ll receive messages warning that your printer will stop functioning. Yes, HP can disable it remotely. This happened to me when I tried to end my subscription, which was a drawn out process that wasted ink and money. If you don’t print regularly, or in any great quantity, or you prefer to shop around for your own ink deals, do not sign up to Instant Ink.
Setup is a cinch, but somewhat annoying too. Simply load your paper and the two supplied cartridges, then follow the printer’s on-screen prompts to get onto your Wi-Fi network. Alternatively, use the QR code shown on the display to download the HP Smart companion app onto your smartphone and use that to configure your new printer. Thanks to inbuilt Bluetooth, your phone should find the printer right away.
What’s annoying is HP’s insistence at every stage that you take out an Instant Ink subscription. We must have declined seven or eight times before it completed the setup procedure. Only then can you run a head alignment test by printing a test page. And guess what. The page includes an advert for Instant Ink.
The HP ENVY Inspire 7200e/7220e prints smoothly and quietly (especially in Quiet Mode), but it is not fast. HP gives the top speed as 20 pages per minute, which would make it one of the faster inkjet printers in its class. But that’s for single black and white pages in draft mode. Standard print quality is 15ppm, but if you want to print on both sides of the page, we found that it slows right down to around 7ppm, making it one of the slowest.
We have no complaints about the print quality. Plain monochrome text pages look satisfyingly crisp and dark without ever over inking. The black ink is pigment based so it dries more quickly than the dye-based color inks and is less prone to smudging and fading. Printing text in very small point sizes is not a problem for this printer.
Full color printouts look especially vibrant thanks to HP’s vivid dye-based inks and they look best of all on glossy photo paper. For an office printer, albeit a home office printer, that’s quite unusual. With the dedicated photo paper tray and a few sample sheets of photo paper included in the box, HP has made photo printing a key feature for this model. When you switch to photo paper with a matt finish, however, the image takes a big hit in overall quality. This formulation of ink bonds better with a high gloss finish.
The HP ENVY Inspire 7200e/7220e also makes decent digital copies. There’s no ADF (automatic document feed) and no dual scan mode, but we found there was very little loss of detail. The scan and print resolution of 1,200 x 1,200dpi is pretty respectable. However, there was some variation in the color of each photocopy. BTW, if you do need an ADF, then the step-up HP ENVY Inspire 7900e is the model for you.
By the end of the test, the ink levels had dropped low enough to think about ordering new cartridges, which highlights the major limitation of this printer. Firstly, the two bundled ‘starter’ cartridges contain hardly any ink — just enough for 120 black and white pages and 125 color. Secondly, the cartridges are expensive. Standard black and tri-color carts cost around £17 and £21 respectively and their yield is just 200 and 165 pages. Higher yield cartridges are available and they will bring the page cost down to around 6p for black and white pages and 10p for color, but that’s not great.
If you pay for an Instant Ink subscription, the cartridges are larger and the yield is even higher than the XL cartridges, so the per page cost is lower again. However, it’s still way more expensive than a refillable ink tank printer. It’s the same old catch. Cheap printer; expensive ink.
The HP ENVY Inspire 7200e/7220e is a budget business printer with all the right features to work well in a home office environment where its duties are light and varied. It can auto duplex, make decent digital copies, and print both documents and photos to a high standard. It’s very well connected with Bluetooth and self-healing Wi-Fi built in and the tilting color touchscreen makes it a pleasure to operate.
However, it prints slowly, especially in auto duplex mode, and despite the relatively large footprint, there’s not much room on board for paper. If you print a lot, the 125-sheet main paper tray is frustratingly small and the second paper tray can only take 15 sheets of photo-sized paper.
Our main concern, however, is the high running cost. There’s so little ink in the supplied starter cartridges that you’ll need to buy more almost straight away and the cartridges are expensive. Sure, enrolling with Instant Ink brings the print cost down, but not as low as a refillable ink tank printer and I wouldn’t advise subscribing to HP’s service unless you’re sure you’re going to print regularly.
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Black Drum Unit Jim is a seasoned expert when it comes to testing tech. From playing a prototype PlayStation One to meeting a man called Steve about a new kind of phone in 2007, he’s always hunting the next big thing at the bleeding edge of the electronics industry. After editing the tech section of Wired UK magazine, he is currently specialising in IT and voyaging in his VW camper van.