HP Deskjet 6840
At a Glance
HP Deskjet 6840 Printer
Wi-Fi makes it easy to share this printer. You get good-looking photos, but plain paper documents disappoint.
If you've already installed a Wi-Fi network in your home, your family can now share an HP Deskjet 6840 printer wirelessly. This stylish $200 inkjet features an 802.11g wireless connection. You can print directly from a digital camera through the PictBridge port on the front of the printer, too.
We had no trouble connecting the printer to our test network, though the procedure does involve a few steps. We used the included ethernet cable to hook the Deskjet 6840 to our wireless router temporarily. The printer discovered the settings it needed by itself, so it appeared on the wireless network automatically when we disconnected the cable. If your wireless router supports the new wireless network key technology included in Windows XP SP2, you can use a USB flash drive to transfer the required settings from the router to the printer through its PictBridge port.
Once you're up and running, bars on the front panel light up to indicate the signal strength. An embedded Web server lets you tweak the printer's configuration from any Web browser. The 6840 supports both WPA and WEP security standards.
A cassette that can hold 150 sheets slots into the front of the printer, under the output tray. Our test model came with an automatic duplexer attachment, which is sold separately for $80. Printing double-sided documents lets you conserve paper and condense long documents. A $100 version of the duplexer includes a small paper input tray suitable for 4-by-6-inch prints, and for another $80 you can buy an additional 250-sheet paper tray. If you're printing Web pages from the living room while the kids are printing photos from their bedrooms, you won't want to have to change paper types manually all the time.
Black and tricolor cartridges for plain-paper printing come with the printer, and you can buy a $25 photo color cartridge for better printing of light areas in photos. An optional gray cartridge ($25 as well) is good for preserving detail in shadows and in black-and-white photos. Unfortunately, the two ink-cartridge slots mean that you can't use the photo color and gray cartridges simultaneously--and that you may forever be juggling inks.
The Deskjet 6840 struggled to produce high-quality text. Many of the smaller italicized characters in our test pages came out only partially formed, and the edges of larger letters looked fuzzier than on output from other printers we tested at the same time. The 6840 did well in our line art test, however. Very close narrow lines tended to bleed together, but they were very straight and had less banding than we typically see. Color graphics printed on plain paper seemed washed out, with virtually no detail in the darker areas. But on photo paper the 6840 produced sharp images with natural-looking colors and plenty of contrast. Our grayscale image took on a green cast when viewed alongside those from other printers, but this effect is less noticeable when viewed in isolation. The image was a little dark, but had nice detail and smooth tonal changes.
In our speed tests the 6840 printed text at a moderate 5.2 pages per minute. Its graphics speed of 2.1 ppm was well above average. We didn't notice any significant performance changes whether we printed using the 6840's Wi-Fi connection (from a laptop positioned nearby) or its USB 2.0 port.
The Deskjet 6840's photo software is a step up from the tools provided with HP's cheaper printers, adding tools for organizing, editing, and sharing a photo collection. The printing options are useful, but the editing tools are rudimentary, so you'll still want a dedicated image-editing package. For documentation you get color setup posters (for Windows and Mac), a reference guide, and the all-important network guide, which provided clear, step-by-step instructions for setting up the 6840's Wi-Fi connection. The user's guide, on CD-ROM, is not as well-organized as we've come to expect from HP.
If you're already committed to Wi-Fi, the HP Deskjet 6840 makes it easy to add a printer that multiple users can share. You get good-looking photos, but plain paper documents disappoint.
HP Deskjet 6840
Rated 30 ppm text/20 ppm graphics (draft), 1200-by-4800-dpi maximum color resolution, 1200-by-1200-dpi maximum black-and-white resolution, 150 pages input, 50 output.