What is HP+? Should I activate it?

January 22, 2024  MIN READ

A Definitive Guide to HP Plus

HP Plus (commonly referred to as HP+) is a cloud-based way to use an HP inkjet or laser printer. Introduced in 2021, printers enabled for HP+ promise additional features and benefits that aren’t available with standard HP printers.

HP+ printers are also the first printers to incorporate permanent DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology.

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of HP+ and its purported benefits (such as free HP Instant Ink and HP Smart Advance), to help you decide if you want an HP+ printer.

Key Takeaways

  • HP+ is a cloud-based printing solution available in select HP printers, offering added features and benefits.
  • HP+ printers come with free offers such as up to three months of free ink or up to six months of toner, and an extra year of warranty.
  • If you buy an HP+ laser printer, you can’t use it without signing up for HP+. With an HP+ inkjet, you can choose whether or not to sign up.
  • Here’s the catch: Sign up for HP+ and an irreversible firmware update means your printer will only work with more expensive HP printer cartridges, even if you cancel HP+.

Don’t buy an HP+ printer unless you understand what HP+ is

HP+ is a new cloud-based printing solution available in select HP printers. It promises added features and benefits, together with free offers that — at first glance — look too good to refuse.

To get HP+ you have to buy an HP+-enabled printer. And why wouldn’t you when it comes with up to three month’s worth of free ink or up to six months of toner and an extra year of warranty?

Not so fast. While HP+ has its fans, it’s not for everyone.

You don’t have to read through too many consumer reviews to find people who wish they hadn’t signed up for the HP+ programme. Stuck with a printer they no longer want, they opt to return it or cut their losses and go with another brand.

hp plus 6 month instant ink offer

With free ink for six months and an extra year of customer support, an HP+ printer might sound appealing. But make sure you know all the requirements. If you want to play by your own rules, a standard HP printer or a printer from any other company is a better option.

HP says you want HP+ because you get advanced security features, and the ability to print from anywhere. You will also get proactive notifications and automatic software updates to keep your printer running smoothly. And with some HP+ printers, you also get free ink or toner — which is what probably caught your eye in the first place.

All of this sounds harmless enough, and maybe you will also save some money...but wait. There’s a lot more you need to know about the programme before you will know if it’s right for you.

How do I know if I have an HP+ printer?

At the time of writing, the following HP+ printers are sold in New Zealand:

  • HP DeskJet 2720e

  • HP DeskJet 4120e

  • HP ENVY 6020e, 6420e

  • HP ENVY Inspire 7221e, 7921e

  • HP LaserJet M110we

  • HP LaserJet M209dwe, MFP M234dwe, MFP M234sdwe

  • HP LaserJet MFP 3101fdwe

  • HP LaserJet Pro 3001dwe

  • HP OfficeJet Pro 9012e, 9020e

As you may have noticed from this list, you can tell an HP+ eligible printer by the product code — all have the letter “e” at the end. And while this is what is available here and now, we expect more HP+ printers to become available locally over time.

When setting up any of the inkjet printers in the above list (the ENVY, DeskJet and OfficeJet Pro printers), you can choose to skip HP+ activation. However, you still have to open an HP account, but you can wait to sign up for HP+ later, should you wish.

If you have an HP+ laser printer, however, you must sign up for HP+ during setup. Your printer won't work otherwise.

Sign up for HP+ and there’s no going back

HP says that with HP+ you can “change or cancel anytime”. But that’s not true - there’s more to it than that.

You can’t simply test HP+ to see if you like it, thinking you can always cancel later.

hp plus upgrade

If you buy an HP+ inkjet printer, you don’t have to sign up for HP+. While the free offers might be persuasive, you should know what exactly you are agreeing to if you do sign up.

When you sign up to HP+ a firmware update is automatically applied to your printer. HP tech support confirms there is, as yet, no way to reverse the update, even if you cancel HP+.

This means that you are permanently bound by the HP+ terms and conditions and cannot revert to using your printer as you had before. You are stuck with an HP+ printer for life (the printer’s life, that is, not yours).

Because there’s no going back, choosing whether or not to get an HP+ printer and sign up for the service is an important decision, and one you shouldn’t rush to without knowing all the facts.

Buyer Beware (Read the fine print)

So when you sign up for HP+ what do you agree to, exactly?

With HP+ you agree that you will only use genuine HP cartridges (you have to — the firmware update blocks your printer from using cheaper third-party ink or toner). You also agree to open an HP account, share your data with HP, and keep your printer online. What’s more, you will have to have a stable Internet connection (some features will not work if your printer is offline).

If you purchase an HP+ laser printer (such as the M110we), you have no choice but to sign up for HP+.

It’s a different story if you bought an HP+ inkjet printer like the HP ENVY 6020e, however. You still have to open an HP account, but you can ignore the prompts and choose not to sign up for HP+.

If you decide not to sign up for HP+, you won’t get the extra year of warranty and the free ink (if it’s on offer), but you can still use third-party ink if it pleases you, and you can still use Instant Ink if you want.

That’s right. To complicate things, HP also offers a subscription ink and toner delivery service (Instant Ink) and promotes its benefits as part of HP+. But you don’t need an HP+ printer, and you don’t have to sign up to HP+ to get Instant Ink. All you need is an Instant-Ink-enabled printer to use the service.

The free Instant Ink offer isn’t available for all HP+ printers. When offered, the deal varies depending on whether the HP+ printer is an inkjet (currently, you get up to three months of free Instant Ink) or a laser (up to six months free). The offer is also limited to a maximum of 700 pages per month (for inkjets) or 1,500 pages a month (for lasers).

hp plus not so green

HP appears to go the extra mile to redress environmental concerns with HP+. But subscription cartridges are airfreighted on-demand from Singapore to New Zealand users

If you want to know more about Instant Ink, we have put together an informative article with all the pros and cons that will help you decide if HP Instant Ink will work for you. 

