The HP Deskjet 3630 will divide opinions. Deduct 2 stars if you don’t go for Instant Ink: normal cartridges have high per-page costs.
- It’s really, really cheap
- Decent quality and speed
- Instant Ink offers genuine savings
- Looks and feels flimsy
- Shop-bought cartridges are expensive
- Basic paper handling
Printers don’t come much cheaper than this. The HP Deskjet 3630 has an RRP of £40 including VAT and Amazon’s currently doing it for £35.
We know what you’re thinking: cheap printers mean expensive ink. Does that apply here? The answer is yes, but also no, because this is an Instant Ink printer. That means you can pay a monthly subscription for ink and cut the cost of cartridges dramatically. But should you consider the Deskjet 3630 for anything other than occasional use? Does Instant Ink represent good value for money? Let’s find out.
Setup and specifications
You don’t get luxuries such as touchscreens or automatic double sided printing at this price, and the plastic feels awfully flimsy, especially the output tray. But you can forgive the look and feel, because HP is giving you an awful lot of features for forty quid.
The Deskjet can print, copy and scan, and in addition to the ubiquitous USB connection it supports HP ePrint, Wi-Fi networks and Wi-Fi Direct. That latter option means you can print wirelessly from devices including smartphones and tablets even if you don’t have a wireless router. One thing you don’t get is very much ink: the 3630 ships with starter cartridges, so you’ll need to replace those after around 100 pages.
The lack of a touch screen means you have to configure Wi-Fi via HP’s own app (on the supplied disc or free from 123.hp.com), which is simple enough: it’s just a matter of telling the app which network the printer should use. The app is available for Macs as well as Windows, and it downloads the necessary drivers and utility software once the connection has been established.
There’s a 60-sheet input tray and a 25-sheet output tray with support for normal paper (up to 90gsm), HP card and HP photo paper (300gsm); if you’re printing on photo paper the prints are borderless, and on A4 the margins are a tiny 3mm. Print quality is up to 1200 x 1200, with an effective 4800 x 1200 if you’re printing on specific HP photo papers and your source is 1200dpi. The scanner is 1200dpi, and photocopying delivers 600 x 300 dpi.
The Deskjet 3630 is clearly designed for people or businesses with modest printing needs: the recommended volume is 250 sheets per month.
Performance and running costs
As you’d expect from a low cost printer the Deskjet isn’t the fastest inkjet around. Official ISO speeds are 8.5ppm in black and 6ppm colour, although draft mode speeds things up to 20ppm for black. You can expect the first page out in around 14 seconds. There’s a Quiet Mode that makes the printer slower and marginally quieter, but we didn’t find the normal mode to be particularly noisy.
The Deskjet 3630 takes HP 302 black and HP 302 tri-colour cartridges, which cost £11.99 and £13.99 respectively. The black cartridge delivers 190 pages and the colour 165, so you’re paying 6.3p per page for black and 8.5p per page for colour. Like other tri-colour cartridges you’ll have to replace the whole cartridge when one of the colours runs out.
The running costs are pretty awful with standard cartridges, but the printer also supports HP’s XL cartridges, which are £19.99 for black and £22.00 for colour. XL cartridges deliver 480 pages of black and 330 colour, which works out as 4.2p per page and 6.7p respectively. That’s still quite pricey for black but it’s not bad for colour.
There’s another option, and that’s called Instant Ink. HP’s Instant Ink is a subscription service based on usage, and it costs £1.99 per month for up to 50 pages, £3.49 for 100 pages and £7.99 for 300 pages. HP reckons that’ll save you between £78 and £516 a year in ink costs compared to buying standard cartridges as and when you need them.
Will it? Instant Ink does bring the per-page costs down to under 4p on the cheapest plan and 2.6p on the £7.99 plan, but of course you’re only saving money if you use the whole page allowance. You can roll over unused pages in much the same way you roll over unused mobile phone minutes, subject to limits: you can roll over 50 pages on the cheapest plan, rising to 100 and 300 on the more expensive plans. If you’re sure you’ll use the allowance then it’s clearly better value than buying cartridges whenever they run out.
It’s cheap to buy, easy to install, simple to use and reasonably cheap to run if you subscribe to HP’s Instant Ink service. While it doesn’t match the specs of more expensive models such as HP’s own Envy it covers the basics perfectly well. Phone and tablet support is a bonus.
It looks like a big Tupperware bowl and feels very flimsy. Without Instant Ink the running costs are relatively high thanks to fairly expensive low-yield cartridges. It’s clearly designed for home and very small office use; don’t consider it if you intend to print hundreds of pages per month.
The Deskjet 3630 is a surprisingly good printer for such a low price. It’s reasonably quiet, reasonably quick, offers decent print quality, connects to phones and tablets and has a reasonably good scanner and copier too. Its running costs are high if you buy your cartridges in shops, but if you go for Instant Ink the per-page costs plummet, especially for colour printing. It isn’t pretty, its paper handling is basic and it would probably explode if you shouted “boo!” at it, but it’s an attractive option for buyers on a budget who don’t need to print too much too often.