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The HP Smart Tank Plus 551 Wireless All-in-One ($ 399.99) is a bulk ink multi-function printer that, instead of cartridges, gets its ink from tanks you fill with bottles. Like the Canon Pixma G6020 MegaTank Editors’ Choice All-in-One, it’s designed for home offices, but lags behind its competitor in capacity, volume, and features. Even so, it prints well and very inexpensively, making it a decent alternative to our current favorite bulk ink AIO.
Smaller of two
The Plus 551 is one of two recently released Smart Tank Plus branded AIOs from HP, the other being the recently revised Plus 651 which, among a few other notable features, comes with a 35mm Automatic Document Feeder (ADF). sheets. The Plus 551, meanwhile, only has a single-sheet flatbed scanner capable of capturing a single page at a time. Neither, however, is capable of automatically printing double-sided pages, which the Canon G6020 can do, but the WorkForce ST-2000 EcoTank All-in-One cannot. With the Plus 551 and the ST-2000, you have to return the originals manually.
The lack of an automatic two-sided print engine is very unusual for a $ 400 all-in-one.
At 6.2 x 17.6 x 14.6 inches (HWD) and weighing 11.3 pounds, the Plus 551 is very close in size and girth to the ST-2000 and a few inches smaller and about 6 pounds lighter than the G6020, and a bit leaner in general to most comparable bulk ink models. This gives it a slightly smaller footprint than many of its competitors.
Simple tasks, such as making copies or scanning to a local drive or the cloud, or configuration tasks, are handled by the rather basic control panel of the Plus 551, consisting of several buttons and a non-keyboard. seven-segment touchscreen 2- inch monochrome screen.
As with most business-oriented AIOs, this one also comes with a built-in web server from which you can perform most tasks, monitor consumables, configure security and other features, as well as generate reports. use and more, from most browsers, including your smartphone.
The paper capacity comes from a 100-sheet tray that you remove from the back of the printer. You can also configure the tray to hold up to 10 # 10 envelopes or 30 sheets of labels or card stock. Its recommended monthly print volume is 1,000 pages, about 200 pages per month more than the ST-2000, which also contains only 100 sheets of paper.
The G6020, on the other hand, can hold up to 350 sheets from two separate sources and has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 5,000 pages. Plus, like most consumer and small business HP, Canon and Epson printers and all-in-ones, the Plus 551 accepts voice activation commands to perform tasks such as reviewing alerts and more. notifications and hands-free printing from Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant smart. household appliances. You can also use Apple’s Siri, Windows Cortana, or other voice activation services through a simple IFTTT (if this, then that) scripts available online at IFTTT.com and other readily available sites.
Configuration, connectivity and software
The installation of the Plus 651 differs from the configuration of the Canon G6020 and other recent models of the MegaTank brand, as well as all Epson EcoTank machines, such as the ST-2000 mentioned earlier. These printers and all-in-ones are ready to add ink and print; just fill the tanks and go. With Smart Tank Plus and older MegaTank machines, on the other hand, you need to install the printheads.
The procedure is very similar to replacing ink cartridges on low-end HP Envy and Canon Pixma branded models. The printheads come in two cartridges designed to disperse the four processing colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, or CMYK). There is one for the black ink and another reservoir that holds the other three printheads. On the Plus 551 (and 651), accessing the printhead carriage, which is located on the back and under the scanner bed, is a bit more difficult, however. (I found myself having to pay close attention to the installation documentation.) Also, I ran into a few unexpected cardboard spacers, as well as a plastic plug that wasn’t easy, again without pay close attention to the installation guide, to understand How to remove.
Refilling the ink tanks turned out to be a much more intuitive process, although I noticed the bottles were not locked in their respective receptacles. In other words, if you’re not careful, you could easily pour the wrong ink into the wrong tanks.
