Category: Printers and Scanners

Product Review–Brother MFC-J4710DW colour multifunction inkjet printer

Introduction

The Brother MFC-J4710DW colour multifunction printer that I am reviewing is based on a new paper-feed concept where the paper is fed through the machine by the long edge and marked across the long edge when the document is printed, which would be described as being “landscape orientation”. The key advantages of this design yield a relatively compact machine compared to most desktop inkjet printers which are much deeper as well as a quicker turnaround when the document is printed.

I am reviewing the MFC-J4710DW which is the top of the line model in this series and this has two paper trays as well as Wi-Fi networking. Lesser models like the MFC-J4510DW have a single paper tray as well as omitting the single-pass duplex automatic document feeder. The cheapest models like the MFC-J4410DW also have a slower print speed for those who don’t value the quick turnaround.

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 2 x A4 USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-jet 2400dpi Optimised book copy, ID copy, duplex copy Super G3 Multi-purpose tray with A3 capability Ethernet, 802.11g/n Wi-Fi
Auto-duplex Single-pass duplex  ADF T.37 Internet fax, scan to email IPv6

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$299

Inks

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$30 600 AUD$37 1200
Cyan AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200
Magenta AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200
Yellow AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200

 

The printer itself

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer - loaded deck view with lengthways document output

Loaded deck view with lengthways document output

As I mentioned before, the Brother MFC-J4710DW prints along the long edge of the A4 sheet of paper. There are two paper trays so you can use different media types or sizes like A4 and A5 or letterhead and regular paper.

Installation and setup

Brother MFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer USB and Ethernet connections

USB and Ethernet connections under scanner bed

Like with the previously reviewed Brother MFC-J6910DW, this printer uses a cavity in the top of the machine under the scanner bed for connecting USB or Ethernet cables. This is different to the common practice of having these connections on the back of the printer and may impede in having them easily accessible if you wish to move the machine between different locations. Of course, the power and telephone connections are kept easily accessible.

For network connectivity, this printer supports Ethernet and 802.11g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. It also is ready for IPv6 networks which are becoming the norm for business networks and will become the norm with the next-generation broadband Internet.

Brother NFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer print cartridges

Print cartridges loaded from the front

Like the other inkjet multifunction printers that Brother offers and the newer HP OfficeJet small-business Inkjet printers, this printer has you load the cartridges via the front of the machine. This is a method which I applaud because you don’t have to lift a lid to change the ink cartridges when you run out of ink and this printer doesn’t require much effort to remove or insert the cartridges. It didn’t require much effort to load the cartridges in the printer which would work well with its useability.

Walk-up functions – can be started from printer’s control surface

I have done a few copying jobs with this printer and have found that it could benefit from a few improvements when it comes to locating the document on the glass platen for copying.

Here, you have to have the markings for where you locate the documents for scanning and copying in a contrasting colour so you can find where to position that document.

As well, the automatic document feeder can appear to be confusing for the unitiatied especially when it comes to locating the document. Here, you have to make sure that it is between the light-grey document guides and this issue may also be of concern with printers that use ultra-compact automatic document feeders. As well, the pages that are finished with are appear to be on top of the pages that are yet to be scanned which can be very confusing when you wish to remove pages that are finished with and / or add more pages to the job during a scan or copy of a large document.

It has copying features like optimised book copy, “copy to A3” and ID copy which are features I would start to expect from most copying devices. The optimised book copy feature worked very well when I was doing some copying of recipes from some cookbooks for someone who was cooking these recipes at another kitchen. It was also very accurate when it came to copying the documents.

The Brother MFC-J4710DW supports Super G3 colour faxing over the regular telephone line and has the expected capabilities of a business fax machine. As well, you can download a free add-on from Brother’s Website to enable it to become an endpoint for T.37 “fax-via-email” services. This includes the ability to forward faxes received via email to regular fax machines that don’t support this technology using the phone line.

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer memory card slots and USB port

Memory card slots and USB walk-up-printing / device-charging port

There is of course memory card slots and a USB port to facilitate “walk-up” printing of images and PDF documents from USB thumbdrives or memory cards. This also has the ability to print from PictBridge-capable cameras, but can work as a charging point for your smartphone, tablet or other gadgets even when the printer is in a quiescent standby mode.  These are hidden behind a black drop-down flap on the front of the printer.

Web-based services

Brother supports integration with the popular Web-hosted storage, photo-sharing and social-networking services with this printer. This setup operates in a manner which I like and I was pleased with it after I tested it with my Facebook account to print 2 images from an album of mine.

Here, you don’t have to enter your login parameters in to the device, which avoids using a small touchscreen keyboard for this effort. Instead, you use the Brother Web Connect page to enrol your printer with the cloud storage, social network or other service you have your account with. Once you log in to your service, a user interface will come up to ask you whether to allow this software and service to have access to your resources and those resources you are entitled to have access to. Then, if you give the go-ahead, you are given a temporary registration number which you key in to your printer on its control surface.

Then, at the printer, you select “Web” then select the service you want to use and touch the “Register/Delete” option. This is where you key in this registration number and give the account a known name and have the option to set a PIN to prevent unauthorised access to the account. With the photo-sharing services and the social networks, you have the ability to print out the pictures or download them to removeable media that is plugged in to the printer. As well, you can scan or upload the pictures to the photo sharing service or social network.

If you use Dropbox, Evernote or a similar service, you also have the ability to turn out hard copy of PDF documents and scan hard copy documents to these services as PDF files. Personally, I would like to see the ability to upload PDFs from removeable media that is plugged in to the printer.

It is one of a few method that I would like to see for linking users’ accounts on Web-based services with devices like printers or consumer-electronics devices in order to benefit from these services. Here, it exploits the reduced user interfaces that these devices typically have such as a numeric keypad or a D-pad by avoiding the need to “pick” letters on a virtual keyboard or be nimble with the numeric keypad for text entry when you sign in to Facebook, Picasa or Dropbox from one of these devices.

