A Homeschooler’s Review of the HP Officejet Pro
A quick FYI: all the prices in this post are in Canadian dollars, and none of them include tax. Also? I’m an overtired homeschooling mom and I’m all too capable of making mistakes; please double check all the information for yourself before purchasing your own printer.
So this is a post about my printer, of all things.
We bought the HP Officejet Pro 8710 All-in-One Wireless Duplex Colour Inkjet Printer two and half months ago — right before Christmas — and I like it a lot. I haven’t been compensated for this post, which must seem kind of weird. Because honestly, who writes freely about a printer? Well, given that homeschoolers constantly need to be printing things, I thought that a few of you might appreciate reading a review of the printer that we picked, especially if you’re looking to buy a new one soon.
We weren’t even planning to buy a printer at all. I like my old printer/scanner. It was one of those cheap $60 ones — I think it might have even been free with my computer. Apart from the scanner lid falling off years ago, it was a reliable machine. We were hard on it too — my two-year-old constantly jumps on the top of it, and that drives my husband insane. He’s convinced that the scanner glass will break and Forest will cut his foot. I’m not super worried, but it’s hard to find an argument in favour of a kid using the scanner as a trampoline.
So why did we switch? Back in December, my nine-year-old daughter thought that it would be neat to give out weekly planners featuring her artwork as Christmas gifts. She drew 12 gorgeous bird pictures using the tutorials from Art Hub for Kids. She worked all month long on them, and a few days before Christmas, she handed them over to me to scan. I put the first one on our scanner bed and … nothing.
For some reason, our scanner wasn’t connecting to the computer. The printer was plugged into the router in the basement, so I hauled the whole thing upstairs and plugged it directly into the computer — and nothing. I checked for software updates. Nope. I reinstalled the printer driver and tried again with no luck.
A quick Google search told me that I wasn’t the only one with scanner trouble. I read in a forum that Macs couldn’t see this particular model of scanner after upgrading to the latest operating system. I checked the date of the thread — nearly a year old. The general consensus was that the manufacturer would not be offering a fix. Our scanners were toast.
OK, so I knew that I could head on over to a friend’s house, but I often end up adjusting the settings and rescanning images once or twice after I open the pictures in Photoshop. I really needed a scanner in my own house.
I briefly looked at scanners online, but I didn’t really want to buy one. Where would we keep it? How often do we really use a scanner anyway?
I casually mentioned to my husband that a new 3-in-1 printer/scanner might be more practical. He looked at me skeptically. Because, you know, our printer was fine.
“No, listen,” I said. “We need to buy ink anyway, and that’s going to cost us $60 or $70. So we might as well buy a new printer/scanner because it will come with enough ink for the calendars.” I hoped.
He lowered his eyebrows slightly and I took that as a green light. So what to buy?
As a homeschooler, we print a lot. I know that some of my friends in the homeschooling community have switched to laser printers and they love how much money they save on toner over cartridges. A quick search of laser printers told me that they were right out of our pre-Christmas price range, though.
Then I remembered an old thread on Facebook where someone mentioned an ink jet that’s supposed to be more cost efficient than a laser printer. I found the thread back to reread. Yup, she had gone to the store to buy a laser and the HP Officejet Pro was recommended instead. I checked out the printer online and it was on sale.
And I’m not talking $20 off or anything like that. The regular price was $229.65 and it was on sale for $99.65 — and I had a coupon for another $10 off. $89.65? That’s barely more than I had planned to spend on ink cartridges. Sold!
When we brought the printer home and pulled it out of the box, I was surprised by how big it is. It’s twice as big as our old printer! However, our last printer needed to be plugged into a computer or into the wireless router in order to work. But this beast? It just needs a WiFi connection — that meant that I can plug it in anywhere in the house. Naturally, I plopped it down in the middle of my husband’s man cave.
My husband looked at me questioningly. “I don’t want the kids to jump on it,” I explained.
“They might break the glass of the scanner and cut a foot.” End of conversation.
Using the printer for the first time was delightful. My first pages came out crisp and colourful, and everything from the touch screen panel to the musical notification noises made the machine feel fun. I do worry though that the paper trays are a bit flimsy. I’ll have to see how they hold up.
I had no issues connecting the printer to my computer and we scanned my daughter’s bird pictures quickly. I finished up the calendars and then we printed them off. The demo cartridges that came in the box were more than adequate to print off four copies of the booklet. In fact, I’m still using the Black now, more than two months later. I changed the Magenta a few days ago, and the Cyan and Yellow the week before that.