The software bundle includes HP Photo Creations, a collection of templates for creating several different types of documents from the photos or scans you take with your Plus 551’s scanner or smartphone. You also get HP Update to upgrade. updates the machine’s software and firmware, as well as HP’s Smart Printer app, a driver and interface that works essentially the same on most operating systems and environments, including iOS (iPhone , iPod, iPad, etc.). and Android, macOS and Windows mobile devices.
Connectivity consists of a dual-band Wi-Fi network for Wireless Direct (HP’s version of Wi-Fi Direct) and a wireless network, as well as Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) and USB 2.0. Third-party connectivity consists of ePrint from HP (Android and iOS), AirPrint from Apple, and Mopria.
Entry-level print speeds
The Plus 551 is rated at 11 pages per minute (ppm), which is 0.5 ppm faster than the Epson ST-2000 and 3 ppm slower than the Canon G6020. I tested the Plus 551 via USB connection from our standard Intel Core i5 test bench PC running Windows 10 Professional.
When printing our 12-page Microsoft Word text document, I clocked the Plus 551 at 10.8ppm, or just slower than its 11ppm rating and 0.3ppm faster than the Plus 651. It’s also just under 2 ppm behind the G6020, and around 2.5 ppm faster than the ST-2000.
See how we test printers
In the next test, I timed the Plus 551 as it printed our collection of Adobe Acrobat documents, Excel spreadsheets, and accompanying graphics, as well as PowerPoint documents with multiple types of graphics and multicolored fonts. of different sizes. Then I combined these scores with those from printing the 12 page text document in the test above and calculated a score of 5.4 ppm.
This is 0.4 ppm faster than the ST-2000 and 1.1 ppm faster than the G6020. Like I said about the Plus 651, the Plus 551 is not a racehorse, but it stands up to its competition. I also printed our 4 x 6 inch instant photo several times and averaged the results. With print quality on the highest setting and a borderless finish enabled, the Plus 551 produced our highly detailed and colorful test photos in an average time of 28 seconds. This is average for an inkjet in this category.
First-class print quality
As with the Plus 651 and most other inkjet printers, the Plus 551 prints quite well. The sample text pages I printed came out with well-formed and beautiful text down to the tiniest fonts, which should be better than acceptable for most business or home office applications. My test Excel tables and charts, as well as the PowerPoint documents, printed with minimal and barely noticeable banding in a few dark fills and gradient backgrounds, again better than acceptable for most applications.
Our test photos also came out with precision and vivid color, with respectable detail and minimal grain. Admittedly, the image quality was not up to what you might expect from a Canon or Epson 5 or 6 ink consumer photo printer.
Bulk ink running costs
Without a doubt, the biggest advantage of the HP Smart Tank and other bulk ink printers is that they are very inexpensive to use, less than 1 penny for monochrome or color pages (0.3 penny in black and 0.9 centime in color). While there are slight percentage differences between the three brands (EcoTank, MegaTank, and Smart Tank), they all cost roughly the same price to use.
Compared to similar inkjet printers and most others, the Plus 551 and many other bulk ink AIOs cost up to 10 times or more to use. Also, keep in mind that you also pay up to five or six times for the printer. For a bulk ink machine like the Plus 551 to be a good investment, you should probably print close to 500 pages or more. The more you print, the better the value.
A powerful first blush
As I said about the Plus 651, HP seems to have made the same miscalculation of feature mismatch against ink costs that Canon and Epson did with their early bulk ink machines. Customers who choose to spend four or five times the actual value of the material to save on current consumable costs are more than likely interested in printing far more than the average inkjet user. The latest bulk ink models from Epson and Canon have more features, capacity, speed, and higher volume ratings (including editors’ choice G6020) than previous models from these companies, and therefore offer an improved overall value. The HP Smart Tank Plus 551 is a capable machine, but compared to its competition, its biggest flaw is that it costs a bit too much for what it is.
HP Smart Tank Plus 551 Wireless All-in-One
The bottom line
The HP Smart Tank Plus 551 Bulk Ink AIO prints well and at very low operating costs, although it lacks notable productivity and convenience features compared to its competitors.
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