HP OfficeJet Pro 6970 full review

It's a little on the bulky side, but HP's OfficeJet Pro 6970 provides an impressive range of features and high-speed printing that make it a good option for anyone who works from home or in a small office.

If you're going to be using the printer at work every day, HP tempts you with a free, three-month trial for its 'Instant Ink' subscription scheme. It's still possible to buy ordinary replacement cartridges, though, so you should think carefully about your printing needs in order to choose the most cost-effective way of buying ink for your office.

In our review we test and rate the HP's design, feature set, print speed and quality, and running costs, to help you decide if it's the Mac printer for you. More general buying advice can be found in our Best Mac printers group test.

Features and design

While the HP Tango we reviewed recently was a compact little printer aimed at home users and selfie addicts, the OfficeJet Pro 6970 is a more serious-minded device for producing professional-looking documents in a home office or small business. It's a 4-in-1 multifunction device that combines a printer, scanner, copier and fax, along with an automatic document feeder that helps to speed up scanning, copying and fax chores.

That range of features means the OfficeJet Pro 6970 takes up a fair bit of space, measuring a full 464mm wide, 228mm high and 390mm deep, and weighing in at just over 8kg. It's not the sort of printer that you can just sit on a shelf, so you'll need to make some room on a fairly sturdy desk or table before you get started.

It'll earn its keep, though, as the chunky printer has room for a large paper tray that holds 225 sheets of A4 paper, along with a 60-sheet output tray, and it has a recommended print volume of 800 pages per month, which should be enough for most home workers and smaller offices.

The HP provides USB and Wi-Fi connectivity, with support for Apple's AirPrint for iOS devices, and there's also an Ethernet interface for a wired office network as well. It includes two-sided printing, with options for printing a variety of different brochure formats, and the document feeder on top of the unit can even scan or copy two sides of a page as well, so the OfficeJet Pro 6970 can handle a wide range of printing tasks in your office.

Print speed

If you're going to be printing a couple of hundred pages per month (or more) then you don't want to be left standing around while the printer does its job, so the OfficeJet Pro 6970 needs to provide both quality and speed.

It's quoted by HP as running at 20 pages per minute (ppm) for plain text documents, and 11ppm for colour. Our tests actually produced a very respectable 17ppm for text, with colour coming in at a more modest 8ppm, but that should still be fast enough for most home users and smaller offices.

Print quality

The quality is impressive, with our Word and PDF documents revealing smooth, detailed text that could give a more expensive laser printer a run for its money.

Colour graphics are good too, and the OfficeJet Pro 6970 can turn its hand to the occasional selfie or product brochures, producing bright, bold colours when used with glossy photo paper.

Running costs

This is a workhorse printer for daily use in your office, so it's important to keep track of running costs. However, the OfficeJet Pro 6970 complicates matters as it not only provides a number of different sizes of ink cartridges, it also allows you to sign up for one of HP's Instant Ink subscription schemes.

This means that there are a number of different options that will affect the day-to-day running costs of the printer, depending on whether your work leans more towards simple text documents, or a wider range of colour graphics and documents.

The black ink cartridges sold by HP come in no less than three different sizes - standard, XL, and XXL. However, the standard and XL cartridges are quite expensive, and not recommended if you know that you'll be printing text documents on a regular daily basis. The XXL black cartridge is a bit more affordable, costing £38 and lasting for 1,500 pages, which works out at 2.5p per page - although even that is still a little higher than we'd like.

Colour printing is more reasonable, though, and the colour cartridges are only available in two sizes - standard and XL. The three standard cartridges with cyan, magenta and yellow inks come to a total of £27 and last for 315 pages, which is equivalent to 8.6p per page, which isn't bad at all. And switching to the XL cartridges brings the cost per page down to a very competitive 5.3p.

Instant Ink

But, as we've mentioned, the OfficeJet Pro 6970 also gives you the option of signing up for one of HP's Instant Ink subscription schemes. These schemes allow you to print a fixed number of pages every month, which are paid for by a monthly subscription fee. When the printer starts to run low on ink the printer software simply sends an email off to HP and asks for new ink cartridges to be sent in the post, paid for by your monthly subscription.

There are several subscription options available, starting at just £1.99 per month, which allows you to print 50 pages each month. That gives you a cost of 4p per page, regardless of whether you're printing in black-and-white or colour.

That's expensive for simple black text documents, but very competitive for colour printing - with other subscription plans offering even lower prices as well. So, if you mainly need to print a lot of letters and other text documents, you'll be better off just buying an XXL black ink cartridge every few months to keep the costs down.

But, if you need to print a lot of photos, high-quality brochures or other marketing materials, then you could save a lot of money by signing up for one of the Instant Ink subscriptions. And, to sweeten the deal, HP is currently offering that free, three-month trial for the Instant Ink scheme as well.

Verdict

A multifunction printer and fax such as the OfficeJet Pro 6970 will be overkill for some people, but it can certainly handle any office printing tasks that you're likely to throw at it if you work from home or run a small business.

The cost of ink cartridges complicates matters, with both conventional cartridges and HP's monthly subscriptions offering different pricing levels for different types of document. However, as long as you choose carefully, the OfficeJet Pro 6970 is a versatile, high-quality printer that will help you to reduce running costs for your office documents and other printing tasks.

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