It may have taken a little while, but it looks like HP’s subscription Instant Ink program—which proactively sends you ink by mail when your printer is running low—has managed to gain some traction in the marketplace. The proof? Here in 2015, the company has released six new Instant Ink-capable printer models.
Ranging in list price from $79 to $299, the new lineup includes two Envy personal/family all-in-ones (AIOs) and four home- and small-office OfficeJet AIO models. Eventually, over the course of the next month or two, we’ll take a detailed look at most or all of them.
Today, as a first leap into this new group, we’re reviewing one of the smallest and least expensive of the bunch, the $99-list Envy 5540 All-in-One Printer. Granted, Instant Ink, which we’ll look at in more detail in our Setup & Paper Handling section a little later on, is the impetus for these new machines. In itself, except under certain circumstances, Instant Ink is not a good primaryreason to choose a given printer model over another. When it comes to controlling the day-to-day cost of running a printer, though, one of our primary concerns among entry-level and midrange inkjet AIOs has consistently been the cost per page (CPP). And in that regard, the Instant Ink program stands on solid ground for certain kinds of output.
In short, Instant Ink lets you print a certain number of pages per month for a flat rate, and HP sends you the ink to make that possible as you consume it. The program is a cost leveler across printer models, in that no matter which Instant Ink-compatible HP printer you’re looking at, the per-page cost of ink will be the same if you subscribe to the program. As a result, you can concentrate on choosing a printer with the right print-volume rating and feature set.
As for this specific Envy, just as its $99 list price suggests, it’s not only small in terms of its physical size, but also in terms of volume and overall print speed. While this Envy (like most others in the HP Envy line) really isn’t very fast, the good news is that our test prints, scan samples, and practice photocopies looked good. Doing the latter kinds of tasks, though, is strictly a page-or-two-at-a-time affair. That’s because neither Envy model in this wave of HP Instant Ink printers (which also includes the HP Envy 4520) has an automatic document feeder (ADF) mechanism for scanning or copying multipage documents.
If you want an Envy with an ADF, you’ll have to spring for the Envy 7640. (We haven’t yet reviewed that model, but we will. It has a list price of $199.99, and was selling for $149.99 at hp.com as of this writing, in mid-October 2015.) A good alternative to that model might also be one of HP’s business-centric Instant Ink-ready OfficeJet models, all of which have ADFs.
One thing is certain: When you combine these new Envy and OfficeJet models with HP’s existing lineup of similar printers, the company now offers an extensive line of modern, small-print-volume AIOs with a twist—they have, due to Instant Ink, respectable CPP figures. And that’s unusual among low-cost inkjets. Usually they are the priciest printers on a per-print basis.
As for the Envy 5540, feature- and volume-wise, it falls between the HP Envy 5660 we reviewed a few months ago and the Envy 5530 we looked at a couple years ago, both of them decent low-end printers. As is, the Envy 5540 is a good little printer like its forebears, as long as you don’t try to use it beyond its recommended monthly page volume of 300 to 400 pages. Anything past that, and you’ll start to feel the pinch of this machine’s volume limitations, not to mention that of its low-capacity paper trays and single-sheet manual scanner. For heavier use than what HP recommends, a higher-volume printer will be a better pick.
Otherwise, within its limitations, the HP Envy 5540 is a quality printer for a home or home office.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.