As for loading images from a Facebook album, it can take a bit of time to show up the pictures from that album but the pictures were gradually loaded one by one. But once you chose the pictures to print, the print duration was very similar to what I would expect for turning out photos.

Working with mobile devices

As for working with a mobile device, the Brother MFC-J4710DW printer worked properly with the iPrint&Scan mobile app on my Android phone. This was more so when it came to turning out photos or PDFs held on that phone.

There is also native support for Apple’s AirPrint technology as well as Google Cloud Print technology which can go a long way with printing from the iOS and Android devices.

Computer functions

Although I use the latest driver software from Brother’s Web site rather than what was on the CD in the box. I had found that the software had loaded very quickly without noticeable issues on my Windows 8 computer.

The ControlCenter 4 desktop-scan software could benefit from a “continuous scan” option available not as a custom setting but as an option immediately selectable from the scanning screen. HP’s desktop scanning software has the option to add pages offered as a default option and you click “Finish” to have the file completed and saved at the end of a scan job. Here, this would come in handy when you manually scan multi-page documents using the scanner platen due to factors like odd paper sizes, bound material or fragile documents; or pass a large multi-sheet document through the automatic document feeder.

The scanning procedure was very quick and accurate and performed properly even when I was scanning some very old fragile documents to PDF files.

As for the print driver, this software didn’t show any unnecessary dialogue boxes or pop-up messages during the printing procedure.

Print quality and reliability observations

Brother MFC-J410DW next to a regular multifunction inkjet printer

This printer takes up less desk space compared to a conventional inkjet multifunction printer

A 30-page printout on one side of the paper had yielded a quick reliable turnout but the colour may not appear to be as accurate as it should be for the printout. The high-speed turnout was brought on by the ability to work along the long edge of the paper.

A test that I do with printers that have auto-duplex facilities is to have the printer print a “download-to-print” door-hanger campaign document master on both sides of the paper using this function. Here, I look for any shift between the front and the back of the document so as to determine whether the duplexer mechanism is causing any unwanted shifting between the front and back of the document which may concern those of us who are using this function as part of creating odd-shaped desktop publishing projects like bookmarks, luggage tags or door hangers. I had noticed a very slight shift between the back of the document is slightly forward on the long edge compared to the front when I completed this test on this Brother printer.

Landscape document output on the Brother printer compared to the portrait document output on an orthodox  multifunction printer

Landscape document output on the Brother printer compared to the portrait document output on an orthodox multifunction printer

The Brother MFC-J4710DW also had passed the reliable printing test where I had it print a 90-page PDF using auto-duplex. This was important because a lot of people may think that the “long-edge” printing may be too “cutting-edge” to be considered reliable in a first-generation implementation of this technology. It has successfully completed the test without causing any worries.

When I printed out the test photos on the glossy paper, I noticed a strong yellow overtone on the pictures which was noticeable on the white parts of the image. As well, the flesh tones tended to become a bit more red. There also wasn’t much of the sharpness and definition in the images. I had done this test using the “best” settings for the printer driver rather than the normal settings and it may be a driver-specific issue. When it came to turning out images from the Internet using the printer’s control panel, there wasn’t much of that yellow overtone.

I had to use the manual bypass slot at the back of the printer to load the glossy paper sheets and this required me to load each sheet one at a time. Here, I was able to see the “long-edge” printing feature in action when it came to handling the pictures.

The big question that is likely to be asked about the Brother MFC-J4710DW and its peers is whether the “sideways print” / “long-edge print” / landscape print technology is too “cutting-edge” for reliable operation? Personoally, I had found this to be reliable for a first-generation implementation of this setup.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother MFC-J4710DW could benefit from a few extra features and these may be issued with subsequent-generations of this print setup.

One feature that would come a long way would be to allow more than one sheet of paper to be in the manual feed slot for situations where you may be printing many multi-page documents on A3 or special media.

It could also benefit from a document rest that automatically extends and retracts in a similar way to what happens with the HP Envy printers. This can keep the printer having that compact shape that it is known for/

The on-device software could benefit from a few useability improvements. For example, the Web Connect functionality could allow for searching or sorting “other users” on a social network when you are hunting down pictures to print from a “friend’s” album.

The other issue that is of concern not just with this machine but with all of the network-enabled multi-function printers that have fax ability is to support Internet-based time synchronisation. Here, you could just then determine what time zone you are in and the printer sets its clock for you automatically like what happens with most desktop and mobile computer operating systems. Similarly, a lot of these printers could benefit from increased memory or flash memory in order to allow for efficient copy, fax and “walk-up” printing functionality as well as being able to maintain its own network print queue.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Brother MFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printerI would recommend that the Brother MFC-J4710DW or its peers be considered as an option when you are considering a general-purpose desktop multifunction printer for the small business, professional’s office or a home office. This is especially where space is at a premium or a large desktop multifunction printer doesn’t look the part in your office space’s aesthetics.

The cheaper models may work well if you are on a budget and don’t place value on printing speed or simply have a high-end laser printer serving your high-speed printing needs.

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Product Review–HP Envy 120 Multifunction Inkjet Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the HP Envy 120 multifunction inkjet printer which is the latest in HP’s “Envy” range of designer slimline multifunction printers. This unit has the same pedigree as the HP Envy 100 printer which I previously reviewed, where it implements a low-profile auto-duplex inkjet print mechanism in a very stylish cabinet reminiscent of home audio and video equipment.

But this model has had a few changes like face-up scanning with a clear glass lid for previewing your originals as well as a swing-open panel for the USB socket and memory card slots. This is alongside the idea of having it finished in an “all-black” housing.

