We admit: It’s hard to find the sex appeal in a productivity printer, but when it comes with the claim of “the world’s fastest desktop printer,” it deserves some attention. That’s the slogan behind HP’s Officejet Pro X576dw multifunction color printer (scan, print, copy, and fax), which earned an entry in the Guinness World Records (we didn’t realize there was a printer category). Even more of a bold statement is that it’s using inkjet-based technology to achieve print speeds faster than laser. Say what?
There’s no denying it, the X576dw is a speed demon.
But last year, HP resurrected the technology and put it into consumer/small-office desktop printers within its popular Officejet Pro series by introducing the Officejet Pro X printers and MFPs. These use the staggered stationary array of print heads, now called “PageWide.” HP claims this technology produces the fastest desktop printing available – up to 70 pages per minute (ppm). Inkjet has a reputation of being slow, so has HP achieved something spectacular, or is it hype?
Features and design
In the Officejet line, the Pro X models are the top-of-the-line models, and are priced to reflect that. Its primary buyer is the business customer, but it could be ideal for those running a small business out of a house or printing loads of documents (household of school kids, anybody?) It has an industrial design that looks great, although it may look too “business-y” for the home. The X576dw prints in color, but it isn’t categorized as a photo printer (we’ll explain more later).
Compared to most desktop inkjet MFPs, the X576dw is a giant. It measures 20.3 x 15.7 x 20.3 inches and weighs a hefty 53 pounds. Unless you’ve got strong arms, legs, and back, you aren’t going to lift it out of the box by yourself. The X576dw will probably require its own table since it’s so big; we can’t consider that a minus because it’s designed and marketed as a workgroup printer. Reflecting that use, the MFP has extensive connectivity options including Ethernet, Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, is supported), and USB.
The automatic document feeder (ADF) at the top has a capacity of 50 sheets and can perform automatic two-sided scanning. The scanner uses a reversing duplexer – both sides of a copy aren’t scanned in one pass, rather the page goes through, is pulled back into the scanner, and the second side is scanned. This slows down the scanning process somewhat with long, multi-page documents, but not to an objectionable degree.
The X576dw comes with a 500-sheet paper drawer standard, and an optional second 500-sheet drawer is available as an option for very long print runs or different-sized paper. Output tray capacity, which is a swoopy-looking plastic bridge on the right side of the machine, is 300 pages; an automatic small door pops open when printing to eject the page from the printer. There’s also a 50-sheet multipurpose tray located behind a drop-down door on the left-side panel – this is used for specialty and heavier papers.
There are few visible controls. A tilting 4.5-inch color touch panel contains easy-to-understand icons for all of the MFP’s functions, and menus are simple to navigate. The power button is unobtrusive and located at the bottom left corner of the front panel, and a USB port, which lets you use a flash drive to print from or scan to, is tucked away out of sight behind the control panel.
What’s in the box
Along with the printer are four ink cartridges, a power cord, a phone cord for the fax function, a short setup guide, and a small package of ColorLok paper, which is the type of paper HP recommends for use in the X576dw. ColorLok is a technology that prevents the ink from wicking too far down into the paper. The less wicking occurs, the faster the ink will dry and the less the ink will spread on the paper. This results in shaper output. A CD contains drivers for Windows and Mac, as well as scan and fax utilities and the I.R.I.S. OCR application.
Setup and performance
Getting the printer set up is straightforward. The basic guide is sufficient, and the HP Print Assistant (installed from the CD) provides answers to questions such as what papers can be used and how to clear paper jams.
You start by installing the four ink cartridges. These ink cartridges are available in standard and XL capacities, though the ones included in the box are starter cartridges which are not completely filled. The cartridges themselves are about the size and shape of a medium-size harmonica. The standard cartridges have an estimated page yield of 3,000 pages for the black cartridge and 2,500 pages for each of the color cartridges. The XL cartridges bump this up to about 9,200 pages for black and about 6,600 pages for each color. The cartridges are reasonably priced given their capacity. The standard cartridges run about $80 for color and $120 for black. The XL cartridges cost about $120 each (color and black). That’s not out of line for what you would pay for many laser toner cartridges with much smaller page yields, so the HP cartridges off a very affordable cost-per-page. HP puts the monthly duty cycle at up to 75,000 pages per month, but recommends a more realistic 1,000 to 4,200 pages per month.
As with most new printers these days, you are asked how you would like to connect the unit to your computer or a network. You have Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and USB options, and if you choose Wi-Fi, you can set up the printer manually or with a one-touch push of a button if your router supports WPA.
We chose to install the X576dw on our Ethernet network, and the process took only a few minutes. At the start of the install, you are offered the opportunity to perform the install using on online installation process rather than from the CD. Choosing this option lets you set up accounts for ePrinting and remote printer/scanner access as well as enabling the MFP to run applications over the Internet. We did not choose this option initially, but you can always set these applications up later. The printer also supports Google Cloud Print, Apple AirPrint, as well as HP’s own ePrint.
Let’s get down to the most important thing about this printer. Obviously, one, if not the major, selling point is the claim that the use of the PageWide technology makes it the fastest desktop printer in the industry. We don’t use the entire ISO productivity test that HP uses for the rating, which produces lower page-per-minute results than the Word-based protocol that we use for testing. Perhaps that’s why we experienced even faster print rates than the “up to 70 ppm” that HP claims the printer will do at the “General Office” driver setting (there are also settings for Professional and Presentation quality in the print driver). The General Office provides 300 x 300-dpi resolution, and the Professional and Presentation both provide 600-dpi resolution.
If you need a multifunction printer that can print as fast-as-hell, the X576dw will do the job.
There’s no denying it, the X576dw is a speed demon. In our Word test, it turned in a speed of 74 ppm. This reviewer has tested large office laser MFPs in the $25,000 range that weren’t this fast.
As with all inkjets, the speed slows down as the page coverage increases. Our image quality tests pretty much cover the page with ink, rather than the approximately 5-percent coverage of the Word document test of mixed text and graphics. The X576dw was still fast when it came to printing full color, but we weren’t very happy with the output on standard 20-pound HP Office Paper, which does incorporate HP’s Colorlok technology. Saturation was poor, and the paper came out of the printer soggy with ink and warped.
To be fair, this isn’t really how the printer is intended to be used. It’s not a photo quality printer, and HP makes no claims that it is. Having said that, the output quality on HP Glossy Photo paper was much better, with no noticeable warping or sogginess. Saturation on the photo paper was decent, though not particularly crisp, but color accuracy was good. Yes, unlike laser, one of the benefits of this inkjet technology is that you can use photo paper.
In normal office or home use, the X576dw will produce decent-looking output (at average page coverage rates) using standard quality paper. If you want better looking output quality, you’ll have to spring for premium paper. For most business or school reports, we’d opt for the HP Presentation that we also sampled.
The X576dw is considerably more expensive than HP’s other Officejet MFPs, and it’s also more expensive than some of HP’s Laserjet laser printers. But HP is justified in its claims that the X576dw is the fastest desktop printer in the industry.
The MFP did not provide photographic quality output in our tests, but then again it is not promoted as a photo printer. But if the need for photo printing arises, you can get acceptable results on photo paper. For an MFP that can print and copy as fast-as-hell, and also scan and fax, the X576dw will do the job.
- Extremely fast
- Good connectivity options
- Expensive and heavy for an inkjet
- Soggy ink on light paper
- Output was not photo quality with papers