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HP ENVY 5540 printer review

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HP ENVY 5540 printer review

Using the HP ENVY 5540 All-In-One Wireless Inkjet Printer


The 5540 printer retails for around £80, rather less than the usual range of specialist photo printers Keith reviews.

How does it do as a general office printer, and can it also manage good photo printing when needed?

5540 front view

It’s been a while since we had a printer like this here – what’s it like to use and how much does it cost to run?

HP ENVY 5540

A 4 ink dye based printer is normally considered good for office printing and the production of charts and flyers.

I’m not evaluating this printer (lent to us by HP) against similar models for print times and exact ink costs against feature sets, but more to see just how useful it could be to our small photography business, where I already have a large format printer that’s produced huge fine art prints for our clients (see some of our many large printer reviews for more in this area).

I’m afraid that if you wanted a traditional A vs. B vs. C vs. X,Y,Z ‘best printer’ comparison, then you’ll need to go elsewhere, we don’t really do those sorts of reviews
After a recent lecture at a camera club (about black and white photography) I realised that many of the bigger photo printers are a bit too costly for people just starting to print their work, and that in reviews of printers like this, there was very little information about photo print quality. I hope to add more articles in this area before too long…

Buy your HP ENVY 5540 at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

What do you get with the Envy 5540?

This HP All-in-One print printer basic features are listed as:

  • 4-colour (CMYK) inkjet printer
  • Print resolution – 1200x1200dpi
  • Double sided (Duplex) printing
  • Scanner resolution – 1200dpi
  • Connectivity – WiFi, USB, Apple AirPrint
  • Primary paper trays – 125 sheets A4
  • Secondary paper tray – 15 sheets 10x15cm
  • Print borderless 4 x 6 inches photos and documents up to 8.5 x 11-inch.
  • Dimensions – 156x454x410mm
  • Weight – 6.8kg

Full printer specs at foot of this article The printer comes with installation software CD, initial cartridges and an introductory guide. It does not come with a USB cable.

Connectivity

The printer incorporates wireless as well as USB connections. I’d normally prefer Ethernet, but you’re not getting that at this price point, and anyway, our wireless network is no slouch…

rear of printer USB connection

Mobile connectivity supports HP Wireless Direct (WiFi Direct in others) where you can connect devices directly to the printer (not via a network). Also supported are Google’s Cloud Print and Apple’s AirPrint – enough that if you have a mobile device, you should be able to print.

This isn’t an area I’ve explored in depth, since essentially I don’t use mobile devices for anything connected with photography – I rarely ever have a (switched on) mobile phone with me when working.

The printer has its own configuration web page, where you can check at lot of different settings. It’s here where I noticed that I’d left Wi-Fi direct switched on, with a default password.

device web page for 5540 printer

You might want to check this, unless you don’t mind making it really easy for people to have fun with your printer…

Using the HP ENVY 5540

I started connecting the printer to our wireless network – initially testing from my main desktop machine (a Mac Pro running OSX 10.10).

I used the touch screen on the front of the printer to enter our wireless password, where it’s shown connected directly, with an IPV4 address (IPV6 is supported).

printer wifi setup via front panel

If you use the printer with HP’s ink supply service, it will phone home with details of what you print (types of items, not content).

The HP software is pretty straightforward to use. The ‘installer’ on the CD is actually just a link to a web page, where you enter the model number.

HP software installation

Software is downloaded and installed.

choosing software to install

Do be careful when adding the printer that you pick the right version – here I don’t want AirPrint at all for my desktop machine.

If you set up the printer and then find that the number of options in your printer dialogue is less than you were expecting, check that you have the right driver type set up – I’ve done this before with a wireless printer…

printer driveroption for installation

There is optional software if required

optional printer software

A ‘creative’ photo application – if you like that sort of stuff ;-)

The printer itself can print a number of different blank forms and paper types.

Music paper, graph paper, check list, calendar and some dots (?)

built in paper forms for printing directly

Changing ink on the HP ENVY 5540

The printer lid lifts up for scanning, and then this part lifts up for access to the insides, to install cartridges

access to ink cartridges

Ink levels seem fairly accurately reported from the utility software.

ink level indications

Colour ink runs down quickly with the test prints I was making. This was not long after my first ‘low ink’ warning.

The problem with cartridges that contain three colours of ink is that there is ink left in the other two colours when the first runs out.

low colur ink causing streaks on prints

Paper Loading and Media handling

The printer has two paper trays, one for ordinary A4 paper and a second for smaller photo paper.

A4 paper tray for printer

Do note that the paper is placed in face down – I can confirm that trying to print a photo onto the back of photo paper can make quite a mess.

photo paper tray

Note that the photo paper tray only takes 6″x4″ paper.

sample photo print ay 6x4

Scanning/copying

The printer includes a manually fed scanner (no ADF) that can be used for document scanning, or as a copier

using the 5540 as a copier

Scanning is very easy to set up – just don’t expect a lot of adjustment options for colour and the like.

basic scan options in software

I put a postcard into the scanner and quickly got a very good quality scan.

scanned postcard

With good paper, the photocopy option of the printer (via the front panel) produced very acceptable copy quality.

