Product Review–HP LaserJet M1536dnf mono laser multifunction printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the HP LaserJet Pro M1536dnf monochrome laser multifunction printer which is another printer in this class that provides most of today’s expected features to the professional user. It is based on the print engine that HP has implemented in the LaserJet Pro P1560 direct-connect printer that I previously reviewed and the network-connectable duplex-capable LaserJet Pro P1600 printer.

HP LaserJet M1536dnf monochrome laser multifunction printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
B/W Colour B/W B/W 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Laser
xerographic
1200 dpi Resolution ID copy Super G3 Multi-purpose tray Ethernet
Auto-duplex Automatic Document Feeder ePrint email-to-print receive IPv6 ready

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$548.00

Toner

Standard
Price Pages
Black AUD$116.88 2100

Other Costs

The HP ePrint “print-to-email” service is free of charge. This includes maintaining your printer’s email address and the documents that you receive through that address.

The printer itself

The HP LaserJet Pro M1536 supports the functionality that is desirable for a multifunction laser printer targeted at the small business or professional, like duplex printing, proper fax functionality for regular fax services as well as connectivity to an Ethernet network.

Typically the fact that a printer doesn’t support Wi-Fi wireless networking may count against it as far as network functionality, especially “no-new-wires” networking, goes for this market space. But the Ethernet connectivity allows this printer to work with a HomePlug network or Wi-Fi network as long as you use one of those “homeplugs” or a Wi-Fi client bridge. As well, the LaserJet, like most current-model small-business printers that connect to a network, is able to work with an IPv6 network, thus making it future-proof for next-generation networks.

Setup

This printer was easy to set up without any need for convoluted procedures, which is an advantage of HP’s integrated cartridge design used in all of the small-business LaserJets. This included connecting it to a typical small network via Ethernet. There is the option to manually configure the network settings for difficult networks.HP LaserJet M1536 monochrome laser multifunction printer control panel - ePrint enabled

Walk-up functions

The HP LaserJet M1536dnf can work as a convenience photocopier or a fax machine and, like most of the machines of this type, it supports “ID copy” functionality for copying documents like driving licences. As well it can digitally enlarge or reduce documents with this function being accessed from one button. Similarly, the user can do “double-sided” copying as long as they flip the original document over.

Like the HP LaserJet Pro CM1415 that I previously reviewed, this LaserJet printer uses flash memory rather than RAM to store received and pending faxes. This provides for a “power-safe” operating environment where if the power fails or fluctuates, you don’t lose received faxes that are to be printed or faxes yet to be transmitted. It also works well with the private-receive function which uses this memory as a “fax vault” where the machine receives faxes but doesn’t print these faxes until you enter a PIN code to release them. This is a feature that I would consider important if you work with confidential material in a premises that has uncontrolled access to the office technology.

Like most of the current-model HP multifunction printers and an increasing number of Canon high-end multifunction printers, this printer offers a “quick forms” feature where the printer can turn out notepaper, graph paper, music staves or similar ruled paper at the touch of a button. This is only available through the Setup menus  You still have the problem of a limited choice of ruled paper. Examples of these limitations include 10 staves for portrait-format music paper (which affects writing for certain music ensembles like vocal and piano or quartets) as well as the inability to print certain “quick forms” like notepaper or checklists on both sides.

This printer supports ePrint “email-to-print” functionality but only for receiving print jobs sent to its email address. This function could also benefit from the same “private receive” function that is available for faxes.

Computer functions

The HP LaserJet M1536dnf’s driver software had loaded very quickly in to my machine and there weren’t any particular problems associated with running it. Even practices like choosing the duplex-printing style are made easier through a “bound-document” graphic which shows how the document will come out after it is printed.

This HP LaserJet doesn’t support control-panel-initiated scan-to-computer functionality unlike most of its peers, so it didn’t need to run a scan monitor program. Other than that, the scanner is a colour unit that is able to do what is expected for this class of equipment. Of course, HP has provided scanning software that allows for “scan-to-PDF”, a function that Microsoft could provide within the Windows operating system.

Useability

The display on this unit is a large backlit LCD display with easy-to-read text. Most of the walk-up functions are a button-press away and the text and icons on the control panel are easy to see.