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Ink-jet Resolution HP ePrint receive, Scan-to-email 802.11g/n WPS Wi-Fi wireless
Auto-duplex Face-side-up scanning with preview window UPnP Printing

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$329

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$25 200 AUD$48 600
Colour AUD$30 165 AUD$56 440

 

The printer itself

Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer printing a document

The Envy 120 printer when it is printing

Like the rest of the HP Envy printer series, this model conveys the kind of operation you would expect from high-end audio and video equipment like the classic Bang & Olufsen Beosystem 5000 Series hi-fi systems. For example, when a document is being printed, the front panel swings up and a small bar comes out in anticipation of that printed document. Then, when you collect the document, the front panel swings down.

Similarly, when you need to load paper in to the printer, you touch the “eject” button on the front and the paper drawer comes out in a manner not dissimilar to a CD player’s disc drawer. Then, when you have loaded the paper, you either touch the “eject” button or push the drawer slightly to close the paper drawer.

Walk-up functions

The printer is able to copy documents placed in the scanner area or print from memory cards or USB memory sticks using the touchscreen control panel. As well, you can use the HP ePrintCenter functionality to print out a wide range of documents ranging from notepaper to newspapers or comics.

It also works with the HP ePrint “email-to-print” function but also has a “scan-to-email” function which is infact an HP ePrintCenter app. This isn’t dependent on the machine knowing a POP3 or IMAP4 email service but through HP’s ePrint service. When you first set this feature up, you would need to enter your email address in to the printer’s control panel whereupon it would send you a PIN number via email. You enter these details in to the printer and can have them stored there. Subsequently, when the printer shows the “sender and recipient” screen, you can touch the “Modify Recipient” button to determine a different recipient. The documents can be sent as a JPEG or single-page PDF.

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer card reader and USB port

The USB port (where you can charge smartphones) and the memory card slots behind a swing-down door

The USB socket that is used for walk-up printing from  and walk-up scanning to USB flash drives and similar devices also has been optimised as a device-charging socket. If you connect a smartphone, external battery pack or similar gadget to this socket, it will supply power to the device in order to charge it or avoid compromising the device’s battery runtime. This even happens when the printer is turned off using the on-off button on the front, This socket, along with the SD card slot that serves the same purpose of walk-up printing and scanning is hidden behind a hinged door on the front of the Envy printer.

Mobile-device functions

The HP Envy 120 works properly with the iOS and Android mobile devices using AirPrint (iOS only) or the HP ePrint app for both platforms. This app can work from JPEGs, PDFs or text files and can allow the printer to print both sides for multipage documents.

It does also support UPnP-Print for those devices that are willing to exploit this standard for network-based driver-free printing. At the moment, we don’t see any consumer devices on the market that are willing to exploit the UPnP-Print function but this could be relevant to cameras or interactive-TV applications.

Computer functions

I loaded the latest full-function driver software from HP’s Website and this loaded and installed very promptly without issues.

There is a problem that if the PC comes out of “hibernate mode”, it takes a bit too long to discover the printer on the network for scan-to-PC operation and shows up an error message as if the printer wasn’t there. But it can scan to the computer properly.

For printing, the print driver was very responsive and didn’t show any extra unnecessary information through the print process.

Print quality

The HP Envy 120 was able to turn out documents with a similar quality to other consumer inkjet printers. But when it comes to photos, it can lose a bit of the definition compared to the original Envy 100. Here, it also yields darker images with reduced contrast. Of course, this wouldn’t be a match with the Photosmart printers which yield higher photo quality for HP’s consumer inkjet printers.

When the Envy 120 prints on both sides of a page, there is a slight shift between the front and the back of the page. This can be annoying if you are using this feature for desktop-publishing especially with luggage labels and similar odd-shaped documents.

Scanning

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer see-through scanner lid

See-through scanner lid

The scanner has the scan head integrated in to the lid so as to provide a “preview” window for how you scan or copy the documents or photos. This can work well for snapshots and single-page documents but can be difficult to use when it comes to working with bound material such as copying out recipes from a cookbook to avoid damaging that cookbook in the kitchen.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

One weakness across the HP Envy printers and the slimline printing mechanism is that they use two ink cartridges – one black cartridge and one “three-colour” cartridge. This can make these printers expensive to run especially if you consider regular use out of them because if you run out of one colour in the colour cartridge, you have to replace that cartridge.

Here, HP could improve on the low-profile auto-duplex print mechanism by using separate cartridges for each colour. It can also allow HP to use photo-grade inks that are used with the Photosmart series of inkjet printers, thus giving the Envy series deluxe credentials in the output as well as the looks.

The other weakness with this model is the scanner design not being able to work with bound material very well due to the it working “face-side-up”. This could be improved with a lid that uses a pantograph-style or “Z-style” hinge so it can lie flat on the bound material during scanning thus achieving best results.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Like the HP Envy 100, I would see this printer work more as a secondary printer to keep in a living area where you value elegance and aesthetics. This also would appeal to households who want a multifunction printer but use it on an ad-hoc basis and also value the aesthetics. For example, this could exist in a family room, living room or main hallway while a workhorse printer could be mainly used in the home office for the big runs.

It wouldn’t impress people who place value on the price of the printer or the cost to keep it running especially as a primary workhorse machine.

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The Badgy card printer–a tool to turn out custom ID cards and short-run plastic cards

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Badgy

Badgy Card Printer – Design & Print id badges on plastic pvc cards

My Comments

A common question for anyone in business is what tools do exist for printing out plastic cards in short runs whether with the same design or populated with particular data such as a person’s details for an ID or membership card. Situations may include turning out membership or ID cards on an “as-required, while-you-wait” basis such as for late attendees at a conference or new library members, or making a test print of a card design to see how it looks.

