HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e review: Jack of all trades
A feature-packed SOHO MFP, let down by slow, noisy, glitchy performance
HP has always had a good selection of printers, ranging from casual home use to industrial scale, so it was well positioned when the world of work changed at the start of the pandemic. The OfficeJet Pro 9012e slots nicely between traditional small or home office (SOHO) and larger business-focused machines, with an eye on the ballooning work-from-home market. However, in an increasingly crowded marketplace for such MFPs, this isn’t without its issues.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e review: Design
Visually, the 9012e is virtually identical to other HP MFPs in its class, including last year’s OfficeJet Pro 8022. That’s a reflection of the striking two-tone colour scheme, with the paper tray and ADF in gunmetal grey, contrasted by a vibrant white band across the middle. It boasts a single paper tray capable of holding 250 sheets, with an extendable capture tray.
There are no physical buttons, save for a single illuminated on/off, with HP opting instead for a 6.75cm colour touchscreen display, which is one of the slickest and most ergonomic we’ve seen. It can be kept flush to the vertical, or angled to make it even easier to use, whilst offering a slick, lagless and intuitive UI that feels more like navigating a tablet.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e review: Features
HP has worked hard on making its printers ‘smart’. It was the first company to offer “ink as a service” in the form of HP Instant Ink, whereby the printer sends a message to the servers when cartridges begin to run low, and by the time they’re needed, replacements have arrived on the doormat. HP claims that this can save users up to 70% on ink, and with the first six months of your subscription free of charge, it’s an appealing feature, especially to home users.
Instant Ink now forms a part of HP+, a cloud-based membership scheme which combines ink refills, an extended warranty and a glut of cloud services aimed at remote and mobile printing. Among the more unusual for a SOHO machine, after a bit of setup you can print directly from a network folder or NAS, and even save scans to services such as Sharepoint and Google Drive, all with just a few taps at the touchscreen. Cloud-based services involve signing up for an HP+ account, which also allows you to manage your instant ink account, but you can assign rights to additional users. We wouldn’t want to use this in a large office though.
Physically, features include a USB 3.0 port on the left-hand side, ideal for printing direct from a memory stick. There’s two RJ11 ports on the back, for rigging up the ‘nice to have’ fax facility, as well as an ethernet port, an extra USB 2.0 port, and a figure-8 power supply port. There’s support for Bluetooth Smart and Wifi Direct too, as well as 802.11a/b/g/n Wifi.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e review: Setup
Setting up the 9012e is a breeze and can be done directly from the touchscreen, though you’ll probably find it easier by using the HP Smart package on your computer or mobile. You’ll be strongly encouraged to sign up for HP+, a necessity for claiming your free ink, but if you prefer to go it alone, a full set of cartridges will cost you £90 (inc VAT) and last around 700 pages (colour) and 2000 pages (black). XL cartridges are listed by HP, but we were unable to find any UK stock or pricing at time of writing.
HP offers a business tariff for Instant Ink, costing £22.49 (inc VAT) per month for up to 700 pages per month, with overages charged at £1 per 10 sheets. Whilst this may well be ample for a small operation, it further illustrates that the 9012e is not aimed at large scale deployments, where running costs would soon spiral, especially as each printer requires a separate subscription.
The Instant Ink offering makes it difficult to do a side-by-side cost per page, but we’ve worked out on the assumptions of an Instant Ink subscription at the Business tariff of £22.49 per month, versus buying a full set of cartridges for £89.99. In these two scenarios, the cost per page is 12.8p per page if you buy cartridges, or a mere 3.2p per page with Instant Ink.
However, there’s a major caveat. The black cartridge lasts for 1000 pages instead of 700. Instant Ink cartridges are always sent in complete sets, but a black cartridge can be bought outright for £29.99 - which works out at 2.9p per page. As such, if you do very little colour printing, it could be marginally cheaper to go down that route, but the difference is so negligible, it’s probably easier to stick to the Instant Ink option.
So that leaves us with a machine that can be either extremely expensive, or extremely cheap to run. The Brother MFC-J4540DW, which has no ink subscription offer and works out at 3.3p per page makes the HP ‘standalone’ option of 12.8p seem exceptionally expensive. Go for the subscription, and the HP is slightly cheaper (3.2p per page) and gives you the peace of mind that you’ll always have enough ink.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e review: Performance
The 9012e is capable of printing and scanning at 1200x1200 DPI, an impressive boast, but high resolution always comes at a price. In draft mode, HP claims it will print at up to 32 pages per minute, even in full colour. Unfortunately, we achieved nowhere near this. We clocked 3 and-a-bit full colour pages, or 7 monochrome text-only pages.
But worse than that, the average time between hitting print and the first page printing was a woeful 40 seconds, during which there’s a mixture of worrying silence and loud whirring and clicking. That consistently long gap is extremely off putting, which is a shame, because even in draft mode, the print quality is excellent.
We found that lag disappears if you print a single page document at a time, suggesting that the delay is in preparing and spooling larger documents. Understandable in a sense, but we’ve used the same multi-page document in other reviews and found little or no lag whatsoever, so we can only hope that software updates will improve this.
Other functions fare better - scanning can also handle a generous 1200x1200 DPI and the results are everything you would hope for in terms of colour reproduction and legibility. The copy facility supports up to 99 duplicates in a single print run, and like an actual photocopier, you can shrink and blow up images directly, without the need to manipulate them on the computer. We weren’t able to try the fax facility, but we like that you can send a fax directly from your device, without putting a paper copy on the scanner bed.
HP’s documentation gives assurances that it will work seamlessly with Windows 8.x, 10 and 11, Linux, Chrome OS, MacOS, Android and iOS. In fact the only omissions are the EOL Windows XP and Vista. Having said that, however, we originally did our tests in Windows 11 and found the performance so poor that we had to reevaluate it in a more stable Windows 10 environment in order to gain an accurate picture of its capabilities. We trust that Windows 11 support will improve, but do bear this in mind if you’re planning to upgrade in the near future.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e review: Verdict
There’s nothing to make the OfficeJet Pro 9012e a bad MFP, but there’s not enough to make it a great one. The problem is that HP seems to have thrown the kitchen sink at this model without being entirely clear why. SOHO users will find it overpowered and overpriced for occasional jobs, while office users will find the single 250-sheet paper tray and 700-sheet cartridges very limiting. Moreover, the extra bells and whistles such as mobile printing may be less relevant for larger organisations seeking to use them for small workgroups.
What it does, it does well, but slowly and noisily. The touchscreen menu system is superb, but offers a mind boggling array of options, many of which you won’t want anyone else fiddling with anyway. Not only are there better options for an MFP right now (like the Brother MFC-j4540DW we reviewed recently), there are actually better value and better performing HP MFPs out there, and at nearly £140 before VAT, we expected more. A lower price with fewer features and better core performance would have made this model far more of a contender, but as it is, it’s a jack of all trades, but master of none.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e specifications
A4 thermal inkjet MFP
Up to 32ppm
6.75cm colour touchscreen
Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless, RJ11 (fax), Mobile, Remote Domain
1x USB 2
439.3 x 519.8 x 278 mm
One-year limited hardware warranty
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