Pros: Excellent printing, with sharp black text & impressive photos. Affordable inks. Logical user interface.
Cons: Paper pickup noise that could wake the dead. Finicky paper loading. Flimsy output “tray”.
Time for a new printer…but which one?
My old Canon Pixma inkjet printer gave up the ghost. When I found that a new printhead would cost more than a whole new printer, I decided that a replacement would be the way to go. The first printer I owned was an HP, and it gave good service. I also had an excellent Lexmark, but they’re exiting the inkjet printer business. I never liked my third printer, the Canon, because it was slow and had a clunky user interface. HP’s Deskjet 3520 offered just the right features for my basic printing needs at an affordable price. And being an all-in-one, it allowed me to ditch the separate flatbed scanner I had been using.
The Deskjet 3520 has a basic monochrome display that guides you through the various functions. The more advanced controls are provided by the HP Printer Assistant, accessed from the computer’s desktop. It also lacks any memory card slots so with those things in mind, consider this a basic, all-around unit as opposed to a photo enthusiast’s printer.
(Note to shoppers: There are also Deskjet 3521 and 3522 models available in some stores at about the same price as this 3520 that I bought at OfficeMax. I’m not sure what the difference is, as they appear to have the same features and specs).
Surviving the setup
You can use the 3520 in the traditional way – tethered to your computer with the included USB cable. But for more flexibility it offers wireless capability, including HP’s much-promoted ePrint.
The 3520 offers two methods of initial setup: Wirelessly, with no direct connection to your computer, or with the supplied USB cable. After a couple of wireless attempts that seemed to hang, I found it easier to use the alternate USB method. That turned out to be a snap. Plug the cable into printer and computer, wait for the data transfer to complete and then detach the cable.
Configuring the unit for wireless use wasn’t difficult, but I’ve encountered an unpredictable quirk with this printer. Sometimes when I turn it on it will connect to my router with no problem. Other times I’ll power it up, only to find that the blue “wireless” light is blinking, indicating a problem with the connection. The only solution I’ve been able to find is to tap the button once – turning “wireless” off – and then tapping the OK button to re-establish the wireless hookup. Go figure.
HP provides a paper manual that covers setup, basic operation and a limited amount of troubleshooting. If those things don’t solve your problem the setup CD will usually direct you to the HP support website, which I’ve found to be pretty well-organized compared to most.
You’ll like the way it prints
The Deskjet 3520’s print quality can’t be beat. Load some bond paper, choose the “normal” setting and the output from the 3520 could almost pass for laser printing. Even when using ordinary “copy and print” paper, text comes out crisp and dark with no raggedness. The draft quality setting doesn’t look too bad either, so you can save some ink when doing non-critical, day-to-day stuff. The first page begins printing within a matter of seconds, and the actual print speeds come pretty close to the advertised figure of 8 pages/minute at “laser comparable” quality and 23 pages/minute at the draft setting.
If you’re as fussy about envelope printing as I am, you’ll love the 3520. Standard #10 business envelopes come out perfectly – free of smudges and with the return address always perfectly aligned, something that was always an annoyance with my old Canon.
I haven’t yet done much photo printing with this machine, but the 4 x 6 snapshots I’ve printed on glossy photo paper could easily pass for commercial grade printing. They compare favorably with what my old photo-oriented Canon Pixma would produce.
With the aforementioned ePrint, you can print wirelessly from mobile devices. Essentially, the printer has its own e-mail address. From my Samsung Galaxy media player I can “share” a photo by sending it to the HP 3520’s ePrint address and it will print just as if I were doing it from the computer.
Just a few rough edges
First, the paper loading. Make sure you follow the instructions exactly – pull the paper tray out toward you, then place the paper flat on the tray and push the tray into the machine until you hear a click. Do NOT try to shove paper into the tray without first pulling the tray out a bit! If you do so –– you are likely to end up with a paper jam. Fortunately jams aren’t too difficult to clear; lifting the upper portion of the machine, just below the scanner bed, provides a clear shot at the machine’s innards. But by following the procedure mentioned above, the paper will feed flawlessly.
A second gripe: The noise made by the paper pickup. The 3520 is pretty quiet once the printing gets under way, but it makes a nerve-wracking RAT-A-TAT-TAT noise when grabbing the paper. This is definitely not a printer you’d want to use late at night adjacent to bedrooms where people are sleeping!
Third: The paper input tray is sturdy enough but the output “tray” is a different story. It consists of a plastic arm measuring about 2 ½ by 6 inches long that swings out 90 degrees from the bottom of the input tray. A small tab, about 1 ½ by 2 ½ inches long flips up from its end at roughly a 30 degree angle. This fragile affair is intended to catch the outgoing paper and it does so pretty well, but be careful not to bang into it – it is possibly the flimsiest printer part I’ve ever seen!
Keeping it fed with ink
HP includes a full set of ink cartridges, the #564, which seems to be a commonly used item among their various inkjet models. Currently, OfficeMax, Wal-Mart and Target have them in stock at reasonable prices. But note: The ones that are shipped with the printer bear the word “SETUP”, which I presume means that they’re not the same capacity as the ones you’d buy as replacements. And note also that HP offers the 564 ink both in standard and high capacity variations. So far, I haven’t had to replace the “setup” cartridges, but the ink monitor is indicating that the day won’t be far off. The HP Printer Assistant shows that I’ve printed about 180 pages with these original cartridges, so I think the ink economy looks good at this point. But your mileage may vary, as they say.
A breeze. The computer doesn’t even have to be on, one of the beauties of an all-in-one machine. The lid feels solid and opens easily, though its hinges don’t allow it to close on top of a thick item like a book.
The 3520 allows scanning to the computer from its own control panel, a handy feature provided that you have the printer software configured to allow this feature. Otherwise, the HP Printer Assistant on your desktop allows you to perform the same functions, and with even more control. Scanned images can be saved either as JPEG or PDF files. There’s no document feeder on this basic model but the unusually simple, logical scan menu makes it easy to scan multiple pages into a single file.
My fourth printer and my second HP
The Deskjet 3520 is my fourth inkjet printer and my second HP. I liked the first HP for its superior text quality, and this new one lives up to the brand’s tradition. Except for the quirks I’ve described, this seems like a pretty easy unit to live with: It’s nicely designed with a compact footprint, easy on the ink (at least so far) and capable of beautiful output on almost any kind of paper. Add in the low price and you have a winner.