At a Glance
- Impressive output quality
- Very easy to use
- Instant Ink program offers some savings over regular inks
- Automatic duplexing
- Very slow performance
- Regular inks are very pricey
Low-cost home printers tend to be unexciting, but this one stands out for having better-than-usual print quality and a new, cloud-controlled Instant Ink program that is cheaper per page than its regular cartridges are.
The $130 HP Envy 5530 e-All-in-One color inkjet multifunction (copy/print/scan), will cover a low volume of home use nicely. It’s exceptionally easy to use, surprisingly capable, and produces impressive output. On the downside are its lack of speed and pricey inks, but HP’s new Instant Ink program might help that somewhat.
Svelte design with some surprising features
The HP Envy 5530 is rather compact for a multifunction printer. The scanner lid is so thin that at first glance, you might not recognize it as such. However, there’s an A4/letter-sized scanner on-board, and it produces good-looking copies and scans. You can even push-scan to a PC across the network—not a feature you see in every printer at this price point.
The Envy 5530 offers automatic duplexing, which isn’t a guarantee in this price range. Everything else about the paper handling is pretty modest: just 100 sheets (input) and 30 sheets (output)—if having printed pages fall right on top of blank pages counts as an output area. If you print any more than 200 pages per month, you should be looking at a more robust machine.
Setting up the HP Envy 5530 is easy whether you use USB or Wi-Fi, and thanks to a 2.65-inch touchscreen and exceptionally well thought out menus, so is operation. The display and all the controls are on the top left of the unit, and intuitively arranged. The only other feature worth mentioning is the SD card slot for direct printing and off-loading scans.
HP doesn’t bundle a lot of software with the Envy 5530, but what’s there is easy and capable. The driver and scanning utilities are nicely rendered and offer all the features most users need. There’s also the now usual suite of remote printing options, including HP ePrint via email and Apple AirPrint.
While the assumption is that this printer isn’t going to be used much, it still bears mentioning that the Envy 5530 is pretty slow. It managed an anemic 5.9 pages per minute (ppm) printing plain text and a few simple, monochrome graphics on both the PC and Mac platforms. Snapshot-sized, 4-by-6-inch photos printed at about 2.5 ppm to plain paper, but to glossy paper that slowed to 0.8 ppm. Full-sized photos printed at about 0.4 ppm on glossy paper, while copies exited at about 3 ppm. Scan times are bearable, albeit two to three times longer than what you’ll see from top-shelf units.
Along with minimal paper capacity and slow performance, the Envy 5530 suffers (as most low-cost printers do) from expensive ink. At least if you buy on your own: The standard 61 series black and tri-color cartridges cost $15 and $21 respectively, yet last for only 199 and 165 pages. That’s 7.5 cents per page for the black and 12.75 cent per page for the colors, or a daunting 20.15 cents per four-color page. You can reduce those costs considerably with the $30 black and $32 tri-color 61XL cartridges, to about 16 cents per four-color page, but black still comprises a high 6.25 cents of that amount.
Instant Ink Program could save you money
As to that “buy on your own” comment, the Envy 5530 is eligible for HP’s new Instant Ink service. With Instant Ink, HP sells you massively capacious ink cartridges, then doles the ink out on a monthly basis. You can print 50 pages of anything—a bit of text, or a heavy-coverage photo for a flat fee of $3 a month (6 cents per page), while 100 pages costs $5 a month (5 cents per page), and 300 pages are $10 (3.3 cents per page). That’s a whole lot cheaper than manual user replacement, but only if you print fairly close to the number of pages in the plan. If you barely print 100 pages a year, then just buying the cartridges on your own might be a better deal. Also, the whole Instant Ink deal depends on your printer having an Internet connection, and your being comfortable with HP’s managing your printer in the background.
Along with ease of use, the Envy 5530’s other major strength is its output quality. Text is clear and sharp, even in draft mode, and color graphics are also surprisingly accurate. You might want to tweak the photo settings a bit for a warmer color temperature on glossy photos, but other than that it’s all good.
The HP Envy 5530 is in many ways a typical home printer: It’s somewhat slow, with adequate features, and its low purchase price is balanced out by higher-priced inks. However, its Instant Ink program is intriguing for its savings potential, and its output quality and ease of use are distinctly better than usual for this price class. It’s well worth considering for a home user.