Direct printing

It’s possible to directly print via the wireless link, and if you want to, I’d definitely suggest installing the HP App for this, since it gives improved functionality and control of the printer.

Printer testing

If you read my normal printer reviews, you’ll see that this is not the sort of expensive specialist photo printer I’d normally look at.

One of the challenges for me was to see if an £80 four ink printer could really print photos that looked good, as well as perform as a general office printer.

As with all our testing, I’ve a couple of standard images I always use to test black and white, and colour printing.

The images (and many others) are available for free download on this site.

printer test image for black and white printingdatacolor test image for printer profilie evaluation

Both images have lots of components to specifically test different aspects of printer performance. I started with just printing JPEG images via the HP driver and the default image viewing application on the Mac : Preview.

Using the simple ‘Vendor Matching’ option both were easily printed on a generic photo paper, and looked just fine.

Well, the colour test image looked great, but the black and white one looked a bit purple – just a bit, but enough that I could see it. I’ll come back to this, but with simple software, colour images look more than fine for basic use.

Can you refine this?

Colour profiles and profiling

I like to make our own colour profiles for papers and printers I’m testing, using i1Profiler from X-rite and an i1iSis XLscanning spectrophotometer. Since this is a printer with only four inks (CMYK) and limited driver features, I’m curious to see if it’s possible to create a good ICC printer profile, and if it’s possible to use.

The paper I’m using to start with is nothing special – an unbranded photo paper from a local stationers. The problem with a printer like this is not the printer, it’s the functionality of the print driver that lets you adjust different printer settings.

Using the Adobe print utility I printed some test targets.

printer profiling test prints

The printer software does install an HP5540 profile, but looking at it in the Mac ColorSync Utility shows a nasty spike coming out of one side of it (the darker colours).

view of HP5540 colour profile

The upshot of my testing is that it’s very difficult to profile a printer like this with any degree of confidence, given the limitations of the driver software (test images are from our test images page).

That said – I do still wonder about that rather odd looking profile supplied with the printer

test prints showing low ink problems with one colour

For colour printing the main benefit of any profiling was to neutralise greys somewhat – but see below.

An interesting exercise, but I found that the straightforward colour print settings offered very good reproduction for most colour photos (‘printer manages colour’ in Photoshop).

If you just work in colour, then the printer offers very nice prints at A4 and 6″x4″ (15cm x 10cm) – but see the notes on real world ink use in the conclusions.

Black and White

Whilst I was pleased with just how well the printer handled colour (and this is with a fairly generic glossy photo paper), I’d not say the same with Black and White images.

This should come as no surprise, since with just four inks (one black) any lighter greys will have a distinct mix of colours making them up. These colours may look a neutral grey in one light, but will vary slightly in other lighting setups. So, a distinctly purple tint in tungsten light, moving to greenish in daylight. I’m not talking vivid tones here, but once you’ve noticed it, you will always see it.

I’ve looked at ‘fixing’ unwanted tints elsewhere, but it’s something that works best on printers with more inks.

This is not a printer for exhibiting your black and white photography I’m afraid.

Conclusions

Print quality is very good, and in a different league to the old HP K80 printer/scanner/fax (~2001 vintage) I used to have in the office, and indeed used for some of my very early articles about printing on this site.

The Envy 5540 prints a respectable 10 pages per minute for text documents (max – single sided), good photos take more like 30 seconds

HP Envy 5540 printer

The setup and operation via the touch screen is effective and simple – it’s only a monochrome screen, but so what?

Double sided printing worked flawlessly, and is a great way of saving paper where you want something to physically hold and read.

Ink costs

The whole question of ink costs is an important one for a printer like this one that may be used in a home or small business context quite infrequently.

These figures are based partly on data from HP, since I wasn’t supplied with enough paper or ink to run any exhaustive testing.

A normal size black ink cartridge costs ~£10 and should give around 200 pages of mono text, whilst a 3 colour ink cartridge costs ~£15 and is likely good for 165 pages (but see below)

These figures assume a certain ‘standard’ amount of text/graphics, and will depend on what you are doing with the printer.

The standard carts run to about ~5p per page for black (BW) text and ~9p for a colour page.

For more use, you can go for the larger XL cartridges (~£20) which give more prints (600 for BW, 400 for colour). This makes it a bit cheaper per page (~3p BW, ~5p for colour)

HP run what they call an ‘Instant Ink’ programme, which monitors your printing and arranges for new carts to arrive when you are getting low.

It has three subscription levels, starting at £1.99 a month for 50 pages (~4p per page colour and BW)

The other subscription packages are £3.49 (100 pages), and £7.99 (300 pages), which work out at 3.5p per page and 2.7p per page.

There are a few things to note about the subscription setup.

  • A double sided print counts as 2 pages.
  • A single dot printed on a page counts as a page
  • An A4 photo print cost the same as a short text note.

That makes it relatively pricy if you only ever print the odd invoice, but much better value if the printer’s photo and graphics output is what you need.