There is a machine that can do this in colour in the form of the Badgy dye-sublimation card printer. This unit, which connects to a regular computer via USB, can print up cards using a ribbon that has a 100-card yield and can work with thin or thick cards. It can work with third-party cards such as magstripe and smart cards, but can’t encode any of the machine-readable cards itself.

It is based around you downloading templates with pre-designed art from the site and using the supplied software to turn out the cards. Of course, this unit would use a Windows printer driver so you could press your desktop-publishing software in to printing to these cards as long as they have the ability to print to the standard “credit-card” size, which is supplied by the driver software as a defined paper size. This could include the ability to use the software to turn out ID cards using the software’s mail-merging abilities or turn out short-run “for approval” card designs before you commit to a large card-print run.

The fact that it doesn’t encode the magstripe or smart cards shouldn’t phase you as long as you have a separate machine which encodes these cards. This wouldn’t be an issue with, for example, a hotel-based conference or event application where you may turn out ID or participant cards which are to be used as guest-room keycards. In this case, the workflow would require the staff member to transfer the card between the Badgy machine and the card encoder to create a useable custom-printed keycard which is the event ID card.

The cost per card would typically be AUD$0.88 per thin card or AUD$0.96 per thick card. But to develop this concept further, it could be feasible to work with other cheaper methods like ink-jet printing for these short-run applications appealing to small businesses. At least this machine is for plastic cards like the colour laser or high-volume inkjet printer is for brochures and stationery.

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Inkjet printers that aren’t your father’s old station wagon

Over this past model-year, some manufacturers have been revealing desktop inkjet printers that aren’t the typical design for this class of home or small-business printer. The typical design is where a print head moves back and forwards over the narrow edge of an A4 / Letter document page or a scanner head faces upwards scanning the document which is placed on the glass platen face-down. Similarly this is where output and input trays jut out from each side of the inkjet printer.

At the moment, I am highlighting four printers that have been examples of these newer printers and what they can offer, rather than machines that have advanced-functionality software.

HP OfficeJet Pro X Series

This business desktop inkjet printer implements a full-width printhead to print the document. Here, this allows the document to be printed very quickly rather than having the a small printhead move back and forwards over the page to be printed. This kind of mechanism is similar to how older dot-matrix impact “line printers”, or the thermal printer setups used in the old fax machines, receipt printing or some Brother and Pentax mobile printers marked what they were printing line by line.

It has allowed for the documents to be turned out very quickly in so much that the OfficeJet Pro X Series earned its place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest desktop printer by turning out 500 sheets in 7 minutes 19.2 seconds using the fastest available colour mode. Other advantages included high colour accuracy which would yield high-quality documents due to the head not having to move across the document line by line.

Even the documents emerge from this printer in a similar manner to a laser printer. That is at the top of the machine, “easy-over” with the printed side of a single-side document or the odd pages of a double-side document facing down.

Here, the printer has been positioned as a competitor to the colour laser and LED printers that would satisfy a business’s colour-based “workhorse” printing needs. This is one such printer that could end up as a short-run “printing press” for a small-business’s promotional printing needs.

Brother MFC-J4710DW series

This new multifunction printer series from Brother uses the conventional printhead but has the long edge of the standard A4 / Letter document paper being fed in the the machine. It has allowed for a compact chassis for a conventional-feed inkjet printer. Even when the printer isn’t in action, the unit looks neat and trim and doesn’t take up much desktop space.

Similarly, the printer is able to print the large sheets like A3, Ledger or Tabloid by marking across the narrow edge just by the user inserting the narrow edge of the large sheet through the front manual-feed slot.

HP Envy 120 Multifunction printer

Based on the HP Envy 100 low-profile multifunction printer previously reviewed on HomeNetworking01.info, this printer uses that same ultra-slim chassis with a low-profile mechanism that is capable of printing both sides of a document. Here, it has the same aesthetics as a home video recorder made from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s, thus  being acceptable in the main lounge area. This is augmented with the way these printers close up when they aren’t printing anything but raise the front panel and expose a ledge when they are turning out a document.

But this printer uses a scanner that has its scan head integrated in to the see-through lid with documents laid out “sunny-side up” with the image facing you. It will allow you to make sure your photos are laid out in a manner that will have them be scanned properly. This is a different approach to designing the multifunction printer but it may yield issues when working with bound materials.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer copying a document

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile all-in-one printer

The low-profile printer-mechanism design that had taken place for the HP Envy printers had been extended to the HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer which was reviewed on HomeNetworking01.info. In the same compact chassis that you would expect for a battery-operated mobile printer, you were able a unit that integrated a sheet-feed scanner as well as the printer, allowing you to scan documents in to your laptop computer or make a quick copy of an A4 document.

Conclusion

What I see of these printers is that HP and Brother are working towards printer designs that break from the norm and provide quicker output, increased document-handling flexibility or an ability to improve the device’s industrial design.

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HP now issues the fastest small-business desktop inkjet printer

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Hewlett-Packard

HP Officejet Pro X Printers with HP PageWide Technology (Product Site)

My Comments

HP have joined Brother in raising the bar for wet-ink-based printing. What Brother have done is to develop a compact inkjet multifunction printer that works the printhead along the long edge of the paper rather than the short edge to allow for this compact design.

But HP have taken things differently by using a stationary “full-width” printhead in their latest run of desktop business inkjet printers known as the OfficeJet Pro X. Here, this avoids the need for a small printhead to move back and forth to print across the page. This has allowed these printers to achieve print speeds of around 70 pages per minute for the premium models in the series and 55 pages per minute for the standard models in the series.

The stationary “full-width” printhead is a technology used in some of the digital printing presses used by an increasing number of print shops to turn out short-order process-colour printing jobs for small businesses and community organisations at cost-effective prices.  As well as this high-speed feature that HP promotes, there is the obvious reduction in mechanical parts needed in the printer, which gives other benefits like increased reliability and reduced operating noise.

As for costs, these printers sell at prices that are comparable to a lot of the high-end desktop colour laser printers like the Brother HL-4150CDN and they have a similar duty cycle to these machines. There may be still some further questions to raise such as the cost of the ink cartridges for these machines.

On the other hand, HP could even take this technology further with other printer classes such as using the stationary inkjet printhead in areas dominated by the thermal-paper printing method such as receipt and label printers. It may also be interesting to see whether Epson or Brother may integrate the stationary-printhead technology with their piezoelectric “pump-method” ink-delivery methods as another competing high-speed inkjet system.

Of course, who knows what kind of game-changing technologies would appear in many of the different product classes.

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Should I buy a mobile printer for my laptop?

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer copying a document

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile all-in-one printer

A device that you may consider purchasing for your portable computer would be a mobile printer.

What are these mobile printers

A mobile printer, like the Canon PiXMA iP100 single-function printer or the HP OfficeJet 150 all-in-one that I reviewed, is typically a compact inkjet or thermal printer that is able to run on internal batteries or AC power or, in some cases, car DC power through an external power supply. These typically are the size of a shoebox and connect to the host computer through a USB wired or Bluetooth wireless connection. In some cases, some of the thermal variants are the same size as a stick of wood.

These printers typically use either a dual-cartridge colour inkjet or a direct thermal printing system which can be costly to run if you use them frequently.

As for features. the current inkjet models have ended up with various forms of functionality that allows them to be of service to gadgets like digital cameras without the need of a computer. For example, they will have PictBridge printing ability so you can print from your digital camera using the camera’s control surface. A few of the printers like the HP OfficeJet 150 have standalone “print from removable media” ability so you can print from a USB memory key or SD card.

Some of the printers that have the ability to scan documents will typically have the ability to scan them to the computer or, increasingly, to removable media like an SD card.

Why do they exist

If you wish to use a printer at your customer’s or business partner’s site, you need to make sure that your laptop computer has the printer drivers for that printer. This problem hasn’t been rectified with a universal graphics-capable printer driver that can work with all printers yet.

As well, a lot of places which offer public-access printers can charge a princely sum for you to use these printers and a lot of us don’t want to impose on a client’s resources for our hard-copy needs.

Who would need to use these printers

Canon PIXMA IP-100 mobile printer

Canon PiXMA iP-100 mobile printer

If you use a computer on the road but always need to be able to turn out hard copy like invoices, receipts or contract documents that you give to your customer, these printers would suit your needs.

A printer with PictBridge or “print from removable media” abilities may come in handy if you need to turn out a draft print of a photo you took with your digital camera. An example of this may include photographing something you need to highlight to your customer and you want the large print so they can see it easily.

The scanning feature would come in handy for anyone who wants to take a hard-copy document to electronic form. Some applications may include sending a receipt or work-consent form that was signed by the customer via email to the office for filing.

Similarly, scanning a fuel-station’s till receipt to electronic form could be par for the course when it comes to keeping track of work expenses using your bookkeeping software and these printers could make it easier to do this chore “there and then” when you fill up your vehicle for example. This can then avoid the situation where you have a glove box full of fuel receipts yet to be “booked in” to your accounting system.

What you should know about using these printers

The mobile printers are best used as secondary or auxiliary printers that are intended for on-road use rather than as the main printer for your computing life. The reasons I would give for this is that they typically use consumables that are more expensive than regular desktop printers.

For example, the inkjet printers use a two-cartridge colour-printing system where you have to replace the colour cartridge if you run out of one of the colours. The thermal printers may require you to use thermal paper that comes as A4 cut sheets rather than as the classic “fax roll”.

Similarly these printers would take a longer time to print or scan the document than a regular desktop printer due to the use of smaller low-powered motors optimised for battery-powered use. The also can continuously feed a small number of sheets of paper which may make them unsuitable for turning out large documents.

At the time of writing, these printers don’t have any support for network-driven document printing so they wouldn’t be able to work properly with the typical smartphone or tablet that uses a mobile operating system.

Conclusion

The mobile printers are a fantastic computer accessory for your laptop computer but they don’t work well as a primary printer device when you are at home, at the office or at the shop. Rather they are best suited for printing small documents at the client’s site or in the hotel room.

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Product Review–HP OfficeJet 150 Mobile Multifunction Printer

Introduction

Previously, I had written an article about the HP OfficeJet 150 as being the first mobile battery-operated multifunction printer that could also scan and copy when it was launched in May. Prior to that, if you wanted a device that did this, you may have bought the Canon BJC-80 alongside a scanning-head accessory for that printer. Then you had to swap the printhead and the scanning head every time you wanted to scan a document.

There are some workflows where you have to prepare and print a document like a quote, then this document has to be signed or annotated before it is emailed back to the office. This work may have to be done while you are on the road and it wouldn’t be feasible to do this on the road in a simplified manner before the arrival of this machine.

As well, this unit’s scanner would allow you to file documents electronically on your laptop or to a USB memory key or SD memory card. It also can become an “on-the-road” convenience document copier.

I have now been given the chance to review this printer and assess it as a mobile computing accessory for those of you who work on the road.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer closed up

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer ready for operation

 

 

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Ink-jet Resolution Bluetooth
Sheet-fed

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$449

Optional Extras:

Car power adaptor (Purchase from HP store): USD$79.99

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black 25.40 420 30.58 480
Colour 36.57 330 47.58 560
Photo 34.16 130 photos

 

The printer itself

The HP OfficeJet 150, like the previously-reviewed Canon PIXMA mobile printer is the size of a small “shoebox-style” cassette recorder. It is able to run from AC power using the supplied power adaptor or from internal rechargeable batteries. As well, one can also purchase from HP the “OfficeJet Mobile Car Adaptor” so you can run the printer off your vehicle’s 12V cigar-lighter socket, something I would consider very useful for those of you whose office is your truck or van.

It would take the equivalent of four to five hours to charge the printer’s battery from empty to fully charged, which means that it could be ready to go after you wake up if you charge it overnight.

User Interface and Walk-up functions

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer touchscreen control panel

The touchscreen control panel used as the printer’s control surface

The HP OfficeJet 150 uses a small LCD touchscreen user interface for managing setup and walk-up functions. I find that this screen may be seen as being too small especially when you use the dialog boxes associated with the various operations. As well, I would rather that HP do implement the OLED technology for this printer’s display rather than the common LCD display.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer copying a document

It can even work as a personal copier

The copy / scan mechanism is a sheet-fed system similar to the typical fax machine and requires you to have the document with the text facing downwards and the top of the document towards the back of the machine.

The OfficeJet 150 was able to print out an image from my Canon PowerShot GIX camera properly and smoothly using the PictBridge setup. This is good if you want a “quick print” of one or more images that you just took with your digital camera.

You can also print from and scan to SDHC memory cards or USB memory keys using the control panel. The SD card slot is very difficult to find but is located on the bottom of left edge of the printer, up the back while the USB socket for this kind of printing is located on the back, close to the USB host socket which you use to connect this printer to the computer.

The advantage of this is that you could scan all those receipts that are in your van’s glove box or those signed documents on that clipboard to a memory key or SD card, then transfer them out to your main computer when you get back to your office. Similarly, you could turn out the preview images from your digital camera to show your customer, again without needing to bring out your laptop.

Computer functions

The HP OfficeJet 150 can connects to a computer via USB or Bluetooth but it cannot use the Bluetooth option for anything beyond printing. Of course, this printer can work with regular computer based on Windows or MacOS X operating environments.

It can also print from an Android device if you load that device with Printshare. Other than that, there is very little support for mobile operating environments.

The software installation experience was very quick although I downloaded the software from the HP site rather than using the supplied CD. This is so I can be sure I am running the latest drivers for this printer. It is infact also going to be the method one will have to use when loading the software on to any of the newer ultraportable computers that aren’t equipped with an optical drive.

Useability

During initial setup, the printheads didn’t move to loading position instantly. Instead I had to turn the printer off and on to cause this to happen. As for installing the ink cartridges, you placed them in to their respective holders then closed the lids on these holders to cause them to be in the correct position. This didn’t require much force.

When you scan or copy receipts, dockets and till-rolls, you will need to have the receipt in the middle of the scanning head and manually push the receipt in to the machine as you start the scan or copy process. You will need to “ignore” the dialogs that come up on the touchscreen about the document not being loaded properly by tapping “Ignore”. This is a task that I find that most users are likely to do as part of organising their expense receipts for tax or reimbursement purposes such as those fuel receipts that pile up in the glove box; or managing those payment-terminal or cash-register journal reports as part of your accounting and tax needs.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer SDHC card slot

The SDHC card slot is located on the left side of the printer, on the bottom edge and towards the back

One thing that confused me initially was the location of the SD card slot that is used for “print-from-card” and “scan-to-card” applications. It was initially hard to locate this until I looked up the supplied product documentation which mentioned that the slot was just about on the bottom edge of the printer’s left had side.

This SD card slot would present itself as an extra disk drive in Windows or MacOS X. It is a bonus if you use an ultraportable computer like the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook that doesn’t have an SD card slot. You also then benefit from an extra memory card slot which can come in handy for jobs like “upsizing” a MicroSD card by moving data to a larger-capacity card.

Printing speed and quality

The HP OfficeJet 150 had turned out clear crisp text at the typical inkjet printing speed when it was printing regular documents. This didn’t matter if it was connected via USB or Bluetooth. The scanning and copying speed was also very similar to what you would expect for most of the smaller fax machines.

I have done the usual colour-photo printing test using the supplied cartridges rather than the photo cartridges. This is because most of us may find it harder to locate the photo cartridge at most stationers or won’t be bothered to buy and install that photo cartridge every time we want to print a photo. I assessed it against the previously-reviewed Canon PiXMA iP-100 mobile printer and noticed it yielded colours that were more saturated yet the image lost out on the contrast. As well this printer also yielded a relatively darker output of the same images compared to the Canon.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer back view with battery and USB sockets

Back view with stick-like battery, USB host socket for memory keys and digital cameras and USB computer socket to connect to a laptop computer

It is also worth noting that the photo printing tasks tended to ask more of the printer’s battery life. Of course, the battery life that is rated in pages for these printers assumes that you turn the printer on for the task at hand, complete the task then turn it off before packing it away.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

A limitation that I have noticed is that the HP OfficeJet 150 can have trouble printing an A4 photo when connected via Bluetooth. Here, it could “cut off” the printout very early and cause the host computer to resend the image for printing.

As for receipt / till-roll scanning, the printer could have a second guide from the right in order to simplify this process or the scanner’s feed system can be optimised on the left or right to keep thermal-printed receipts from drifting while scanning or copying. Similarly there could be a “copy and scan” mode which scans a document to an SD card or USB memory key while copying it, which can come in handy when you have to turn out a customer copy while creating an electronic file copy of that work order.

HP and other could move towards a 4-cartridge ink system for these mobile printers so that they are less costly to run when it comes to ink cartridges. This is a system that is commonly used with most regular-sized inkjet printers and has been considered more cost-effective due to the need only to replace only the empty cartridges.

This printer could be able to support Wi-Fi printing through the use of an optional Wi-Fi connectivity kit. Here this could work via an existing Wi-Fi network or use Wi-Fi Direct for standalone mobile printing. This option would make it work with mobile operating environments like Apple’s iOS with its AirPrint function; as well as the ePrint Home & Biz apps available for iOS and Android.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend that people who are needing to print, copy and / or scan hardcopy documents but want to avoid carrying many different accessories for each task buy the HP OfficeJet 150 mobile printer.

As well I would recommend that those of us who use this printer as part of working out of the back of a vehicle like a van; or work from a small powerboat purchase the optional car adaptor. Here, you can charge the printer’s battery up while under way or avoid the worry about compromising battery life while printing or scanning near the vehicle.

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What’s next for the all-in-one printer–now to be a wireless hotspot

Articles

HP’s new all-in-one printer adds more to that ‘all’, turns into a WiFi hotspot

HP printer can act as Wi-Fi hot spot | CNet

My comments

The network-capable multifunction printer has come to a point in the level of functionality that it can offer. Now HP has taken this further by making the Wi-Fi network functionality work as a wireless access point or wireless client in one of their latest SOHO / small-business laser multifunction printers.

Here, the wireless segment created by this printer can serve up to 9 users as well as providing for CD-free driver installation for most operating systems. Of course, like all HP consumer and SOHO / small-business network-enabled printer devices, this printer offers the expected ePrint “email-to-print” ability for smartphone and tablet users and AirPrint for iOS-based Apple mobile devices.

The printer can work as an elementary low-traffic wireless router to a static-IP, dynamic-IP or PPPoE Internet service that comes via an Ethernet cable. It also has home/SOHO WPA2-Personal security with the shared password, which may be of benefit for small businesses who rent office space such as a serviced office and have wired Internet access as part of the deal.

But I would like to see the printer able also to work as an access point for those of you who may work from a garage or barn and share network and Internet facilities with the main house or have to use this feature as an infill access point for a dark spot in the network’s wireless coverage. Similarly, it could benefit from anther Ethernet socket on the back for use with other wired-Ethernet devices like network-attached storage.

Of course, the idea of “ganging” the Ethernet socket and the Wi-Fi circuitry in a network-capable device like a printer that offers Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity to make it be network infrastructure has impressed me. It then allows these functions still to be of use even if just one is implemented for connection to a host network.

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Achieving a failover printer setup in your business

Brother HL-2240D compact monochrome laser printer

Brother HL-2240D compact monochrome laser printer – an example of a workflow printer

I have come across situations with small offices such as clinics who run one or more dedicated laser printers that turns out receipts, invoices and other documents as part of the customer-facing business workflow. Some offices may run the printers also for some back-office requirements like preparing reports or balance sheets for that workstation.

But there is the situation where the printer can break down, usually with a mechanical failure like frequent paper jamming. This can happen more frequently as a machine ages and is worked hard in a busy office. It is analogous to that situation most of us experience when a car gets to that point in its life where it frequently lives at the mechanic’s workshop and drills a hole in your pocket because it is always breaking down.

This situation can impair the business’s workflow especially as one has to work out how to rectify a paper jam or, in some cases, reset the machine. As well, no woman would want to ruin their beautifully-done fingernails knocking them on the machine’s internals while removing jammed up paper.

In these situations, it is a good idea to set up a failover printing arrangement where you have other printers that come in to play if the workstation’s primary machine fails. This is easier to achieve if all of the printers accessible to the office or reception area are linked to the network.

For example, you could use a multifunction for this purpose even though each workstation computer has a dedicated laser printer like the Brother HL-2240D or Dell 1130n. The multifunction printer, which is often expected to serve as the main copier and fax machine for the organisation, could be a machine like the Brother MFC-8370DN or HP LaserJet M1536dnf for a monochrome variety or a Brother MFC-9460CDN or HP LaserJet Pro Color M475 Series for a colour variety. Even one of the high-end business inkjets like the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 could do the job just as well.

Some environments that have two or more workstations may prefer to have one workflow printer per workstation. Here, it would be preferable to connect the printers via the network rather than directly to the workstation computers. Here this can allow the other workflow printer to be used as a failover measure.

HP LaserJet M1536dnf monochrome laser multifunction printer

HP LaserJet M1536dnf monochrome laser multifunction printer – an example of a multifunction expected to be a small business’s copier and fax

But what you would have to do is to set up the workstations to use the printer that is local to them as well as this main multifunction printer or other workflow printer. This may be as simple as adding the driver set for the main printer to the computers or it may also require the line-of-business software to be set up to allow the use of two or more printers.

As far as default printers are concerned, you would have to set the primary dedicated printer as the default machine, then have the users select the main multifunction printer as a secondary printer whenever their primary printer fails. This can be done as part of ordering the print job in most software or going to the Printers option in the operating system and setting the multifunction printer as the default while the single-function workflow printer is out of action.

If you run a server-driven printing environment, it may be worth looking at options that allow failover printing so that print jobs that come from one workstation appear at particular printers in an order of availability.

Once you look at this option for setting up multiple printers in your office or reception area, you could then be sure of an arrangement where a printer failure doesn’t impede on your business workflow or affect how your business is perceived by the people your business benefits.

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Product Review–Brother HL-6180DW monochrome laser printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother HL-6180DW monochrome laser printer which is Brother’s latest entry in to the “office workhorse” laser-printer market.

The printer that I am reviewing here is the top-of-the-line model which has a page throughput of 48 pages per minute, a high-capacity paper tray and wireless networking. There are cheaper variants that have a lesser-capacity paper tray and work more slowly, with the models in this group having different connectivity options having wireless networking, Ethernet networking only or USB direct-connect only. All of them are driven by the same heavy-duty monochrome laser print engine and can print on both sides of the page.

