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Review of the HP Officejet J6480 All-in-One

We just bought a new HP OfficeJet J6480 multi-function-device. It’s a network (wired or wireless) connected printer, scanner, fax, copier, with a duplexer and page feeder. This is the story of how we got it and how it worked in conjuction with Linux and OSX computers.

At the end of 2008 our HP OfficeJet 7310 multi-function printer/scanner/fax started having problems. The scanner started to make the left side of all scanned images green. This of course meant that the scanner, copier, and fax were basically useless, which left the printer. Getting it fixed cost more than a new printer (it was beyond waranty), so when it started to choke on print jobs, it was time to get a new one.

Despite this experience, I’ve always liked HP printers; certainly the 7310 was great until it started to break. Linux support for most HP printers is excellent. Mac OSX support is excellent too. I even hear they work well with Windows. So when I started looking for a replacement, I went back to HP to see what was available.

I needed a replacement multi-function device which had the following capabilities:

  • Ethernet or wireless connected (who wants to plug a shared USB printer into your otherwise wireless laptop?)
  • Supports duplex printing (save a few trees)
  • Has a page feeder on the scanner which supports duplexing
  • Can work as a copier
  • Can work as a fax machine

After looking at the available options, the HP OfficeJet J6480 seemed to be the right replacement; it had the right specifications, and price. I ordered it from the HP website just before Christmas, and hoped it would arrive soon. As promised it arrived a few days later.

I briefly connected it to Ethernet to setup wireless. I know I’m supposed to be able to do it without connecting a Ethernet cable, but I don’t like using wireless to configure devices (I find wired generally more reliable than wireless). Bringing up the web interface for the J6480 made configuring the device quick and painless. The administration interface was well laid out and obvious. It also made setting up wireless very easy; cutting and pasting is much easier and reliable than having to type in a password (or WEP key) with the buttons on the front panel of the printer. Once wireless was configured, merely unplugging the Ethernet cable and turning on the wireless radio (a well marked button near the card reader) was enough to get it connected to the wireless access point. Success.

Then it was time to configure my Debian Laptop to be able to use the printer and scanner from the J6480. After making sure I had the lastest versions of hplip and hpijs installed, it was just a matter of running hp-setup which walks you through installation. hp-setup sometimes picks up the wireless router IP address instead of the printer itself, so it helps to specify the IP yourself if it is known (I tend to use static IP addresses for everything). All this would look something like this on Debian or Ubuntu Linux.

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install hplip hpijs
$ sudo hp-setup 192.168.1.37

It worked first time, and even set up fax support (although I haven’t tested whether fax works yet). Both printing and scanning (via SANE or the web) worked flawlessly, every bit as well as my previous HP multi-function device.

Then it was on to the other OS in our house: OSX. There’s nothing much to tell here; I ran the installer on the included CDROM, and it configured the printer/scanner/fax support for OSX (and installed at least 200MB of other HP software). Again, it worked flawlessly, allowing seamless printing, faxing, and scanning from the Mac desktop. However, there was a pleasant surprise: “Scan to” support had been added to the mac.

The HP 7310 that I had before this had this “scan to” button which allowed you to scan things directly into applications on a properly setup Windows computer (running the appropriate HP software). This was great if you ran Windows, as since this is a network connected device it isn’t necessarily near your computer. This often requires you to walk some distance to the scanner. It was a neat feature, however I never used it as I didn’t run Windows myself. I always thought it would be a nice feature to have however. Well, it now works in Mac OSX, and rather well I might add. You put the document into the scanner, press “scan to”, select the computer you want to send the document to, then the format and application you want the scanned document sent to. So for instance you can scan as a JPEG to iPhoto, as a PDF to Preview, or use OCR to send text to Word. And all this from the front panel of the multi-function-device. Cool.

Hopefully the next version of hplip will support “scan to” for Linux as well.

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