HP’s new enterprise ink series: user experience

Christine Dunne
May 27, 2014

After providing an overview of HP’s new enterprise inkjet series, discussing its positioning and key features, and explaining its cost benefits, I will address the experience of using one of the models in our office. Over the last few weeks, my colleagues and I have tested the Officejet Enterprise X585z MFP, the top-of-the-line model in the series. While our office is not necessarily the size of an “enterprise” or large business (fewer than 50 people work regularly out of the Boston-based headquarters), our print volumes are likely in sync with the device’s recommended page volume of up to 6,000 pages per month.

The HP Officejet Enterprise X585z MFP in our office

We are not a testing company, but I believe our experience can be instructive as it represents a real-world trial of the device. Like most businesses, we have certain requirements and preferences for our printouts/scans/etc., and are able to evaluate how well the X585z meets our requirements.

Before my review I must note we have not been able to test some of the model’s more exciting features (such as NFC/Wireless Direct) and compatible solutions as these are options that weren’t included with the device. In addition, we have not been able to use web services or ePrint for infrastructure reasons (a lack of porting capability on our end). This was disappointing, but also reflective of larger challenges hindering mobile print adoption. We expect that other companies may experience similar challenges.

Printing

My colleagues were most likely to try printing to the device, from their work PC. Overall they were very happy with the printer’s speed (up to 70 ppm in general office mode) and text quality. They were a little less enthusiastic about the printer’s image quality, particularly when it came to images covering most of the page. I have included some of their comments below, though readers should keep in mind we are not necessarily typical business users. As we are an analyst firm in the printing industry, it is very likely we have a much more critical eye than the average SMB user. Many of us have reviewed countless printouts over the years, and some of our more technical colleagues may evaluate output in ways that a customer is never likely to.

Here’s a sample of my colleagues’ feedback:

  • “You can see how it’s kind of saturated and bubbly,” one colleague said about a colorful map she had printed (the page flattened out after a minute).
  • “There’s a little bit of curling, but that’s to be expected with inkjet,” another colleague said about a PowerPoint printout. “It’s ink and water…”
  • “I call it the Monet effect,” another colleague said. “They (large images) look nice from far away but once you get close they are pixelated and there’s gradation.”
  • “I think the print quality was very good for documents but not great for images, very saturated,” another colleague said.
  • “It is exactly what I would expect from the device,” another colleague said. “It’s the same as the earlier version (Officejet Pro X), and the same as the Officejet Pro 8500 I have at home. It’s good enough for almost everything except for perhaps say color handouts for customers.”

Colleagues all agreed that the inkjet image quality is acceptable for certain applications such as presentations for internal use, reports with a mix of text and graphics, or colorful client handouts for informal use. This consensus is similar to their opinion of the HP Officejet Pro X576dw MFP last year.

These findings are interesting. As an analyst firm with clients globally we are very well aware that there is an industry debate taking place at the moment about whether the latest crop of page-wide inkjet devices can deliver print quality that is deemed “good enough” for businesses. This question is discussed in a number of online articles, including product reviews from PCMag.com, DigitalTrends.com, and ITProPortal.com.

With print quality being such a subjective issue, to the point where my colleagues in our immediate team hold different opinions regarding page-wide business inkjet output, we intend to explore this issue in an upcoming global study. Logically, we would expect to find that opinions on print quality are largely shaped by the type of device one has previously used (a bit like the car one drives and then replaces with a different model).

Map printed with the HP Officejet Enterprise X585z MFP compared to HP’s color LaserJet 4600 single function printer

Scanning

Several colleagues tested the printer’s scan-to-email function, which our IT specialist configured during set-up. They were pleased with the scan quality, as well as the speed with which documents were scanned and received. As one colleague noted, “…everything seemed very fast so there was no standing around waiting for it to scan a document or anything.”

As one of the testers, I was particularly pleased with the scanner’s duplex speed resulting from the single-pass technology. A 50-page double-sided document took about a minute and a half to scan, which was about the same amount of time a 100-page single-page document took to scan.

The second job would have taken at least twice as long with the Officejet Pro X devices, while the first job wouldn’t have been possible (due to the feeder’s maximum paper capacity). It was also neat that I could save my file to the printer’s hard disk, a feature that wasn’t available with the previous Officejet Pro X.

A few colleagues, however, noted issues with the scan process. One colleague had a concern with the document feeder, saying that “…the mechanism that takes the document from the loading tray to the scan area is set too fast or something. It crinkled my document, which would have been annoying if it had been an important original.”

Another colleague thought the process of adding her email address was cumbersome, even if it is similar to that of other scan-enabled MFPs. “When you add the address you then have to click on the address and click the arrow to add to the entry box. I hate that extra step, it seems so unnecessary when you already have to click OK afterwards.”

While these may seem like minor concerns in isolation, they do underscore the overall importance of usability in new product design.

Keyboard and touchscreen

As this was the top-of-the-range X585z model it came with a pull-out keyboard for inputting information. Colleagues appreciated this feature, as it can take time to use a touchscreen’s keyboard (especially if many documents are being scanned, named, and routed).

