I don’t really review a lot of printers. Indeed, where I’ve cycled through dozens and dozens of phones, tablets, and PCs over the years, printers, especially the good ones, seem to just last. And that’s certainly been the case with the printers I’ve owned, most of which were made by HP, including my first-ever laser printer, which I purchased at the start of my writing career.
In the years since, my kids have come, and grown, and are now both in college, so I certainly appreciate the varied needs that arise at every level of schooling. And I’ve watched as printers have expanded to include faxing, scanning, and networking capabilities and, most recently, mobile and web connectivity as well. But as someone who just doesn’t think about printers all that much—again, because they tend to just last—there are two things are strike me immediately when confronted by this type of product again.
First and most obviously, there’s no excuse for not having a good printer: The new HP printer that I’ll be discussing here is unbelievably affordable compared to most digital devices and is especially so when you realize how capable and powerful it is. And second, printers have really changed, in a good way, and well beyond my understanding of how these types of products have evolved over time.
With all that in mind, HP this week is launching a new generation of its Envy Pro printer lineup, which sits in the middle of the HP printer families that target individuals, homes, home-based businesses, and small businesses. On the lower end of this scale, you’ll find the familiar DeskJet products, and on the high-end, you’ll find the workhorse OfficeJet series, which happens to be what my family normally uses.
The Envy Pro lineup, predictably, splits the difference between the DeskJet and OfficeJet products, both functionally and from a pricing perspective. And the new printers in this lineup—the Envy 600 and the Envy Pro 6400—would be a fine fit for any home where there are kids with school projects or adults who are now working from home.
Helping matters, the Envy Pro is an attractive, modern device and not the type of thing you’d feel compelled to hide away in a home office. Indeed, when you consider that everyone in a family may need to access the printer—and do so from mobile devices in addition to PCs and Macs—putting it in some easily accessible area of the house just makes sense.
And if it’s been a while since you’ve purchased or even thought about a printer, you’ll be as happily surprised as I was that, in this case at least, how minimal and non-busy the design is. There are no obvious buttons anywhere, let alone a tiny screen with a terrible interface. When it’s not doing anything, it just sits there, unnoticed. But when it’s time to go to work, the HP uses a pleasant combination of pulsating lights and audio cues to help guide you through whatever task you have at hand.
Speaking of at hand, you may be surprised to discover that the Envy is set up and managed using a mobile app, which is available for Android, iOS, and, yes, Windows 10. We’d already been using this app because of our HP OfficeJet, but adding the Envy Pro to the mix was straightforward enough that any user should be able to handle it. That said, printing is still, well, printing. And the app did require a number of steps to configure it for the home Wi-Fi, and explain how to load the paper in the bottom tray feeder, print an alignment test, scan that alignment test, and then consider HP’s Instant Ink subscription, which, like the printer itself is very reasonably priced. In fact, I was so intrigued by this that I asked my wife about it, and she informed me we were already subscribed. Nice.
If you’re not familiar with Instant Ink, it’s worth a short side-discussion. Basically, HP will proactively send you ink right before it runs out, so that you never have that moment where you need to print something important and you can’t find the exact right ink cartridge locally. It starts at $2.99 per month, which covers enough ink for printing 50 pages per month, and goes up from there.
Anyway, once the HP is up and running, you … well, just use it. This can be as simple as printing normally from whatever you’re app your using, and in that case, the Envy works pretty much like any other printer. And I like that it prints documents last page first so that they stack in order when fully printed.
But you can also do things like scanning documents and pictures directly from the printer itself using the buttons that light up when you place something on the flatbed scanner. Send faxes without a landline. And more.
If you do have to do something more complicated than just print a document or photo, you’re best off using the HP Smart app. From here, you can access your Instant Ink service or just check on the ink levels, scan documents and photos with various configuration settings, print documents and photos, again with various configuration settings for each, and access advanced printer settings.
Beyond these obvious features, HP Smart also includes a link to HP’s Print, Play & Learn service, a growing online resource which HP says has over 450 free printable learning resources and original STEM material from over 15 leading content creators. And there’s a Smart Tasks feature that helps you create one-touch shortcuts for common tasks. Put simply, it’s worth exploring the app.
A few tech notes.
The Envy 6400 Pro has a document feeder on the top and a paper input tray beneath the output tray. The feeder supports up to 35 sheets of paper, and those sheets will be exposed to the outside; the bottom tray supports up to 100 sheets of paper and is internal to the printer and accessible via a slide-out drawer.
The 6400 Pro supports double-sided printing at up to 8.5 x 11 inches and can print at up to 10 pages per minute (ppm) with black text and 7 ppm with color. It has dual-band, self-healing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity and supports wirelessly printing, copying, scanning, and sending mobile faxes.
I’ve only had the Envy 6400 Pro for a few weeks, but I’ll keep using it and hopefully expand my experience with some of its more advanced features over time. So far it looks like a winner, and it’s hard to argue with the value here: The Envy Pro 6400 Pro I’m testing costs $149, while the HP Envy 6000, which loses the top feeder, is just $129.