Inkjets, which are losing some of their cachet among consumers, are finding new jobs in small offices and workgroups. We've tested enough business models over the past couple of years to prove that a high-quality inkjet multifunction is faster and cheaper to operate than a comparably prices laser product in the sub-$500 space. A good place to start is with HP's $400 OfficeJet Pro 276dw. It is expensive to buy, but it's also an excellent inkjet multifunction whose enhanced manageability features lets it play nice even in the corporate environment. The 276dw also installs easily, produces nice output quickly, and ink costs are low.
Control panel includes 4.3-inch touchscreen
The 276dw is a dark-chocolatey shade of brown, which, while a bit old-school, works well with the printer's soft edges and corners. It sports a large, 4.3-inch touchscreen control panel with a well thought-out menu structure that makes it easy to operate. Software includes HP scan, remote email printing, and a complete onboard management console accessible via your Web browser. Management features include email alerts, a firewall, proxy support, etc. You can reach the management interface via the control panel or your browser.
The 276dw sports Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB, so you may attach it to your network in any fashion and location that you want. Installation was a breeze: There were no firewall hassles, or other such configuration issues that we commonly see, though there are quite a few dialogs to wade through. Push-scanning to our test PC from the 276dw's control panel was available almost immediately. Quite often it takes printers an inordinate amount of time to get their networking act together.
Impressive print quality and speed
What you see in the 276dw's output tray will put a smile on your face. The text is near-laser-quality, and the color graphics are very nice overall. Plain-paper photos appear ever so slightly washed out, but they look good embedded in newsletters and the like. Color photos on glossy paper are excellent, though HP's bent toward orange-ish skin tones remains. The greenish tint has vanished from its PCL 5 monochrome graphics—a welcome change. It's still found, however, in monochrome graphics printed via Postscript on the Mac. Scan quality is quite good.
The performance of the 276dw was smooth (no odd pausing, as with some inkjets) and quick. Most documents fit easily within the printer's 512MB of memory. It printed text pages (which included a few simple monochrome graphics) at a rate of 10.8 per minute (ppm) on the PC and 13 ppm on the Mac. To plain paper, 4-by-6-inch photos printed at a little over 4 per minute, and to glossy paper at a rate of about one per minute.
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