Epson has led the way with a new business model for inkjet printers, thanks to its EcoTank range, which replaces traditional - and expensive - ink cartridges with large internal ink tanks that lead to dramatic reductions in long-term running costs and total cost of ownership (TCO). Canon has also followed Epson's example, launching its own range of 'megatank' printers early in 2019. Hewlett-Packard, however, seems reluctant to embrace this new business model. It has, admittedly, introduced a handful of refillable printers with its Smart Tank System, but these aren't widely available - they currently only seem to be on sale in India, and are mostly low-cost models aimed at home users.
HP's alternative is to focus on its Instant Ink subscription scheme in order to offer lower prices when replacing conventional ink cartridges. The Instant Ink scheme has been around for a couple of years, but was primarily aimed at home users with only low-volume printing requirements. However, HP now seems to be extending the Instant Ink scheme into the business market, with models such as the new OfficeJet Pro 9014, priced at £145 exc VAT.
This printer was originally launched as the OfficeJet Pro 9012, but the model number was updated - primarily for stock-keeping purposes - to the 9014 when HP decided to bundle it with a free, three-month subscription to the Instant Ink scheme. There are still stocks of the 9012 available from a number of online retailers, though, so you should make sure that you choose the 9014 if you want to enjoy three months' worth of free ink.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9014 review: Design and features
The printer itself is fairly unremarkable, consisting of a resolutely rectangular slab of white and grey plastic, adorned only by the 2.7in, touch-sensitive LED screen, which folds out from the front of the printer so that you can see it more easily. It's a 4-in-1 multifunction printer, combining a 1200x4800dpi printer, 1200dpi scanner and copier, and fax machine in a single unit. There's a just a single paper tray built into the base of the unit, which holds 250 sheets of A4 paper. That should be adequate for most small offices and workgroups, although it's disappointing that there's no manual feed or second paper tray for envelopes or photo papers.
Other features include a 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) on the top of the unit and, as well as duplex printing, the OfficeJet Pro offers two-sided scanning and copying as well. A helpful little beep tells you when documents are properly aligned in the document feeder, and you can choose whether to save each side of the page as an individual graphics file - using JPEG or a variety of other formats - or to save the entire document as a single, multi-page PDF file, which is rather handy.
It's well connected too, with USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, along with AirPrint for Apple devices and Mopria for everyone else. HP also provides its own Smart app, which provides remote printing and scanning for iOS and Android devices when you're away from the office.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9014 review: Performance
HP gives itself some leeway when discussing the performance of the OfficeJet Pro 9014, quoting speeds of 'up to 22 pages per minute' for mono printing, and 'up to 18ppm' for colour, and we suspect that the term 'up to' refers to the printer's faster Draft mode.
Using the default Normal print setting, we found that the OfficeJet Pro 9014 produced speeds of 16ppm for mono printing, and 12ppm for colour. However, switching to Draft mode produced performance more in line with HP's own estimates, with 21ppm for mono and 18ppm for colour.
But, to be fair, we found the difference between Draft and Normal printing quality to be barely noticeable. Text quality in Normal mode is excellent, with smooth, well-defined characters, while text in Draft mode was a little less bold, but still perfectly adequate for most routine office documents.
Colour printing was equally strong, with Normal mode producing bold colours, subtle tonal graduations, and no hint of ink bleed (although Draft mode was a little darker). The only minor disappointment was that photo printing was a little slow - taking 50 seconds for a standard postcard print on glossy paper, compared to the 39 seconds quoted by HP. Photo quality was good, though, with strong contrast ensuring bold colours and plenty of detail in our photo prints.
The scanner is no slouch either, taking just 3.5 seconds to scan one of our text-and-colour pages at 150dpi, and 6 seconds at 300dpi. Scanning a glossy postcard print at 600dpi took just 18 seconds, although increasing the resolution to the maximum 1200dpi did slow that to a full 60 seconds. Even so, the OfficeJet Pro provides speed and quality that are strong enough to tackle a wide range of printing tasks for most small and medium offices.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9014 review: Running costs
This is where things get a little complicated. You can treat the OfficeJet Pro like a conventional cartridge-based inkjet printer, and simply buy individual replacement cartridges as required, opting for either standard or XL-size cartridges for the four coloured inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and black).
For mono printing, HP's standard black ink cartridges cost £26.09 inc VAT, and last for approximately 1000 pages, which works out at 2.6p per page. That's towards the high end of average for an inkjet printer, but you can reduce that to 2p per page with the XL cartridge, which costs £40.49 inc VAT.
Colour printing isn't too bad at all, with the three standard colour cartridges costing a total of £59.37 inc VAT, and lasting for 700 pages, with a cost of 8.5p per page. The XL cartridges are even better, costing £83.67, and bringing to cost per page for colour printing down to 5.2p.
But, as mentioned, the OfficeJet Pro also includes a free, three-month trial to HP's Instant Ink subscription scheme. If you opt for the new Business Plan, then you have to commit to a subscription fee of £17.99 per month (after the trial period) and this allows you to print 700 pages per month, with new inks automatically ordered and posted to you when the printer detects that it is running low. That results in a flat cost of 2.6p per page - regardless of whether you're printing in mono or colour. That's certainly more cost-effective than buying individual cartridges - especially if you need to do a lot of colour printing. Even so, it's still higher than the running costs of Epson's EcoTank printers, which can reduce printing costs to less than 1p per page (albeit with a higher initial purchase price for the printer itself)
HP OfficeJet Pro 9014 review: Verdict
With an initial purchase price of well under £200, the OfficeJet Pro provides good quality and performance, and versatile printing features that make it well suited to small and medium offices and workgroups. However, it's really the three months of free Instant Ink that make it good value for money, with further savings available if you continue the subscription for longer. Even so, the trend towards refillable ink tank printers looks set to continue, and HP needs to offer a refillable printing option to business users in the very near future if it doesn't want to get left behind.