This laser printer, like the other HP LaserJet printers that I have reviewed, uses an integrated print-cartridge system which has the toner supply and drum unit in one user-replaceable cartridge. This makes it easier to replace the cartridges through the machine’s working life and there isn’t any need to think of having to replace a drum kit. The only limitation with this setup is that the printer isn’t as economical to run as a printer that has a separately-replaceable drum unit like the Brother laser printers.

Here, the user just has to open two lids and pull out the used cartridge and drop in the new cartridge. There isn’t any need to push extra hard to make sure the cartridge is in place.

Like a lot of these monochrome laser printers, there isn’t a way of knowing at a glance where you stand as far as your toner supply goes. Here, you have to go to the printer’s embedded Web server to check how much toner is left or print out a “Supplies Status” report to obtain this same data. There is a light on the printer’s control panel that comes on when you are really low on toner.

Print quality

The documents had come out of the LaserJet M1536dnf with the typical crispness of a laser printer’s output. This is even so with output that has pictures and text.

I had printed a photo through this printer and the picture doesn’t have a strong a contrast as the same picture printed on the previously-reviewed Brother mono laser printers.

As far as print speed is concerned, the HP LaserJet was able to achieve the required speed for a monochrome laser printer. There is still the time penalty associated with duplex printing that is common with most printers that have this feature but this penalty is around twice as long as printing a single side. It is also worth noting that whether the printer has just been used recently or not, the first page of a job is out in 6 seconds with the print mechanism working at proper operating temperature.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

This printer, like the other HP LaserJets could benefit from the availability of optional extra-cost high-capacity print cartridges. This can allow for a business to use cheaper standard cartridges through normal times yet cater for peak printing times like larger projects.

I would also like to see a “fuel-gauge” indicator on the LCD display that indicates how much toner is available in the print cartridge, so you can know whether you need to buy more toner after those large printing project.

The fax subsystem could benefit from T.37 / T.38 standards-based Internet-driven faxing and a “scan-to-email” function in order to cater for IP-based telephony infrastructure. The ePrint email-to-print, which is an HP-driven concept, does provide some of this functionality but it could offer more.

As well, the flash-memory that is used for the unit’s fax functionality could be used as the printer’s memory this allowing for improved fail-safe printing. It can be augmented through the use of SD cards as a way of allowing the user to expand the printer’s memory as they see fit.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

HP LaserJet M1536dnf monochrome laser multifunction printerThe HP LaserJet M1536dnf is one of these laser printers that would fit in a very tight competitive market, a unit that would please the professional who needs to turn out many of the documents and reports as part of their business life.

The only major problem for someone who wants these desireable features from an HP LaserJet multifunction laser printer is the price of the unit compared to that of competing models that print the same way offered by other manufacturers like Brother. If a person places value on the HP ePrint service such as to print from smartphones; power-safe flash memory for faxes; a well-built machine or a simple-to-replace toner cartridge, they could go for this printer where as most other people could just opt for the Brother MFC-7460DN for their network-connected duplex-printing monochrome laser multifunction.

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Product Review–HP OfficeJet Pro 8500a Plus multifunction inkjet printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500a Plus, which is the high-end model in Hewlett-Packard’s business inkjet printers. It is snapping at the heels of the previously reviewed LaserJet Pro CM1415 and its peers as a general-office colour workhorse printer and I will explain further why it is doing so.

HP OfficeJet Pro 8500a Plus multifunction inkjet printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Ink-jet Resolution ID Copy, Optimised book copy, Super G3 Large-capacity A4 tray Ethernet, 802.11n WPA2 WPS wireless
Auto-duplex Duplex automatic document feeder HP ePrint email-to-print IPv6 ready

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price AUD$449

Optional Extras:

Optional high-capacity paper tray

There is no need to pay any additional fees to use the HP ePrint service.

Inks

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black $45.00 1000 $62.00 2200
Cyan supplied only $43.00 1400
Magenta supplied only $43.00 1400
Yellow supplied only $43.00 1400

The printer itself

HP OfficeJet Pro 8500a Plus printer - ink cartridges up front

Front-loading ink cartridges

This high-end printer has the ink cartridges installed up front in a similar manner to the Brother inkjet printers. It therefore avoids the need for users to lift a heavy lid when they need to install new cartridges in this unit; and there isn’t much effort needed to make sure the cartridges are in place; both of which I also find very important when this printer is used by older users or those with limited dexterity.  As well, this arrange also allows HP to use cartridges that have a page yield similar to that of their LaserJet printers.

