My first printer was an HP of some sort. I don't recall the model, as I got it back when I had Windows 95B.
When it died, after a few years, I purchased an Epson CX6600 All-In-One, and have loved it. In its day, reviewers claimed that it was the most ink efficient of all the models out there, and that is the main reason that I bought it. It has performed well, and is very reliable. I have always been able to get drivers I need, from Windows Millennium Edition, through Windows XP, and Windows Vista, which I am still running on the main computer tied to the printer.
When it goes, I will do my research, but at this point I feel some loyalty to Epson for putting out such a great product!
I agree with your assessment of current HP printer technology completely. Its driver software of the last few years is pure bloat-ware. All we need is a driver for the printer, not all this Web printing, management console 'junk.'
My favorite printer pick is the HP 1300 series, particularly the 1320N. Solid, fast laser printer.
Least favorite is any HP inkjet, particularly the all-in-ones. Try to find a Windows 2008 x64 driver for one of those for a network print server.
Where HP used to be the automatic choice, I too have started buying other brands.
The HP9500MFP Color Printer.
Now I know why they call it the MFP, It's not for Multifunction Printer but is a 'Mother F#$King Printer.'
Want a printer that is slow, jams all the time, etc.? This is the printer for you.
Favorite Printer: It's my work-horse printer, the HP LaserJet 6P.
When you install a new HP printer, very rarely can you get JUST the driver. You have to run an installation package that installs so many applications and services on your system that you can see a noticeable decrease in performance. If you are already on a slower system then you will see resources decrease.
Any time I install an HP printer I run a sweep of Hijack This and remove all of the entries for HP. HPPortmonitor, HPZip, HPwebServices, The list goes up to around twelve services that you do not have the option to choose if you want or not.
TSK, TSK HP.