My absolute favourite part of the printer is that it does double-sided printing. On my last printer, I had to do double-sided printing manually and I can’t count how many times I messed up by putting the pages in backward or leaving one page off, making the page order go 1, 40, 3, 38, 5, 36, and other dumb things like that. Given that I needed to print off planners for Christmas, it was even more important to get the order right. The printer spit the pages out without hesitation. It was a beautiful sight, I’m telling you. My computer has double-sided printing set as the default now and I love how much paper it saves me.
Lovely, no? I wrote out the instructions for printing and binding booklets if you want to attempt some yourself.
HP Instant Ink
In addition to the demo ink cartridges, our printer came with a free three-month subscription to HP Instant Ink. Have you heard of this? It was new to me. The program promises that you will save money by subscribing. I don’t usually buy into programs like this, but hey — three months of free printing sounded like a win.
This is how it works. You pay a monthly fee for ink and HP mails you the cartridges as you need them. You pay based on the amount of pages that you print, not the amount of ink you use. HP doesn’t care if you print full colour or six lines of black and white — it counts pages, and pages only.
The subscription comes with three levels (as of March 3, 2017):
• Occasional printing (50 pages): $3.99/mo
• Moderate printing (100 pages): $5.99/mo
• Frequent printing (300 pages): $10.99/mo
These fees include shipping, plus return shipping so the empty cartridges can be recycled.
We picked the highest level for our trial because again – free – and I figured that I would switch to a lower level when my trial finished. Um, nope. I definitely print over 100 pages off a month.
At first, I really bristled against the idea that I could “only” print a certain amount with my printer. It’s mine! I should be able to print as much as I want. I have to keep reminding myself that I pay either way — for a monthly subscription or for ink at the store.
After two months, though, I’ve come to appreciate having a set limit. It stops me from printing frivolously. When I can’t find my knitting pattern or a math worksheet, I take a minute to look around before mindlessly printing it off again. I like that I’m forced to be more conservative.
What Happens When You Go Over?
I went over the page allowance in the first 30 days, which isn’t surprising since the calendars themselves were 200 pages combined. Then, a few weeks later, I went to print off 10 pages of a science curriculum and accidentally told the computer to print off the whole book. Womp womp. Thank goodness the paper tray wasn’t filled all the way up. Because I have the Frequent Printing plan, my overage fee is $1.25 for 25 pages. What is that, $.05 a page? It’s not terrible.
What Happens if You Don’t Use All Your Page Allowance?
The next 30 days were better. I didn’t use all of the pages I was allotted, so they carried over to the third month. The amount you can roll over is based on your plan — because I pay for 300 pages a month, I can rollover up to 300 unused pages.
Does Instant Ink Actually Save Money?
I think so? Feel free to double-check my math. (No, seriously: let me know if I made a mistake.)
- A high-yield* colour cartridge cost $48.20 and lasts 1600 pages (according to the Staples.ca website).
- A high-yield black cartridge cost $63.89 and lasts 2000 pages.
*I’m using the high-yield cartridges here because they seem like a better deal than the regular-sized cartridges.
At 300 pages per month, it will take me five months to reach 1500 pages, and we’re going to just go ahead and say that’s close enough to 1600. At $10.99/month, five months will cost me about $55 — $55 to use ALL THREE colours AND black too. The three high-yield colour ink cartridges up front would cost me $144.60; black would add another $63.89.
Or pretend I never use colour. A high-yield black cartridge offers 2000 pages; with my 300 pages per month, it would take me seven months to reach a similar 2100 pages, or about $77. That’s only slightly more than the black cartridge, which costs $63.89 — but my price includes the colour cartridges too. And it is FUN to print in colour after years of cost-saving grayscale.
But, you might say, I don’t buy name brand ink so my costs won’t be as high. That’s might be true; you’ll need to do your own math. Personally, I refuse to buy no name refills or store-brand ink because I completely wrecked a printer with a defective cartridge once — and using the off-brand cartridge voided my warranty. Yeah, it sucked.
I’ve read a lot of reviews of this printer and they’re pretty divided. For every glowing 5-star review, there’s an unhappy 1-star review too. It seems to me that there are two common complaints; first, some people have trouble setting the printer up. I had no problems at all, but I know that’s not always the case.
The second common complaint that I’ve seen is that you can’t print if even one of the cartridges is empty. Ohhhhhhh, that would make me mad too. I’d hate to have to buy a yellow, for example, when I only need to print with black ink. I’m a bit confused, though, because when I ran out of magenta last week, I’m positive that the printer screen told me to either replace the empty cartridge or resend the document in black and white instead. Either way, this potential issue won’t be a problem for us because we use the ink subscription plan and I always have new cartridges ready to go.
I’m pretty happy with our Christmas impulse-buy. I know that running to the store to buy ink isn’t a big deal but I like that it’s one thing on my to-do list that’s been permanently checked off. If only HP would send paper in the mail too, I’d be all set.