HP OfficeJet Pro 8500a Plus control panel

Touchscreen control panel

Like the LaserJet CM1415 printer that I previously reviewed, this printer uses a touchscreen as its control panel. This provides for access to the common functions as well as the HP ePrint Apps; and can provide for a more intuitive usage experience. As well, it uses this display to show animations concerning maintenance and repair procedures like ink replacement, paper loading or paper-jam rectification when these procedures needed to be done thus reducing the need to have others train new users in these procedures.

It connects to the network via Ethernet or 802.11n WPA2 WPS Wi-Fi and has automatic wireless override if it is connected to an Ethernet or HomePlug network. A feature that I am pleased about and is becoming very relevant nowadays is that the OfficeJet can now work properly on an IPv6 network as well as a current-generation IPv4 network.

Walk-up functions

This unit has a very capable copy function that would satisfy most business requirements including ID-copy functionality where you can copy both sides of a small document like an ID card on to one side of one sheet of paper; a function I had first come across with the LaserJet CM1415.

But the feature that most impressed me with this printer was the quick duplex-copy function where it could copy both sides of a document on to both sides of a sheet of paper. I ran this printer on a duplex-copy “race” against my regular HP Photosmart Premium Fax C309a and found that this can copy both sides of an A4 page much quicker than the Photosmart could. This is more so due to the printer being pitched at the small office where throughput is considered very important.

This printer works with the HP ePrint cloud-based printing functions and is able to perform as the “network printing appliance of the office”. This functionality was able to work as expected especially with “email-to-print” and the print apps.

Computer functions

The driver installation can be a pain especially if a software desktop firewall takes too long to respond but, after I suspended the McAfee firewall software, it installed very quickly.

After that, it worked as expected for printing via the network. Windows 7 users will benefit from the tightly-integrated “Device Stage” presentation which has the “branded look” but without the excess baggage of the typical device driver / print monitor package.

You can scan to the PC but can also set the printer to scan directly to a folder anywhere on the network, which can be useful if you don’t want to have a computer running a troublesome scan monitor program in order to provide control-panel-started “scan-to-computer” abilities. You still have to use the HP software or the printer’s Web interface to determine the path where you want scanned-document images to end up at and this will work with the standard network file-transfer protocols.

Print Quality

As I have said before, this printer is intended to “snap at the heels” of an economy colour laser multifunction printer. This is demonstrated more so with documents that look just as sharp as those emerging from the HP Colour LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw which is a “general office” colour laser printer that I am measuring this up against. It doesn’t have the “laser shine” that is part of a laser printer’s output and may not be considered “up to snuff” for some business users.

The auto-duplex print mechanism is very accurate with the registration but still requires the blank top and bottom margins for it to work properly. Thankfully these are slightly smaller than on previous auto-duplex HP printers that I have reviewed before.

When this printer prints photos, the images look sharp and very defined but the colours don’t have the saturation that one would expect. It is similar to the picture quality that a laser printer would yield for a photograph; and may be good enough for quick hard-copy requirements. This may be a problem with printers that are “pitched” at business users because manufacturers don’t see don’t see mainstream business users printing out many photographs even though they may take pictures as part of their business life.

Limitations and Points Of Improvements

There are still a few shortcomings with this printer that HP could improve on.

Firstly, the printer could benefit from T.37 email-fax and T.38 real-time-fax endpoint functionality in order to make it relevant with other IP-fax solutions. This could be implemented either as an HP ePrint gateway service or as a local facility that uses “wizard-based” setup. I have raised this in relation to having this machine support a full-functioned fax service because of the impending arrival of packet-based telephony networks in most countries.

As well, I would like to see the implementation of flash memory functionality in a manner similar to the Colour LaserJet Pro’s fax functionality in this printer. Here, it could permit a proper “fax-vault” functionality for handling confidential faxes or permit improved fax archiving. This function could be taken further to provide fail-safe printing and improved fail-safe ePrint functionality.

