Product Review: Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet 6310

For consumers perusing the multi-function printer aisle of their local electronics retailer, they often find themselves assaulted by a dizzying array of printers. There are the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Photosmarts and OfficeJets, Lexmark Printer/Scanner/Copiers and Faxes, and the Canon printers.

And then there are appearances. The HP Photosmarts 3210 and 3310 are futuristically designed, sleek in an almost space-age way, with LCD screens, funky-looking individual ink cartridges and a dashboard’s worth of buttons. The Canon MP830 is a behemoth, certain to attract attention to anyone who walks into its vincinity. Lexmark has taken a more artistic approach, with its multifunction printers being all edges and angles. Then there are the HP OfficeJets 6210 and 6310s, sitting there in its own corner, bland and beige. The bespectacled nerd among the jocks, prom queens and tough guys. Basically the Anthony Michael Hall character from ‘The Breakfast Club’ minus the obnoxious tendancies. Its design is decidely utilitarian, with no space age chrome coating on its exterior, no specially lit buttons to draw attention to it. It’s not a status symbol. It’s just… there. But it does its job very well.

The best thing about the 6310 and its predecessor, the 6210, is that the feed tray for sending multiple-page faxes or making multiple copies is built into the machine. Its larger HP counterparts, the 7210, 7310 and 7410s all have detachable feed trays, which while durable, are capable of being broken by curious children or bouncy pets, both of which have been known to populate home offices. The fact that it has a feed tray makes it win out over the 3310 if it’s being used in an office, since the 3310s single sheet flatbed scanner would be very time-consuming for people in an office. The fact that the 6310 is also a pretty lightweight printer (17 lbs) also practically guarantees a hernia-free moving experience, something that the others cannot say.

What the 6310 upgrades over the 6210 is that it includes a memory card reader, capable of reading SecureDigital, CompactFlash Type I and II, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, X-D Memory and Mini-SD, so that people can just plug in their digital camera’s memory card and print directly from the memory card. There is no internal editing of the photos and no LCD screen to preview pictures, though there is an option to print proof sheets.

There is a junk fax barrier for those who are afraid of wasting ink on junk faxes.

It also blows by the the 6210 in print speed, printing in black and white at up to 30 pages per minute (ppm), as opposed to the slightly more pokey 6210’s 24 ppm. The 6310 prints color at 24 ppm.

There is one drawback though, it can only scan up to 8 1/2 by 11 paper, not legal documents.

There’s plenty of room for paper, though, with the input tray taking up to 100 sheets of paper and the output tray taking up to 50 sheets of paper.

Faxing is simple to set up, with one outlet for a phone line and another outlet for a phone set. There are ethernet capabilities too. It cannot be used wirelessly without a print server, which is one area that the 3310 beats it.

People don’t need the latest machines to use this printer, with it being capable of running on Windows 98SE or higher with 128 MB RAM. It is pickier for Mac users though, needing people who have OS X 10.2.8 or higher with 128 MB RAM.

Its cartridge set-up is like almost all HP printers, with the exception of the 3210, 3310 and 8250, which utitlize individual cartridges. There is a black cartidge slot and a color cartridge slot. The cost for the cartridges are budget-friendly too, with the black cartridge costing generally around $20 and the color cartridge usually costing $26. There is a double capacity color cartridge that costs $10 more. There is an optional photo cartridge, costing around $26 as well, which can replace the black cartridge for those who want to print in the highest range of color. The printer itself usually costs around $280 though as always, prices will vary wherever you shop.

For those who are unclear about the whole ‘color’ and ‘photo’ cartridge principle, here is how it works: Usually the 6310 will have a black cartridge in the cartridge slot on the right side of the cartridge tray while the 3-color (yellow, magenta and cyan) cartridge will occupy the left side of the cartridge tray. That will produce 4-color printing and 4-color photos, which are excellent in their own right. There are those who want to have even more vibrant color in their photos, so what the photo cartridge does is add to the color cartridge. The black cartridge is removed and the photo cartridge, which has some black, light cyan and light magenta in it, is put in its place and the printer has now become a six-color printer.

Changing the ink is now literally a snap. Gone are the days where people had to use more levers and tabs than those convoluted traps that Wile E. Coyote invented to try to capture the Roadrunner. With the 6310, all one has to do is first grab the middle of the printer and lift it up, much like lifting up the hood of a car. The ink cartridge tray will be nestled on the right. Reaching in sideways and grabbing the ink with ones thumb and forefinger, the cartridge is easily removed. Putting in a new one is easy, just slide it in the same way and push until an audible ‘click’ is heard.

Size-wise, it is about the same size as a microwave oven, though much, much lighter. This is a printer that can be carried around by nearly any adult of any size or strength.

The 6310, like the majority of HP printers, is what is called a front-loading printer. The printing paper is fed through the front and the finished print product is deposited on a tray above the blank paper. This is ideal for people who may have a low-hanging bookshelf on their desk space. The two front trays are detachable, unlike the one that is built into the top of the printer for scanning or copying.

So while the 6310 may scream stodgy “IBM!” to some of the other printers hip “APPLE!” , its functionality and compactness makes it suit the home office best.

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