Please note: pricing in this article is in US dollars.
In a world filled with cheap but underpowered inkjet multifunction printers (MFPs), using the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus is a pleasant departure. One of the most competent MFPs for the price (US$300 as of 12/05/2011), it lacks nothing in its features, is solidly constructed, fully supports legal-size paper, is faster than everything else in its price range, and even offers dirt-cheap ink. There's not much more you could ask for.
When it comes to paper handing, the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus can do everything. It automatically duplexes printouts, and copies two-sided-to-two-sided as well. Legal-size paper is fully supported throughout the printer (as it is with all OfficeJet Pro models), including the scanner and the 50-sheet ADF. The 250-sheet paper tray is adequate for most small businesses and workgroups, as is the approximately 50-sheet output tray. If you need more tray capacity, you can step up to the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Premium e-All-in-One Printer, which has an additional 250-sheet input tray -- for another $100.
Setting up the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus is a breeze with any of the three supported interfaces: USB, ethernet, and Wi-Fi. The 4.3-inch LCD is great: It’s easy to enter passwords for wireless setups; the menus and settings are well-organized; and you get access to HP's numerous Web apps. For printing from smartphones and tablets, you get HP’s print-by-mail ePrint service, as well as direct printing from iOS and Android devices via HP applets. The contextually lit navigational controls (they remain dark until needed) that flank the LCD are less thrilling, as they require an unintuitive, annoyingly long touch before responding.
The OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus is one of the fastest inkjet MFPs we've tested, with speeds that range from 13.2 pages per minute (ppm) for text and mixed text with monochrome graphics, to 4.6 ppm for half-page photos on plain paper, and 2 ppm for half-page photos on glossy paper. For our most challenging print test, a high-resolution, full-page photo printed on glossy paper, the OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus managed a just-above-average rate of 0.56 ppm. Scans are quite quick as well.
The Officejet Pro 8600 Plus's print quality for office basics is quite good: Text is crisp and dark, and simple graphics look quite good. On the other hand, photos look a bit yellowish and washed out on plain paper, though they are much better on HP's own photo paper. Copies, both monochrome and color, are good, although color scans lean toward the dark side.
Ink costs for the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus are outstandingly low: The standard 1000-page black cartridge costs $27, or 2.7 cents per page (cpp), while the three standard color cartridges last for 700 pages at $20 each, or 2.9 cpp per color. That makes a four-color page approximately 11.4 cpp. The news gets better: The 2300-page, $37 XL black cartridge works out to only 1.6 cpp, and the 1500-page, $28 XL color cartridges come out to 1.9 cpp -- making for a four-color page that costs a mere 7.3 cpp. If you do a lot of printing, this machine’s inks will save you money in the long run.
The Officejet Pro 8600 Plus is merely one of best inkjet MFPs on the market. You might argue about the default plain paper photo output, but it's very fast, produces good printing overall, and is very cheap to operate. If you don’t need this model’s comprehensive legal-size support, the Epson WorkForce 840 costs the same and has more paper capacity. On the other hand, it’s also a little slower, and its inks are not quite as inexpensive.