What is HP Smart? And do I need it?

As if things weren’t already complicated enough, when we talk about HP+ we also need to talk about the HP Smart app and HP Smart Advance.

HP Smart is an app available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS that allows you to easily set up and manage your HP printer, as well as print and scan from your phone or tablet.

When you set up your HP printer, you’ll be directed to use the HP Smart app because it makes the job a whole lot easier. The app works with standard HP printers as well — you can use the basic version of HP Smart for setup, and continue to use the basic features thereafter.

If you have an HP+ printer and you use HP Smart for setup, you’ll be prompted to sign up for HP+ (which, as we’ve mentioned, you have to do if you have an HP+ laser printer but don’t have to do if you have an HP+ inkjet).

What is HP Smart Advance?

If you have an HP+ printer and you are logged in to your HP account, the HP Smart app provides you with additional functionality (called HP Smart Advance) that is not available to other users of the app (anyone with a standard HP printer).

HP+ printer owners (including, so far as we can tell, HP+ inkjet owners who didn’t sign up for HP+) have free access to Smart Advance for two years, after which a monthly fee applies. If you are wondering what the monthly fee might be, you’ve got company — HP does not currently publicise subscription pricing for Smart Advance.

hp plus smart app

HP printer owners can use the HP Smart app to control and monitor their printers, but HP+ users get access to Smart Advance features. One such feature is Print Anywhere which allows HP+ users to remotely send print jobs and check the status of their printer.

What do you get with HP Smart Advance? Features include:

  • Print Anywhere which allows HP+ users to remotely send print jobs and check the status of their printer.
  • Private Pickup which enables HP+ users to control when a print job prints, thereby protecting sensitive information.
  • Advanced scanning features that include the ability to recognise and separate multiple items into individual pages automatically, and enhanced text conversion that allows saving scanned files as searchable PDFs or editable text files. HP+ users also get access to scanning presets for easy scanning of documents such as business cards, receipts, or ID cards, and the option to use the printer’s automatic document feeder remotely for hands-free scanning of multipage documents.
  • Automated notifications when printer supplies are running low so that you can order replacements before running out.
  • Enhanced security features include secure browsing, malware protection, and automatic firmware updates. HP+ users can protect their printer against unwanted access and printouts by using a password-protected (secured) Wi-Fi connection and can create a custom password to add extra security to their Wi-Fi Direct connections. If their printer supports HP ePrint, connections can be made more secure with a custom ePrint password.

But wait. Let’s talk about those automatic firmware updates. Yes, they’re good to get when an urgent security patch is required, but not so good when the update is just making sure you can’t use anything but HP ink and toner. That’s a feature HP calls “Dynamic Security”.

Dynamic Security - What it means for HP printer owners

HP is not the only printer company with software that checks the printer cartridge chip to see if you are using a genuine ink or toner cartridge or a third-party one. But it is taking a more aggressive approach in trying to make sure you only buy HP printer cartridges.

HP says it uses dynamic security measures to “protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our intellectual property”. That’s right, Dynamic Security is designed to work for HP but not necessarily the consumer. HP has no concern for the rights of its paying customers.

hp dynamic security

HP firmware updates can render a printer unusable if you attempt to use third-party ink or toner. With standard printers, it’s possible to remove the firmware update. With HP+ printers, there is no way to remove the update and you must always use genuine HP printer cartridges, even if you cancel HP+.

HP printers with Dynamic Security (which includes many of the printers currently sold in New Zealand) are intended to work only with cartridges that have new or reused HP chips or electronic circuitry. HP can block these printers from working with cartridges using non-HP chips or modified or non-HP electronic circuitry. That is, these printers won’t print or copy if they are using third-party printer cartridges, including remanufactured cartridges.

Dynamic Security can also be added through a software update, after which the third-party ink or toner you are using will no longer work with your printer. While the simple answer is to turn off automatic firmware updates, there are ways to redress the issue such as restoring your printer factory default settings.

With HP+, the firmware update is irreversible. HP+ locks in the use of genuine HP cartridges for the printer’s lifetime, even if you cancel HP+. If you want to use more affordable third-party cartridges or remanufactured HP cartridges, you can’t.

Is HP+ worth it?

Now that you know more about HP+, you can decide if HP+ is worth it to you. You can carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of HP+ before making your decision.

If convenience and an easy-to-use printing solution are important to you, and you want the extra warranty and free ink that HP+ offers, then you may decide the benefits are worth it. You don’t mind the restrictions that HP imposes, and you’d rather pay for expensive HP printer cartridges.

HP persists in enforcing its dynamic security practices, despite the PR nightmare. It has already paid out substantial sums to settle lawsuits concerning dynamic security. And it faces ongoing consumer litigation, with consumers seeking compensation for deceptive practices, unfair competition, and redress for the impact of its self-serving monopolistic practices. 

For consumers, HP+ promises convenience but it comes at a steep price. When deciding which printer to buy, consider carefully whether or not an HP printer deserves to be on your list. If you prefer more flexibility and want the freedom to use less expensive third-party or remanufactured cartridges, your best option lies with a printer company that is not engaging in open warfare with its customers.

About the Author Jeremy Templer

Our gadget guy. Jeremy’s love for new technology dates back to his first computer, a Mac SE with 2MB RAM and a 20MB hard disk. A former editor of Australian MacUser, he has been writing about the internet, consumer technology and software for over 30 years. He has owned a variety of Canon, Epson, Brother and HP inkjet and laser printers over this time. While he still owns an HP Colour LaserJet MFP M277dw, he has his eyes on an OKI C650dn.

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