Brother HL-6180DW monochrome network laser printer

Print Paper Trays Connections
B/W 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Laser xerographic Multi-purpose tray Ethernet, 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless
Auto-duplex  Optional high-capacity A4 paper tray Wi-Fi Direct, IPv6 ready

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$549

Optional Extras:

Optional high-capacity paper tray: AUD$180

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity Extra-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages Price
Black AUD$115.20 3000 AUD$183.90 8000 AUD$200.40 12000

 

Servicing and Other Parts (Laser Printers)

Price Pages
Drum Kit AUD$171.82 30000

The printer itself

The Brother HL-6180DW is able to connect to a wired Ethernet or 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless network. For that matter, it can support Wi-Fi Direct where it effectively becomes its own access point as well as AirPrint driver-free printing for the iOS platform. It still works with Brother’s iPrint&Scan Android app, being able to print Web pages, PDFs and photos from Android or iOS devices. It is also future-proof by being equipped for IPv6 in a dual-stack manner.

As a monochrome laser printer, this printer and the rest of the series are pitched as a “heavy-duty” take of the HL-2240D and similar units that I previously reviewed. These used a separately-replaceable toner and drum setup with the toner cartridge being “nested” in the drum unit that is loaded in to the front of the printer. This still has the advantage of the drum unit being separately replaceable which is more relevant to equipment that is expected to do a lot of work.

But the difference between these units and the other compact units is that the print engines on these models are optimised for heavy-duty printing. Here, you notice the difference with behaviour like the printer sounding like it is doing a normal print run even when working on both sides of the paper.

Printer setup experience

Hardware setup

Brother HL-6180DN laser printer control panel detail

Control panel

Something that can confuse some users is the front-door latch being confusingly part of the output retainer tab. This may be of concern when you are setting up the printer and removing all the packaging material or if you have to ask someone who isn’t familiar with the machine to change the toner or rectify a paper jam.

But once I opened the machine’s front service door, it didn’t take long to get the printer up and ready for use. The drum unit, with the toner cartridge. dropped in to the slot without any risk of user confusion, The paper was also easy to load up with a drawer that didn’t feel tacky.

Software setup

As is my practice when reviewing printers, I install the latest driver set from the manufacturer’s Web site rather than working from the CD that came with the equipment. This is to be sure I am not running a driver set that has bugs or isn’t tuned for best performance with current needs because of the desire amongst manufacturers to get the product to market very quickly.

During the installation phase, the driver software discovered the printer very quickly and was able to have the printer ready to go within a few minutes. Like other driver programs used with Brother printers, it still has the same easy-to-use user interface where there is a list of selected options for the print job.

Printer useability and page quality

The Brother HL-6180DW laser printer doesn’t take long to start turning out the print jobs. Here, it took only a second from when I clicked the “Print” button on the computer for it to come to life and have the first page of the document coming out of the output bay. There wasn’t any unnecessary curling or buckling with the paper after a print run because the printer’s fuser unit was effectively at temperature when the job came in. Even the auto-duplex cycle was very quick with it taking around three seconds to print both sides of the page.

There is a confidential-print mode where you can set up a passcode that you enter in to the printer to claim the print job. But, like the other single-function printers with this feature, it requires the user to enter the passcode using the “pick’n’choose” method with the arrow keys and this can cause users to be impatient with this printer.

Brother HL-6180DN laser printer replaceable parts

Separately-replaceable toner cartridge and drum unit that nest in to each other

Like all of the Brother laser printers, the HL-6180DW uses a separately-replaceable toner cartridge and drum unit which slot in to the front of the unit. Here, like the compact HL-2240D and others in that series, this unit requires the drum unit to be removed from the printer before you can replace the toner cartridge. But it is still easy to detach and attach the toner cartridge and drum unit by you pressing a distinct green tab to separate these pieces.

The auto-duplex function was exact with the registration when printing A4. This would be important for desktop publishing, especially if you want to turn out tent cards, door hangers and the like.

When you print colour photos using this printer, the 1200dpi image was brighter than the 600dpi image, thus was also close to what a colour image would look like on those old black-and-white TVs. The printer also turned out some very sharp text from material printed out from the computer.

The Brother HL-6180 laser printer was very reliable with turning out a large auto-duplex print job, thus not being prone to jam up. In fact if it runs out of paper, you don’t need to do anything further to get the job going beyond just putting the paper in the drawer.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother HL-6180DW and others in this series could benefit from a few useability improvements here. For example, a distinctly-coloured latch release for the front service door could be beneficial here because this is hard to find amongst the document retainer flap on the top of the printer. Here, the confusion can occur if a user had to open up the printer to replace the toner or rectify a paper jam.

As well, there is the absence of a “fuel-gauge” on the display to show how much toner is available. Here, this can be useful if you were to determine whether to always run high-capacity cartridges or know if you were to order extra toner after a large print job.

Similarly the printer could benefit from a USB port to permit walk-up printing of PDF files or use of a USB keypad to improve the useability of the printer’s “secure print” function. This could be delivered as a product differentiator for the high-end models. As well, the HL-5470DW could be able to work with the extra-high-capacity toner cartridge, which could be handy if you were to avoid having to spend heaps of money on toner.

As well, the end-of-job cool-down noise could be reduced by, perhaps, gradually slowing down the fan’s speed through the cooling cycle or running the fan very fast for a few minutes just at the end of a print job.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

The Brother HL-6180DW laser printer is one I would recommend for use as an office’s main laser printer. This would be very important in paper-intense environments like schools or medical and legal practices or for those of us who are doing plenty of monochrome desktop publishing. If you could afford to, you may be at a point where you can use the high-capacity or extra-high-capacity toner cartridges for most of the machine’s working life and use the standard-capacity toner cartridge as a short-term measure if the organisation was short on cash.

If you want to save money but want a heavy-duty laser printer, I would recommend that you could go for the Brother HL-5470DW if you value Wi-Fi connectivity or the HL-5450DN if you are just connecting to an Ethernet or HomePlug network segment. Here, you don’t have the ability to load up a large quantity of paper or use the extra-capacity toner cartridge. But, as I have said before, I would recommend using the high-capacity toner cartridges due to the low cost-per-page and the long time between replacing them.

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