by John McIntyre | 3/21/16
In Part 1 of this series we looked at HP’s rationale for rebranding its page-wide devices. Rebranding movement aside, however, the spring launch event was all about new HP printing products – PageWide, OfficeJets, and, LaserJets too. Under the broad banner of “Printing Reinvented,” the firm introduced:
Four new PageWide inkjet model lines, effectively replacements for the OfficeJet Pro X/Enterprise X models:
- HP PageWide Enterprise Color 500 series
- HP PageWide Pro 500 series
- HP PageWide Pro 400 series
- HP PageWide 300 series
For all the PageWide model families, HP points out the following innovations or enhancements/improvements over previous models:
- Faster, with better print quality – HP notes a 20 percent overall speed improvement
- Lowest energy consumption in its class, all models
- 3X speed improvement in document input from eDuplex scanning capability
- “Best-in-class” security features for the Enterprise Color 500, 500 and 400 model families
- “Unbeatable” or “Radically” low(er) cost per page (per HP-defined parameters)
- Lowest total cost of ownership in its class (300/400/500)
HP’s Director of Product Planning for PageWide Larry Tracy unambiguously beat the speed drum for the PageWide models, noting “These printers have the fastest speed in their class, these are the world’s fastest desktop printers. They have been and they will continue to be.” Explaining the unique benefits of PageWide technology, he said, “end users or a small business can purchase a product that is the fastest in its class, has the highest productivity and also has the lowest cost … because [of] page-wide technology.” Output speed isn’t the only speed enhancement on the new PageWide models – Tracy adds that HP’s e-duplex scanner eliminates mechanical duplex movements, which makes a big difference. “[PageWide] now scans both sides of the sheet of paper simultaneously and that … get[s] about three times faster speed when scanning duplex pages,” he said. PageWide models are rated to scan at rates of 46 or 47 ppm in mono or color.
The PageWide launch includes a plethora of new supplies cartridge models, 24 total if our addition is correct, in various standard, high-yield and extra-high-yield versions in two families – HP 972(*) and HP 981(*). The 981 family only fit the PageWide Enterprise Color 500 series and sport tremendous yields starting at 6K pages (standard) and topping out at 20K pages for black and 16K pages for the color SKUs in the extra-high-yield versions. The HP 972(*) cartridge family range from 3,500 black/3,000 color at the low end to 17,000/13,000 for the extra-high-yield versions – though the 300 Series can only use the standard yield SKUs, the 400 Series can use the standard and high yield SKUs, while the 500 Series can also use the extra-high-yield SKUs. And yes, these products are eligible for HP’s Instant Ink, auto supplies replenishment program. On the CPP front, HP asserts “Unbeatable color affordability,” and “HP’s lowest print operating costs,” for the PageWide family, but the myriad of models and cartridge configurations make for an extremely complex CPP analysis which is beyond the scope of this article. It is reasonable to accept that the PageWide series’ probably beat most – if not all – lasers and copiers in CPP, but note that HP’s yield claims are all based on testing modes advantageous to inkjet designs: “continuous printing,” which is certainly not how real world offices operate. Your mileage may vary (and probably will.)
In its announcement, HP describes the print quality of the PageWide series as “Professional document quality,” while it characterizes the output quality of new LaserJets as “Professional plus, print-shop document quality,” while also declaring that the new the PageWide series offer improved print quality over their predecessors. Reviews of the print quality of earlier Officejet models with page-wide technology were generally good, but not without some criticism:
- PC Mag, M. David Stone — “Although output quality is otherwise excellent, black text is a touch grayish, and color graphics are a touch dulled down.” (Editor’s Choice, HP Officejet Pro X576dw)
- PC World – “Yes, its text falls a dot or two short of laser-black and laser-sharp, but you’d have to be very picky to care about the difference.” (Officejet Pro X576dw)
The print quality positioning by HP for the PageWide is unambiguous: good enough for everyday business/office applications while acknowledging that LaserJets deliver even better quality – maybe more than one might need in the office. We haven’t seen prints from the PageWide Series so we won’t comment on the granularities of the line’s “improved” quality.
In a review published on March 8, the day of HP’s formal PageWide announcement, PC Magazine timed the PageWide 552dw on its business application suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) at 10.5 ppm, which the publication observes “[is] also faster than most color lasers … ” and adds “The HP Color LaserJet Pro M452dw … which is a top pick in part for its speed, came in at 9.8ppm.”
The same review noted that “The 552dw’s output quality isn’t as impressive as its speed, but it’s good enough for almost any business use,” which sounds very similar to HP’s own characterization of the device’s capabilities. The reviewer noted that “was able to smudge it a little by dripping some water on it and then rubbing it, but even the smudged text was readable.” So yes, it is still inkjet.
While PC Mag’s conclusion pointed out that some other offerings demonstrate “higher-quality text than the HP PageWide Pro 552dw Printer offers … For most offices, however, the 552dw’s output quality will be easily good enough, while the speed, paper handling, and low cost per page will be hard to beat.” Overall, the magazine awarded the machine it’s “Editors’ Choice” color printer among comparable devices.
In another review posted a week later (3/15), the publication looked at the PageWide Pro MFP 577dw, and this time found that “Speed is one of the 577dw’s strengths. It zipped through our [tests] … at 9.7 ppm, very fast for an inkjet, but not particularly so for its 50 ppm rated color printing speed,” adding “It was bested by the Epson WF-6590, which we timed at 12.7 ppm.” Looking at the print quality of the 577dw, the editor said, “it showed above-average text for an inkjet, excellent graphics, and average photos … [while] black text looked a tad gray … Text should be good enough for any business use except ones requiring tiny fonts … .”
HP’s PageWide “Surge”
In the critical purchase and competitive performance criteria that drive a user’s buying decision, these machines are formidable competition for nearly any machine in the market, regardless of technology innards. The PageWide line’s top-line buying attributes such as speed, print quality, use/ownership costs, security, interventions, manageability, and tangible metrics such as duplex scanning capabilities and energy efficiency are individually impressive and are even more so when combined in one package sporting the logo of the world’s most famous business printer company. The classic three-level model lineup is easily differentiated by feature sets and likely target user needs – small business and workgroup, medium business and workgroups, and enterprise level installations. A major differentiator for these units are the enhanced security capabilities HP has developed, traits which will get noticed by corporate IT and CIO types — the people who choose and deploy fleets of printers in the enterprise.
HP has a lot riding on the success of the PageWide brand, but one has to guess that the company doesn’t really expect leagues of LaserJet (or competitive laser printer owners) to experience an instant epiphany and abandon their trusty lasers for these new contenders despite the impressive package they represent. Corporate IT and CIO types don’t often have technology epiphanies, they have CEOs and COOs pushing them to do more while spending less, which is the essence of what the PageWides offer. What the PageWide’s compelling value proposition can do is be enticing enough to get them to earnestly consider saying “yes” to ink at last. HP must figure PageWide will win enough of those comparisons over time to be remembered as an inflection point in the narrative of printers used in business.
John McIntyre serves as a senior analyst for BPO Media. With more than 40 years of experience in the printing industry as an analyst, product developer, strategist, and marketer, he has covered the printing and supplies sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research, InfoTrends, and BIS Strategic Decisions, and served with major OEMs such as Samsung, NEC, ACT, and Diablo Systems/Xerox. McIntyre is the former managing editor of Lyra’s Hard Copy Supplies Journal and has been a popular speaker at industry conferences on key issues such as market and business strategies, distribution channels, supplies channels, and the impact of emerging technologies. McIntyre also served as a member of the IEEE 1680.2 (EPEAT II) standards development committee.