The HP Officejet J4680  promises all of the utility one would expect from a high-end multifunction printer at an entry-level price.
The J4680 offers several features that go above and beyond those of many similarly priced models, not the least of which is 802.11g Wi-Fi support. Using wireless, not only does the unit effectively act as its own print server, capable of receiving print jobs from remote computers without requiring that it be connected to a PC, but it also can send scanned documents and faxes directly to folders on networked computers through the control panel of the device itself.
To do this, the user simply loads a page into the unit, accesses the scan function through the control panel, scrolls through a list of available computers on the network, then presses Send. The scanner is capable of saving each scan in text, JPEG or PDF format, and can even invoke a new mail message on the client machine and automatically attach the scans.
The unit's scan quality is impressive, supporting resolutions of up to 1200x2400 dots per inch, making it appropriate for most practical applications. While scanning, even higher-resolution jobs are completed in reasonable time and without noticeably taxing the client computer. I was able to perform other tasks (use the Internet and check my e-mail) while scans were completing, a refreshing departure from some other models that simply freeze an hourglass cursor on the screen until their scans complete. Faxing was also straightforward and provided no surprises. This unit also offers a generous 99-number memory for speed-dialing, which should satisfy even the most aggressive user requirements.
The J4680 prints at an impressive 28 pages per minute in black and white and 22 pages per minute in color. Printing was whisper-quiet, started relatively quickly (after about 15 seconds to initialize), and produced crisp, laser-quality results that did not smear or smudge, even when immediately removed from the output tray. I found this to be a pleasant surprise, given that many modern printers still use inks that take several seconds to completely dry.
The J4680 offers everything you would expect in a high-end multifunction consumer device at a price less than that of a midrange inkjet printer. That should get the attention of even the most cost-conscious IT decision maker. Better yet, the device is easy to afford, and it’s also very easy to use. The Officejet's menu structure is intuitive, and its simple button layout is reminiscent of most other HP Officejet products. Users already familiar with earlier models should have no problems adapting to the navigation controls, while users unfamiliar should be quick studies.
Network discovery and wireless configuration is simple and straightforward. To add this unit to my wireless network, all I had to do was access the wireless setup menu via the Tool button, scan for available networks, select the network I wanted to join and enter my WPA key. This took about a minute to complete.
Given the ease of use the J4680 offers, IT departments should find deployment relatively painless, yielding few, if any help-desk support calls. If a user should encounter questions that aren't readily addressed in the HP Solution Center software, there are two setup guides and a quick-start leaflet included that illustrate step-by-step instructions for fax and wireless configuration.
Although the Officejet has many strengths, my experience with this device was not glitch-free. For example, one Windows XP machine the HP software was installed on began randomly popping up recurrent error messages about an incompatible ink cartridge being installed. This happened after I had already installed the printer and successfully printed a few pages from different applications. Everything seemed fine after rebooting, but this still left me a bit uneasy.
My confidence was further shaken after I launched Internet Explorer on the same machine and received an error message about a newly installed “hp web site” add-on being incompatible with Internet Explorer 8. Why I need an Internet Explorer add-on installed as part of a multifunction printer suite eludes me. Given that these issues proved to be little more than isolated annoyances, I am not deterred from recommending the Officejet J4680 to anyone looking for a good printer at a great price.