Since the subscription is on a month to month basis (with a limit of 1 month’s unused prints ‘rolled over’) you need to consider -when- you print. It’s also worth noting that if you don’t use the printer much and then decide to do a lot of colour printing over a weekend, the ink monitoring/ordering system may not get ink to you in time.

Instant Ink (UK) Ts&Cs – what you sign up for.

Some real numbers…

The printer really flies when printing black text on plain paper. For most text, draft mode is perfectly good, and printing a 70 page PDF double sided took around 10 minutes. The ink dries quickly, but you still want to watch for wet ink cross print between pages. It would be nice to have an ‘”I’m not in a hurry, let each page dry properly” setting for high quality work.

Colour A4 photos eat up the small ink carts like nothing, particularly when I was experimenting with some profiling targets and test images. 16 prints were enough for a low ink warning. The biggest annoyance is that with all three colours in the one cart, you are left with useless ink the the two colours that have not run down fully.

This makes colour photo printing with the subscription service a real bargain. At the £7.99 per month option (300 prints) I’d expect to need between 15 and 20 standard colour cartridges – that’s equivalent to paying only ~45 pence per standard cartridge at the rate I got through the first one. Even assuming that you were using the big carts, your ink costs with the 300 print/month option would be ~£180 with buying large colour carts, as opposed to £7.99.

I looked at the Ts&Cs and couldn’t see any restriction on just printing photos, but I note that you have to send the carts back – this could become an irksome task if they are required one at a time.

Overall

The printer is a nice simple design – it just works.

The extra tray for small photo paper is great, but why only 6″x4″? – it would be nice to support say 7″x5″ as well, but I suppose this printer isn’t marketed as a photo printer.

The ink subscription service is an interesting offer – you need to think carefully about what you want the printer for. Any photo printing and it becomes a much more tempting proposition.

If I had the printer here for business use I’d stick with having an XL black cart and normal colour one. I’d also turn off Wi-Fi Direct, make sure our router stopped the printer (or its software) talking to the outside world, and have it connected by USB to an office computer.

Our current office printer is an old HP LaserJet 2100N that I was given several years ago – it prints invoices and the odd letter, but not much else. The ENVY 5540 would actually replace it very easily, adding colour and copy capacity.

Summary

An A4 All-in-One printer providing fast office printing, copying and scanning with wireless connectivity. Double sided printing available.

Excellent colour photo printing, but much less so on monochrome. Thirsty on colour ink for photo printing if you don’t choose one of the optional ‘Instant Ink’ subscription offers.

Buy your HP ENVY 5540 at Amazon.com | Buy your HP ENVY 5540 at Amazon.co.uk

Specifications

Type All-in-one
Function – Print
– Copy
– Scan
Print technology Inkjet
Display 2.1″ touchscreen
Wired connectivity USB 2.0
Wireless connectivity Apple AirPrint
App available HP ePrint
Memory card printing n/a
Compatible cartridges Black:
– HP 62
– HP 62 XLColour:
– HP 62 Tri-color
– HP 62 XL Tri-color
Average compatible cartridge yield – Black: 200 pages
– XL Black: 600 pages
Print resolution 4800 x 1200 dpi
Pages per minute (black & white) Up to 12 ppm
Pages per minute (colour) Up to 8 ipm
Paper format – A3
– A4
Double-sided printing Automatic
Other printer features Borderless printing up to A4
Type of scanner Colour flatbed scanner
Scan resolution Up to 1200 dpi
Page format A4
Paper tray capacity 125 sheets
Monthly duty cycle 1,000 pages per month
Automatic document feeder Yes
Printer Colour Black
System requirements – Windows 7, 8.1, 8, 10, XP, Vista
– OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks
Software included – HP Printer Software
– HP Update
– Shop for Supplies Online
– HP Photo Creations
Accessories included – HP 62 black ink cartridge
– HP 62 Tri-color ink cartridge
– Software CD
– Setup instructions
– Power cord
Dimensions 161 x 454 x 410 mm (H x W x D)
Weight 6.83 kg
Manufacturer’s guarantee 1 year
More print related information

For information about other printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main Articles and Reviews page, or use the search box at the top of any page. There are also specific index pages for any articles connected with the following topics:

More of Keith's articles/reviews (Google's picks to match this page)


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  • mikeboulton

    One point of a more general nature. As well as the limited choice on photo paper these machines seem to be set to “letter” as the plain paper option. There is no option in the software to change to A4.

    • Keith Cooper

      I can’t be sure, since the printer went back to HP, but does this depend on the drivers you are using? Our UK supplied machine worked just fine with A4 on my Macs

      • mikeboulton

        Much of the time it is ok esp with pdfs but it shows up when printing my stationary I use labels 4 up on A4 they ofset but I can trick the printer by setting it to print with the laser set as default and select A4 as default but imediatly before pressing go I change the printer then it prints the lables correctly. When I look to see what paper sixe is set it is always letter if the envy is set as default and this cannot be changed. I tried downloading another driver but there doen’t seem to be an alternative.