“I really liked the pull out keyboard,” one colleague said. “Using touchscreens for me feels slow because they are typically not very precise and you have to use your index fingers to type. So the addition of a keyboard is a huge plus and would be a selling point for me.”

Nevertheless, some colleagues were also fine using the 8” color touchscreen to input information. They found it more responsive than others they have used. Other benefits of the touchscreen were the ability to clearly see options, adjust settings, and preview documents before scanning or copying.

One of my discoveries was the home screen didn’t initially have a shortcut for scan to email.

Home screen without scan to email shortcut

This was a bit inconvenient, but by accessing the HP Embedded Web Server via my PC browser, I was able to customize the icons showing on the home screen (and manage other printer functions).

Mobile printing

As mentioned earlier, we were not able to test ePrint (or web services) due to porting issues on our end, nor could we try NFC/Wireless Direct due to this being an option we did not receive. We were, however, able to use AirPrint and Android 4.4 KitKat printing.

It must be noted it took a while for us to figure out how to use these features. We were initially unable to detect the printer with our mobile devices because the printer was on a separate wireless network than the devices (as is the case with all our printers).

In order to put the HP Officejet Enterprise X585z on the user wireless network, we needed to move it to another location. Once this was done, AirPrint worked immediately. There were some issues printing from mobile-optimized websites, which appears to more be a website design issue than a limitation of AirPrint.

Better Homes and Garden webpage printed with AirPrint vs. appearance on iPhone

We had some trouble figuring out Android printing, but it turns out we were initially using a 4.2 version of Android that didn’t support native printing. We successful printed with a Samsung Galaxy S5 (4.4.2 KitKat OS), but this was only after several failed attempts due to being on the guest network instead of the user network.

Another colleague printed from his Samsung Note 10.1 2014 edition tablet; while he appreciated the simplicity of printing from apps that had been pre-installed on the device (e.g., browser, Polaris Office, email), he noted that downloaded apps (e.g., an email app for work, Firefox browser) did not support printing.

Interesting, HP’s specs do not note that Android printing is supported in select devices. All of these challenges just serve to explain why many users do not know how to print from their mobile device, or perhaps can’t figure it out. (As a side note, this quarter InfoTrends will be publishing a report on the current state of the mobile printing industry, which will detail many of the issues continuing to hinder mobile print adoption.)

Other observations

Colleagues provided additional, unsolicited feedback on the MFP, including observations related to copying, a USB port, job restrictions, and a page stop to prevent pages from falling.

  • Copying: “I copied my license (which I needed to do anyway!) but the first time I tried I put it right in the corner of the copy glass and it was cut off at the edge of the paper by about 2 or 3 mm because the printer cannot print right to edge of the paper, which I guess is pretty standard,” one colleague said.
  • USB port: “It’s easy, it’s right near where you need it,” another colleague said about a USB port on the front of the device.
  • Job restrictions: “Oh, that’s kind of neat, isn’t it?” another colleague said about the ability to restrict color printouts.
  • Page stop: “The last one (Officejet Pro X) didn’t have a page stop,” a fourth colleague said. “There were times when a print would come out and immediately fall in the trash. It’s like, how could you forget that guys?” The inclusion this time solves that problem.

InfoTrends’ opinion

Overall, my colleagues and I had a broadly positive experience with the Officejet Enterprise X585z MFP. While we are not necessarily HP’s target business size (they are targeting “enterprises”/large businesses and we are more of an SMB) for this series, we would imagine that features such as the high-speed single-pass scanner, large responsive touchscreen, pull-out keyboard, and customizable solutions support would be welcome additions in these types of environments.

The nature of some of the feedback and a few of the minor difficulties highlight the importance and challenge of product planning. As the world becomes more connected, users increasingly have their own preferred processes and workflows–based on their preferred apps. Designing devices that deliver sufficient flexibility for multiple combinations of personal workflows and retain ease of use is a challenge.

On balance, HP appears to be meeting this challenge very well. While there were a few criticisms, and ignoring printing from mobile devices for a moment, these were generally very minor issues. The challenges with printing from mobile devices are an industry challenge and arguably HP is doing more than most. The difficulties we experienced are likely symptomatic of the wider issue of supporting mobile computing rather than specifically criticisms of this device.

On the topic of print quality, the InfoTrends jury is split in much the same way as the wider industry. However, concerns related to image print quality are largely limited to client-facing, color-intensive documents. However, while any doubt exists the opportunity for laser competitors to focus on this topic remains.

The real question is more likely to be whether the multiple cost benefits of HP’s series are enough to convince customers to purchase the product. As a total package on offer the Officejet Enterprise series may well prove sufficiently compelling to convince larger businesses that a price versus print quality trade-off is worth taking.  After all, the decision on what quality level is good enough is subjective; in this case this question only relates to images–there is no issue whatsoever with text-centric documents.

In our view, the industry debate on this topic is only just beginning and is likely to run for some time.

InfoTrends’ Zac Butcher contributed to this post.

Receive a weekly summary of recent blogs and other exclusive content.

InfoTrends Resources

New InfoTrends Studies

More blogs from

2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux