“The HP Envy Inspire is an excellent home office printer for the hybrid work world.”
- Strong photo-printing performance
- New Quiet Mode for near-silent printing
- Companion app packed with features
- Versatile workhorse for home office or home use
- Affordable price
- Boxy shape is uninspiring in the home
- No USB port for printing from flash drives
A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable to think that we would still be as reliant on the printed document as we are today. But the reality of remote work changed that.
HP’s new Envy Inspire series has the distinction of being the first printer that was designed by engineers living under quarantine for everyone who has to live, study, and work from home during the pandemic. Printers have experienced a newfound renaissance in our workflows, and the $249 HP Envy Inspire 7900e is a printer that feels like it was created with that reality in mind.
It comes with some helpful features to keep us productive as the world looks forward to transitioning to a hybrid work environment when things return to normal.
Unlike HP’s Tango series, which was designed to blend in with your home, the new Envy Inspire doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a printer with a scanner attached to it. The Envy Inspire comes in two models: The Envy Inspire 7200e is the more compact iteration with a flatbed scanner on top, while the more premium Envy Inspire 7900e, the model we received for review and the one that’s launching first, comes with an automatic document feeder (ADF) with duplexing capabilities. The range starts at $179, though if you have more robust copying or scanning needs, we’d recommend you spend an extra $70 to upgrade to the $249 Envy Inspire 7900e.
Each printer model is available in a number of colors, including a green-hued Everglades, purple-toned Thistle, cyan Surf Blue, and a neutral Portobello. Regardless of which you choose, the Envy Inspire is made to look like a printer– no doubt about it.
The hues are applied as accents to provide a pop of color to an otherwise boring off-white box, and on our 7900e, we found the Portobello highlights on the ADF and on the paper tray.
Measuring 18.11 x 20.5 x 9.17 inches, the 7900e is a utilitarian home office workhorse, with an ADF on top and a front-loading paper tray. The more compact 7200e could pass for a modern and boxy version of HP’s Envy 6055, while the 7900e series draws from HP’s OfficeJet Pro series for its inspiration.
Like most modern printers, both new Envy Inspire models come with a built-in 2.7-inch color touchscreen to access printer settings and shortcuts.
Because the Envy Inspire is mostly geared toward home users — families and students — and small home office workers, the paper tray is a bit small for the capabilities of this printer. On the front and toward the bottom of the printer, you’ll find a 125-sheet paper tray. This is more than double the 50-sheet input tray on the Tango X, but the paper tray leaves a lot to be desired for small office environments. Most home office printers start at around 200 sheets for the paper input tray, and the HP OfficeJet Pro 9025e comes with a 500 sheet tray. This means that for every time you replace the paper in the input try on the Office Jet Pro, you’ll have to do that four times on the Envy Inspire. Given that the Envy Inspire isn’t a compact printer to start with, we’d have loved to see HP increase the device’s overall height slightly to accommodate a larger input tray.
The new Quiet Mode reduces noise by 40% while it’s printing.
A new innovation, and one that’s appreciated, is that the photo printer tray slots directly into the paper tray as a modular add-on above where you’ll load standard 8.5 x 11-inch sheets. The photo tray can accommodate borderless prints in standard 4 x 6-, square 5 x 5-, or panoramic 4 x 12-inch sizes.
Traditionally on most printers, the photo tray is located on top of the paper tray but on the exterior. Relocating the photo tray to the interior helps to prevent dust buildup, especially if you aren’t printing pictures regularly.
The biggest design change — and one that you can’t visually see — on the new Envy Inspire is a new printing mode. A new Quiet Mode reduces noise by 40% by using smart algorithms to slow down the printing process for a more quiet experience. The mode was developed during quarantine by HP engineers who found themselves disturbed by loud printer noises while on conference calls — a drawback of having to share office space with children who needed to print homework assignments.
HP claims it has combined the best features from its Tango, OfficeJet, and Envy line to create the Envy Inspire.
“We built what we think is the best printer, for families to work, learn, and create — really to get things done, no matter what life has in store,” Jeff Walter, HP director of strategy and product marketing, told Digital Trends. “Whatever you need to create, we can help families do that.”
Walter added that the Envy Inspire is a product that combines HP’s best writing systems from the OfficeJet Pros, the best photo capabilities, and the best app features from its HP Smart app.
The Envy Inspire wasn’t built for speed. Unlike office printers, home users aren’t queuing up around the printer to retrieve their documents. Still, the Envy Inspire is a robust printer capable of delivering speeds up to 15 pages per minute (ppm) in color and black-and-white, with the first page ready in as fast as 18 seconds.
Print resolution is up to 1200 x 1200 dots per inch( dpi) for monochrome pages and 4800 x 1200 dpi for color prints and photos. Print speeds here were just shy of the 24ppm output on the HP OfficeJet Pro 9025e, which is one of the best printers on our list this year. Compared to the slightly older HP OfficeJet Pro 8025’s 10ppm color speed, the Envy Inspire’s speed was no slouch.
To put the speeds into perspective, the Envy Inspire’s boxier build houses internals that allow it to print at speeds much faster than cuter, more design-centric home printers. The HP Tango X, another highly ranked printer, tops out at around 10ppm monochrome and 8ppm for color jobs, roughly half the speed of the Envy Inspire.
Page per minute is only half of the print speed equation, with the second half being how fast the first page can be ready. In my experience, I found that the first page was ready in just over 15 seconds, and HP’s print speed claims were largely accurate, with speeds hovering between 12 ppm and 16 ppm. Printed text appeared crisp and was legible even in small fonts.
Color prints were similarly sharp. Photos printed to Epson’s glossy photo paper appeared sharp, and the quality — sharpness, tones, and dynamic range — rendered by HP’s Envy Inspire rivaled prints created from online photo service Shutterfly. Shutterfly’s prints appeared slightly warmer compared to HP’s photo print rendering. And like Shutterfly, HP’s mobile app gives you access to a variety of different templates to create posters, greeting cards, invitations, and other printable content.
I cannot comment to how HP’s photo capabilities will be on HP photo printing paper, as none was supplied for this review. In general, most printer manufacturers recommend you pair their printer with their branded photo paper for the best results. HP stated that the new ink technology on the Envy Inspire delivers a 40% wider color gamut and new ink technologies to render true-to-life photographs.
HP claimed that when printing to 4 x 6, 5 x 5, or 4 x 12 paper, the printer will be smart enough to choose the photo paper tray — rather than the standard letter-sized paper tray — for printing. I didn’t get to test this feature, as I didn’t have photo paper in these sizes to test.
Though it’s admirable that HP is promoting its cloud-based approach to printing, the setup of the Envy Inspire could have been more simple. Out of the box, you’ll need to download the HP Smart app and follow the prompts to begin printer setup before you can print or make copies. The app will guide you in connecting to the printer’s ad-hoc Wi-Fi network so you can then connect to your home or office Wi-Fi network. After the printer connects, it will take a few minutes for the printer to update its firmware.
This means that unlike a traditional printer, not only is the overall process a bit involved, but you’ll actually have to use HP’s dictated process before you can do anything with your printer.
Unlike dedicated photo printers, the Envy Inspire doesn’t have separate cartridges for color ink. Instead, the printer is powered by two ink cartridges — a black one, and a combination cartridge with three ink colors for cyan, magenta, and yellow.
Both cartridges — and paper — need to be installed for you to begin setting up the printer, so we recommend you do this right after the printer is taken out of the box and all protective tape is removed — and there’s plenty of it!
The ADF on the top of the Envy Inspire 7900e can scan up to 50 pages at a time and handle up to 8.5 x 14-inch paper, while the flatbed can handle 8.5 x 11.7-inch sheets. Scanning resolution is set at 1200 x 1200 dpi, and scan speeds are at about 8 ppm. In addition to using the hardware for scans, you can also use your smartphone’s camera as a scanner with HP’s companion mobile app, which is available on both Android and iOS smartphones.
Duplex scanning, copying, and printing can be done on this printer, which will help you save paper if needed. If you’re worried about conserving ink, you can set the printer to print in draft mode. This mode will produce lighter prints, but you’ll use less ink and gain faster print speeds.
The nice thing about the Envy Inspire is that it comes with more advanced capabilities to simplify your document workflow, making it feel like a more capable office printer. You can set up custom shortcuts to simplify what you need the printer to do. For example, small businesses with more involved bookkeeping needs can program a shortcut to make a physical copy and upload a digital copy of a document to a cloud service like Google Drive or QuickBooks whenever they scan a receipt or invoice. In addition to saving documents to the cloud, you can also configure shortcuts to email you the scans.
Other useful features include the ability to create Printables, which are photo cards and invitations from templates. These are great for crafting or for sending a birthday card, for example, if you forgot to pick one up from the grocery store.
Another app feature is the ability to use the app to send a mobile fax. HP includes a trial of its mobile faxing service, and you can configure it to send a digital fax from the app. The Envy Inspire doesn’t include faxing capabilities natively, and this could be a useful feature for when you need to generate a fax.
I really appreciated HP’s new Quiet Mode, which reduces noise levels by about 40% by slowing down the print speed by approximately 50%.
“As we developed it, it was really interesting, … because we developed [Quiet Mode] during a time we also personally experienced,” Walter said. “So now if you’re working from home, and there’s multiple people in the house using the printer, you can, for example, schedule Quiet Mode from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when you might be on Zoom calls, and have the printer print 40% Quieter during those times.”
Because I don’t need a printer to be a speed champion at home, I generally have Quiet Mode always enabled, rather than scheduled for the working day, as there is a perceivable difference in the level of noise generated by the system.
“What we do is we essentially slow a lot of things down, and we try and optimize around this adjustment for how we could cut the noise roughly in half,” Walter explained. “And so we end up slowing it down by about 50%. There’s things like, you know, how fast is the paper turning? How fast is the cartridge going back and forth? And all those things create different decibel levels. And so some things are slowing down more than others, some are being adjusted more than others, and so we just tweaked everything.”
The Envy Inspire’s double-sided photo printing is a great addition.
The company explained that the print quality isn’t affected by Quiet Mode, which I found to be accurate.
For home users looking to print photos or work on scrapbooking projects while in lockdown, the Envy Inspire’s double-sided photo printing is a great addition. Not only does the Envy print gorgeous photographs, but it can extract the exchangeable image file format data from your smartphone’s camera to print the location from the geotag, the date, and the time on the back of the photo. This makes it easy to remember when the memory was created. You can also add your own personal note — like “Grandma’s 80th birthday” — as a caption.
For the time being, the duplex photo printing capability — with date, location, and timestamp — is limited to the mobile app, but the company is working on bringing it to its desktop software in the future. The reason for launching the feature on mobile first is that most of our photos are already on our smartphones, HP said.
The Envy Inspire is designed to work with PC and Macs, as well as Android and iOS devices. In addition, HP also worked with Google to make the Envy Inspire the first printer certified for Chromebooks.
“We also thought about all the devices that are going to be in the home,” Walter said. “So as more and more kids are doing schoolwork or technology is becoming more and more important for students, what we did is we work with Google, who has a certification program for Chromebooks. And we made sure that HP Envy Inspire is HP’s first printer that’s going to be certified to work with Chromebooks.”
The HP Envy Inspire joins HP’s printing universe as a capable printer for all your home, crafting, and work projects. With the Envy Inspire, HP has not only delivered on its promise to bring together the best inkjet technologies into a single printer, but it also created a tool with features that may prove to be helpful as more people work from home during the pandemic, including a Quiet Mode and strong photo capabilities.
Is there a better alternative?
HP’s Envy Inspire utilizes inkjet printing technology, and the company claims that it combines the best features from the Tango, Envy, and OfficeJet Pro lines. Suitable inkjet alternatives include the HP Tango series. Be sure to view our recommendations for the top inkjet printers.
If you need a faster printer to handle documents, HP’s OfficeJet Pro 9025e is a terrific alternative. At $249, the Envy Inspire 7900e, as reviewed, is $100 cheaper than HP’s dedicated office offering. The hybrid work/home market that the Envy is designed for makes it a more versatile solution, as it’s designed to print documents and photos. Stepping down to the flatbed scanner version of the Envy Inspire — the Envy Inspire 7200e is due early next year — will make the price even more competitive, as this model is expected to cost $179 when it launches.
Budget-conscious shoppers who are worried about the price of ink, refillable tank printers, like Epson’s EcoTank ET3830 will reduce your long-term ownership cost with cheaper, refillable ink tanks.
How long will it last?
HP’s printer is backed by a one-year limited hardware warranty that can be extended to two years. The printer benefits from periodic software updates to help it stay secure and potentially even gain new features over time through the HP Smart printing app.
Printers aren’t designed for annual or biennial upgrades like smartphones, and the HP Envy Inspire should last for many years provided you continue to supply it with fresh ink and paper. The company offers a subscription ink service that makes replenishing ink simple, but it doesn’t offer the same for paper. Having a combination subscription for replenishing ink and photo paper would make this an excellent printer for the craft room, home historians, and budding photographers.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re looking for a home printer that can print, scan, and copy, the HP Envy Inspire is an excellent choice. Unlike Envy printers before it, the Envy Inspire doesn’t reinvent the printer design. Instead, HP plays up the utilitarian aesthetics of this printer to deliver a solid, all-around workhorse that will fit nicely into your home or home office workflow.