In our speed tests, the HP Officejet 6500 Wireless printed plain text at a speed of 11.7 pages per minute (ppm), and its colour output was as fast as 3.2ppm - faster than average, though far short of HP's advertised engine speeds of 32ppm for monochrome and 31 ppm for graphics.

Photos looked smooth and detailed. Some colours fell on the dark side of the natural range, and flesh tones often appeared orangey. Scans happened slowly and lacked some crispness, but the HP Officejet 6500 Wireless's colour balance was generally good.

The HP Officejet 6500 Wireless control panel looks busy, but grouping buttons by function prevents confusion. A two-line, 16-character monochrome LCD shows menu options and messages. Media slots take MMC/SD, xD, and MS/Duomedia cards; absent is any PictBridge port. The bundled HP Solutions Center and Photosmart Essentials applications add to the feature set. Photosmart Essentials offers photo-editing and organising tools. The Solutions Center's help section includes an extensive library of how-to and troubleshooting animations.

Features of the HP Officejet 6500 Wireless unit we looked at included a 250-sheet input tray, a 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), and an automatic duplexer. The input tray can handle a variety of media, from 4-by-6-inch photo paper to legal-size sheets. The 150-sheet output tray (on the lid of the input tray) supports legal paper - although the extensions to support the added length are a bit flimsy. All the other components are sturdy and well-constructed. Ethernet, USB, and wireless connectors are standard. The Canon Pixma MX700 has dual 150-sheet input trays, but it lacks duplexing or wireless.

HP sells replacement ink cartridges for the HP Officejet 6500 Wireless in standard and high-yield sizes (the printer ships with the standard size). All are keyed by colour to their slots. The prices for the standard-cartridge inks are average, but the high-yield versions are impressively cheap.

OUR VERDICT

The HP Officejet 6500 Wireless strikes an impressive balance of performance, ease of use, and features at an aggressive price. It's robust enough to support a small office with moderate output needs, and it's easy to install and use, with excellent software support. A cheaper version is available, without the wireless capabilities.