HP Officejet K7100 review

Price when reviewed

HP’s latest business inkjet printer is aimed squarely at workgroups that require A4 colour printing and have only the occasional need for anything bigger.

HP Officejet K7100 review

The problem with A3 colour lasers is they command a big price hike over A4 models and many small businesses can’t justify the extra expense. At a mere £160, the Officejet K7100 looks to be a good solution to this printing predicament.

On paper, the printer looks fast but a closer examination of the specifications shows that it can achieve the top A4 speeds of 25ppm for mono and 20ppm for colour only in draft mode.

The printer driver offers a wide range of quality settings but we couldn’t get it to reach these speeds even with the Fast Draft mode selected: it completed a basic 20-page Word document in 70 seconds for an average of 17ppm.

Moving up to the Normal mode, it produced the same test print at an average of only 8.5ppm, while in Best mode this fell to a sleep-inducing 1.2ppm.

If you plan to do any colour printing, bring a good book with you: a ten-page DTP-style A4 document emerged at an average speed of only 3ppm in Normal mode.

Colour photographs take a while as well, with our single A4 test page taking four minutes to complete at the maximum setting, which prints at an interpolated 4,800 x 1,200dpi.

You’ll certainly need patience for A3 printing, as our ten-page presentation returned speeds of 1.4ppm in Normal mode, and a full-size photograph took nearly ten minutes at the highest quality.

The K7100 may not be a speed demon but you’ll find the wait worthwhile as output quality – particularly for colour photographs – is very good.

Text doesn’t fare quite so well, and close examination of prints produced at the Normal mode showed some smudging, although this disappeared at the highest quality setting.

Colour balance in photographs is extremely good and the levels of detail give them real depth. Graphs, photos and charts show none of the banding you often see from lasers and the K7100 was far more proficient at picking out detail in darker areas of our test photos.

When installing the K7100, don’t connect it to a Windows Server system as the bundled software doesn’t support it. We found that you can get away with loading the printer’s drivers on to Windows Server 2003 but to test the rest we had to install the printer on a Windows Vista system.

As well as the printer drivers, the routine loads a modest bundle of applications including HP’s web printing tools and its PhotoSmart Essential for manipulating photographs.

The extra Toolbox provides utilities that estimate remaining ink levels and launch pop-up warnings if errors are detected. Enabling the PrintMileage feature allows you to keep an eye on general usage, although this sends printing information to HP’s website for you to view. At 2.7 pence per page for mono prints the K7100 should be used sparingly, although colour costs of 7.9 pence per page are more reasonable.

Low speeds and above-average running costs make the K7100 a poor choice for high-volume printing in the office. However, if you have a modest demand for large-format colour prints and presentations, you’ll find that this inkjet delivers excellent output quality for the price.

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