HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One review

HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One

HP's Photosmart range of printers were a revelation when they first arrived at the beginning of this decade. Taking all the features any self-respecting digital enthusiast could hanker after, and wrapping them up in an elegant package topped off with a deliciously crisp touchscreen interface, the Photosmarts were fairly pricey, yet undeniably appealing to those used to a cold brutal world peopled by breezeblock printing machinery. You can buy the HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One here.

The models from the Envy range are the natural successors to the Photosmarts. And while the likes of the 5640 lack the novelty of those original models, you're still getting hardware that's highly functional but beautifully presented - and yet available for a price that makes it affordable to more than just the enthusiasts. It can print, scan and copy, although, this being aimed more at the serious home user, no fax facilities are provided. See also: best multifunction printers of 2015.

HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One review: good design

This sub-£70 zone can be a graveyard for design values, with ugly blocky designs the most regular residents. But the Envy is having none of this. We shouldn't perhaps overstate its looks, but the subtle curves and bowline frontage blends with a sleek black exterior that sees the 5640 effortlessly dominate its surroundings. And that's before we peruse such design twists as the exquisite curved door. Pop this open, and a memory card drive emerges from the darkness. (One small point, though - there's no support for USB drives, which will be an annoyance to some.)

There's substance to the form too, and the HP's construction values are high. The main paper tray feels suitably meaty - no flimsy plastic holder is deemed sufficient here - and can hold a fairly sizeable 125 sheets of paper - more than adequate for the 5640's target audience. In addition, a 15-sheet photo tray takes care of the smaller media. We're big fans of this dual-tray design, and those who move constantly between standard printing and photo-work will appreciate the convenience of having a second input. The rugged construction means the HP sucks in the paper and bowls it out again with not a hint of a ruffle or a jam. The output tray - carrying up to 25 sheets - isn't perhaps the most expansive. Overall, though, it's a big thumbs up for the layout of the 5640.

Of course, one of the keys to that streamlined design is, well, the lack of keys. A touchscreen interface takes you through the various options. Admittedly, it's neither the most responsive or the easiest to follow of the touchscreens that we've seen. Some of the options are represented by tiny icons, so you won't always know exactly what's going on, which is rather throwing away one of the huge advantages of an inviting touchscreen interface. See also: 8 best budget printers 2015 UK.

HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One review: enjoyable interface

But even with these faults, the interface remains rather more enjoyable to use than the unrewarding button control panels employed by lesser lights in the budget printing firmament. It's just that, with a little extra effort, this could have been stunning rather than merely adequate. The now defunct Lexmark inkjets remain the gold standard in touchscreen interfaces, and it's a pity that, several years on, the likes of HP have yet to match (let alone surpass) them.

Connectivity is ample. Besides the obligatory USB 2.0 interface, the main draw will be the 802.11b/g/n wireless connection. We had no problems connecting to this, and you can even use it to hook up to HP for extra features and printouts. The Printouts section is particularly good for young families, giving them a vast range of film-related colouring pictures to churn out (who can resist the prospect of colouring in Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, for example?) as well as some more functional items, such as sheets of graph paper or crossword grids. You can also print to the HP using a smartphone or tablet, and this can be achieved even if you don't have a Wi-Fi network up and running. This isn't a business model, and that explains the lack of ethernet.

HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One review: quality prints and scans

Ultimately, though, the 5640's excellence (or not) will be defined by its ability to print and scan to a high level. The scanner doesn't have a particularly flexible lid, so there will be better models for those who need to scan large items (like books). The scanning software is also a touch cumbersome compared to, for example, the straightforward Epson and Canon interfaces.

Those latter software front-ends tend to have a greater range of features available, as well. The 5640 is reasonably swift at scanning, turning out 300dpi output in just 12 seconds. The images looked good, although we weren't convinced that every detail was rendered perfectly, and the colour depth isn't as impressive as we might like.

Printing is rather better. Text can be run off at a rate of 12.5ppm in the Draft mode, and 10.1ppm in Normal. Even the Draft mode is of good quality - if a little light - while the Normal mode is pleasingly fast while offering sufficient quality for most text-work. This being an inkjet, you're never going to get laser-quality crispness from text characters, but in Normal mode, the output is dark and reasonably clean. The 0.7ppm Best mode is there for an extra lick of clarity. There is an auto-duplex mode, and this drops performance by around 42% - not a bad percentage for a sub-£100 inkjet, although not perhaps one sufficiently high to have you resorting to the paper-saving auto-duplex mode on a regular basis.

The graphics output is nicely rendered, and happily free of artefacts, although you don't see the same rainbow of colours bursting out as on Canon prints - HP is still a short distance behind its rival when it comes to colour photos. Speed drops to 8.2ppm for Draft, and a very solid 6.7ppm for Normal. See also: 11 best inkjet and gel printers of 2015.

HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One review: economical running costs

Rejecting the modern trend for having multiple colour tanks, the Envy has gone back to one unified colour cartridge. The cost of this is surprisingly economical when the XL version is chosen, working out at 6p for a page of colour - this is pretty good for a sub-£70 model, although the likes of the Canon Pixma MG5550 works out at an even cheaper 4.8p a page. At 3p a page for black, though, it's slightly more expensive than the average of 2.5-2.6p. You can buy the HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One here.

HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One: Specs

  • Colour inkjet multifunction
  • Max print resolution 4800x1200dpi
  • Quoted print speed B=12ppm C=8ppm
  • Actual print speed B=12.5ppm C=8.2ppm
  • 1200x1200dpi optical scanner
  • copier
  • Supported interface types USB 2.0, wi-fi 802.11b/g/n
  • Memory card drive
  • Mobile device support
  • 6.75cm Touchscreen display
  • 125-sheet main input
  • 15-sheet photo tray
  • Auto duplex
  • Dimensions (wxdxh) 454x410x161mm
  • Weight 6.8kg
  • Ink cost B=£18
  • C=£25
  • Print life (pages) B=600
  • C=415
  • 1-year warranty
  • Colour inkjet multifunction
  • Max print resolution 4800x1200dpi
  • Quoted print speed B=12ppm C=8ppm
  • Actual print speed B=12.5ppm C=8.2ppm
  • 1200x1200dpi optical scanner
  • copier
  • Supported interface types USB 2.0, wi-fi 802.11b/g/n
  • Memory card drive
  • Mobile device support
  • 6.75cm Touchscreen display
  • 125-sheet main input
  • 15-sheet photo tray
  • Auto duplex
  • Dimensions (wxdxh) 454x410x161mm
  • Weight 6.8kg
  • Ink cost B=£18
  • C=£25
  • Print life (pages) B=600
  • C=415
  • 1-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

The 5640 looks brilliant, and has some very nice features. Its performance, though, doesn't quite match up to the exterior. Compared to the cheaper Canons, its output isn't quite as glorious, and its running costs marginally higher. It's a beautifully turned-out device, but it falls short of inspiring true envy.