The printer could Improve on photo-printing quality especially with the saturation. If they don’t feel it is appropriate to create an OfficeJet business inkjet printer with the high-quality photo-printing abilities of a Photosmart printer, HP could market-test and create a “bridge” printer lineup with the high-quality photo output, quick document output and cost-effect consumables.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

This printer is one that can put you in to a quandery whether to buy a printer like the HP Colour LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw laser or this model for use as a colour workhorse printer even though this printer is relatively cheaper to buy and run; and has some more functionality and media flexibility than the LaserJet.

If you simply want a highly-flexible general-purpose “workhorse” printer for that office, professional practice or shop; I would recommend this machine. On the other hand, if you are needing the speed and exact output capabilities of the colour laser printer, head for the Colour LaserJet CM1415fnw as a “general office” printer.

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Product Review–HP Envy 100 ePrint-enabled all-in-one printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the HP Envy 100 ePrint-enabled all-ine-one printer which is another member of the HP “Envy” high-end stylishly-designed equipment range. This printer is styled not like an ordinary all-in-one printer but something that wouldn’t look out of place alongside domestic hi-fi or home-cinema equipment.

HP Envy 100 all-in-one printer (D410a)

Print Scan Copy E-mail Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Ink-jet 1200 dpi   HP ePrint email-to-print service   802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless
Auto-duplex          

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$399

Inks and Toners

  Standard   High-Capacity  
  Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$22.62 200 AUD$44.49 600
Colour AUD$26.52 165 AUD$52.30 440

 

The printer itself

HP Envy 100 all-in-one printer (D410a) all lids open

The printer with its scanner lid open and paper input and output exposed

There is a lot about this printer’s styling that makes it not like the typical all-in-one printer that I have used or reviewed. This printer has a design that wouldn’t look out of place in a hi-fi or home-theatre equipment rack with its slimline and neat styling. Here, it would be as slim as the typical VHS video recorder or “personal-TV service” unit. Even the scanner lid reminds me of that flat-glass lid used to cover the turntable on a mid-1980s “music-centre” stereo system because of the way it lies flush with the top of the printer and is made of that similar glass.

Where do the documents come out of?

The way the printer is styled may confuse some people because there isn’t an obvious paper tray or output tray.

HP Envy 100 all-in-one printer - paper output

The printer's paper output tray

When you want to use the printer from the control panel, you work it using a large touchscreen on the front of the unit. This touchscreen can be positioned at an angle for easier operation but will swing up when the printer is printing out anything. The paper is loaded in to a shallow removeable tray which you pull out from the front of the printer.

Even the SD slot for your camera card may be hard to find but it is located on the top right edge of the printer, under a small flap.

Setup

The printer can work with 802.11g/n WiFi networks that are secured using WPA2-PSK technology. You enter the passphrase for these networks using a virtual keyboard on the unit’s touchscreen; but it also works properly with WPS “simplified-setup” routines that most recent-issue home and small-business routers support.

On the other hand, the software that is supplied on the CD-ROM leave a lot to be desired. It doesn’t operate properly with network setups and you may have to try many attempts at setting this software up on your computer. This is more so with firewall software that may be slow to respond.

Walk-up functions

The printer works as expected for a colour copier. As well, it can print from or scan to SD cards or USB memory keys. Like with all printers, these functions could be improved through increased memory in the unit. Here, images obtained from the scanner or removable media could be copied to the memory before being printed so as to allow quicker and more productive operation; such as being able to quickly copy many pages or print pictures from your camera then continue snapping more pictures.

Through the use of the ePrint Web apps, this printer can print documents on demand. As well, some of these ePrint apps work as client programs for various photo-sharing or social networking sites, so you can print pictures from your albums that exist on these sites.

It also supports the HP ePrint “email-to-print” system which allocates the printer an email address so you can send documents or photos to that address for printing. This also allows for Apple iOS devices to print documents and images directly to this printer using AirPrint.

It is also worth knowing that Android users can download the “HP iPrint Photos” app from the Android Market to their device so they can print photos through this printer. At the moment, there isn’t a full document-print solution available for this platform yet.

Computer functions

When used with a Windows 7 machine, this printer works tightly with the operating system, thus using functions like the Device Stage.

