HP Envy 4500 e-All-in-One Printer
It allows you to print via app, email, and cloud services
- Small footprint
- Good wireless printing features
- Simple to use
- Running costs could mount over time
HP's Envy 4500 is an all-in-one printer with good online features that allows you to print from practically anywhere. You can also use apps to print wirelessly from mobile devices. As with all cheap printers, the hardware tends to run noisily, and the ink could cost you dearly depending on your usage pattern.
Buying a cheap printer such as the HP Envy 4500 e-All-in-One is, for some people, a spur-of-the-moment decision these days, but it still helps to know what you're getting into when buying a sub-$100 printer. The main selling point of this model (apart from being a printer, scanner and copier) is its ability to print your documents and photos from anywhere, as long as you are connected to the Internet.
What can it do?
It's one of the Envy printer models that can harness HP's ePrint service, which can be used in a couple of ways: you can either email documents to the printer, which it will then print, or you can connect it to the Google Cloud Print service and print documents from there. Furthermore, you can print from mobile devices as long as you have the appropriate app installed. HP AirPrint is for Apple devices, and HP ePrint for Android devices.
Physically, the Envy 4500 is a small printer that looks stylish on a desktop thanks to a slim profile and the lack of 'wings'. Paper is fed through the front (it has a 100-page input tray) and travels along a curved path to re-emerge at the front (up to 30 pages can rest on the output-tray extension). Impressively, it prints on both sides of a page automatically; it just waits a couple of seconds for the ink to dry before taking the paper back in.
There is a flatbed scanner at the top that's useful for copies and for scanning directly to computers that have the HP driver software installed, and a small screen and sparse controls make the printer easy to master within a short amount of time.
Only two cartridges are required for printing — one black and one tri-colour, both are HP61 models — they can be installed and replaced by lifting up the scan tray. The inks that ship with the printer are rated for 165 colour pages and 190 black pages, though they will run out much sooner if you print out full A4 page photos rather than sparse text and small splashes of colour.
To replace them, you'll have to shell out $25 for black and $33 for colour. We got 13 A4-sized photo prints out of the default colour cartridge before it showed signs of emptiness in the print results. The printer continued to print black text even while the tri-colour cartridge was depleted, and it could continue printing in black-only mode when we removed the colour cartridge.
Print quality is very good considering the cheap entry-point for the hardware, with reasonably crisp text, and good clarity when printing photos. We particularly like the printer's copying abillity, which produced accurate colours in our tests when copying photos. Text was only slightly more feathered than the original document.
Printing from mobile devices and the Internet
For all intents and purposes, it's a simple inkjet printer that doesn't have extra physical features (you can't print from SD cards directly, for example) and it doesn't require a lot of know-how to set up. The only thing you'll need to do prior to installing it is download its drivers from HP's Web site — especially if you want to install it on a laptop or any other computer that doesn't have an optical drive, because HP still supplies drivers on a CD.
The printer can be set up either wirelessly, or via USB, and a USB cable is supplied in the box. When you initiate the driver installation, you are given the choice of how to connect, and the wireless way should be the preferred method if you'll be printing from mobile devices; it's not all that difficult to get it going as long as your devices are on the same wireless network. Simply ensure that the wireless setting is switched on in the printer's menu, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, and enter your password.
Once the wireless set-up is complete, you'll be able to print from the computer on which the printer was installed. You'll have to run the HP driver installation program on any other computer that is to use the printer on your network. To print from those computers, just select the 'HP Envy 4500 series (Network)' printer from the drop-down list.
If you wish to print over the Internet, then you have to do two things: set up an account with the HP ePrint service, and enable the ePrint service on the printer. To do the latter, simply press the button on the control panel that sits between the Wi-Fi button and the question mark button. This will allow you to print out an instruction sheet that has the printer's 'code'. You need to use this code to register the printer on the ePrint site, and this will allow you to create a custom email address for the printer.
You will be able to print many jobs simply by sending an email to the printer. Forwarded emails with attachments will only print the email and not the attachment, so if you want to print files, you have to detach them and re-attach them to new emails that you can then send to the printer. It supports JPEG, PDF, and Microsoft Office file types. From a security perspective, you should create a list of allowed email addresses, which will ensure that not just anyone can send a print job to your printer.
This can be a useful solution to the print-from-anywhere problem, and it's especially good if you want to print documents while using computers that aren't already attached to a printer. Of course, if you are printing over the Internet, large jobs can take a while to complete (though this may not matter if you are printing something from a remote location so that it's ready once you get home, for example). A PDF file with lots of colour in it can take many minutes to print, with the printer taking at least a couple of seconds per line it printed. Text documents printed much quicker. Print jobs over Wi-Fi (that is jobs from computers on the same network as the printer) take around about the same time that they would if the printer was connected via USB.
The HP Envy 4500 isn't an especially great printer, which is understandable considering the low price point. It can be quite loud and annoying when feeding paper at a fast rate (such as when printing text-only documents), and the paper handling is as basic as it gets.
However, if you're not willing to spend more than $100 on the hardware, and only want a printer that gives you convenient connectivity features for now-and-then printing, then it's not a bad model to grab.
We didn't have any problems setting up wireless printing and cloud printing, and we even used it with Google's Cloud Print services very easily. Printing from an Android phone was also a simple task when using the special HP app.
It's the replacement ink costs that get you (up to $58 when replacing black and tri-colour at the same time), so only consider this type of printer if your print volume is low and if you don't have aspirations of doing a lot of photo printing.
Other models in the e-All-in-One range include:
• Envy 5520 — $93
• Envy 6520 — $143
• Envy 7520 — $245
• Envy 120 — $329
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