HP Instant Ink vs. HP Plus vs. HP Smart: Which Ink Program Saves You the Most?
PC Magazine|October 2021
When you buy and install an HP printer, the setup routine may ask you to make some choices depending on the printer model.
M. DAVID STONE

The most notable is whether to sign up for the HP Instant Ink plan and—for printers that support HP Plus—whether to install it as an HP Plus device. After the installation, you may also have to contend with multiple choices of productivity tools and drivers, most of which aren’t self-explanatory. It’s easy to get confused, especially since (as an HP rep told me) the company is in the middle of a large-scale transition period as it rolls out and scales HP Plus. Some details are still changing, and some rough spots are almost inevitable, as we’ve found when testing some HP Plus printers recently. We’ll explain what you need to know to make your setup go a little more smoothly.

ALL THE MANY PIECES

Because HP’s various plans and tools are interrelated, it’s helpful to know a little about each of them before getting into details. So we’ll start with a quick overview:

HP Instant Ink is an ink subscription plan.

HP Plus (sometimes dubbed HP+) is not an ink subscription plan, but if you sign up for it, you can take advantage of Instant Ink for six months without charge, then choose whether to continue it after the free period. You’ll also get other benefits, including a warranty extension and extra functionality. For laser printers, any given model that supports HP Plus, such as the HP LaserJet MFP M234dwe, must be installed as an HP Plus printer. For supported inkjets, including the HP Envy 6055e and HP OfficeJet 8035e, you get to choose during installation whether to set the printer up with HP Plus or not.

HP Smart has two components for any given device. The first is an app that runs on your Windows PC, Mac, or Android or iOS device and must be installed to use the printer. A second component lives online and integrates so seamlessly that you can’t always tell when you’re working in the cloud.

As for drivers, if your inkjet printer supports HP Plus but you choose not to set it up for the program, the Windows setup routine will install a standard driver with the port selection set to match whichever connection you’re using. But HP Smart also functions as a driver. And if you opt into HP Plus when setting your inkjet up or are installing a LaserJet with HP Plus, HP Smart will also show up as a driver in Windows’ Printers and Scanners list when you choose Settings > Devices > Printers & Scanners. The HP Smart app also offers more options for some features than the standard drivers and is HP’s recommended choice.

Smart Advance is a collection of productivity tools that HP says is now available for any printer that supports HP Plus, whether or not you install the printer to take advantage of HP Plus.

A CLOSER LOOK: HP INSTANT INK

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