Even the ability to set up device-initiated scanning for a network-connected printer requires you to visit the Device Stage which comes up when you click on the printer in “Devices and Printers”. This feature has still got some problems with reliability in that it won’t start properly or expose the options to the printer’s control panel. This function is still something that has to be worked out and should be part of the operating system as I have touched on previously.

Other than that, it does work properly as far as computer-initiated printing goes. It also does offer proper support for basic and advanced UPnP printing functionality; something I find that is not implemented in many client devices like set-top boxes. This is not enabled by default and you would have to go to the printer’s Web page which is at its URL, then go to “Networking” to select and enable this function.

Print Quality

This printer works as expected for an inkjet printer when it comes to printing documents. But the real test I notice with these inkjet printers is how they handle photographic images. The pictures don’t come out as saturated as most of the other inkjets that I have tested.  As well, they are not as dark as those printed on most of the other inkjet printers that I have tested.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

As with all HP inkjet printers that have auto-duplex printing, this function still requires a significant top and bottom margin, which can be very limiting for desktop publishing applications. I have raised this issue on forums operated by HP, but they say that this is a designed-in limitation to assure proper auto-duplex operation but I have seen auto-duplex-equipped inkjets available from other manufacturers, namely Canon, which can print this way without requiring the top and bottom margin.

As well, the use of a tri-colour ink cartridge makes the printer more costly to run because you can’t replace individual colours as needed. This could be improved upon by HP when they refine their low-profile print mechanism that is used in this printer. The slimline design also has a limitation with the paper tray not being able to hold much paper.

The manufacturer-supplied software could benefit from a lot of work on it, especially with the way it operates with network printers. This includes making it work tightly with the operating system’s services and properly discovering the printer and announcing the computer’s network location. This is always something that manufacturers tend to forget about when designing their printers.

Taking the concept further

The way HP have integrated a duplex-capable inkjet print mechanism with “front paper feed” as well as an LED-based scanner mechanism into a chassis the size of a typical VHS video recorder has amazed me with this unit.

Here, they could take the concept further with various product ideas for inkjet printers and similar devices. One could be a rack-mount printer for “built-in” applications, where the printer is pulled out like a drawer when it needs to have new ink added or be serviced.

Similarly, there could be the ability for HP to design a transportable “all-in-one” printer modelled on the Envy 100 that is designed for “on-location” workforces. This would have a handle of a style not dissimilar to that found on a boombox and having the scanner lid kept closed by a latching mechanism. Electronically, it would have full WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and work on 12 volts DC, thus being able to work from a car’s cigar-lighter socket or a 12-volt rechargeable battery pack.

As well, this mechanism could encourage HP to work towards mainstreaming low-profile “front-feed”  inkjet printer designs for the home and small-business market/

Conclusion and Placement Notes

This printer is targeted to those who place a lot of emphasis on style and may suit those of us who are particular about what can be placed in the common living areas of the house. But it wouldn’t be worth using as a main printer for a home or small business because of the two-cartridge system or the reduced paper capacity. Here, I would recommend it for use as a secondary printer intended for use in the family room if you can accept the price for this application.

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Product Review–HP LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw colour laser multifunction printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Hewlett-Packard LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw colour laser multifunction printer which is an entry-level colour laser multifunction printer that is enabled for HP’s ePrint and Apple’s AirPrint “driver-free” network printing technologies.

HP LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw colour laser multifunction printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Laser xerographic 1200 dpi Resolution   Super G3 with colour receive   Ethernet
802.11g WPA2 WPS Wi=Fi
  Automatic Document Feeder   HP ePrint   IPv6 ready

ePrint functionality is available with a firmware update available after December 13 2010.

Prices

All prices are quoted in Australian dollars as GST-inclusinve recommended retail price at time of publishing.

Printer

The machine’s standard price $599

Inks and Toners

  Standard  
  Price Pages
Black $94.34 2000
Cyan $89.57 1300
Magenta $89.57 1300
Yellow $89.57 1300

 

There are no fees or charges associated with the HP ePrint service.

The printer itself

User interface

HP LaserJet CM1415fnw touchscreen control panel

The touchscreen control panel is the only user interface for this printer

This printer has a user interface that breaks away from the typical multifunction printer that I have reviewed. Here, it uses a colour touchscreen user-interface as the main control panel. The only real hardware switch that exists on the printer is the power on-off switch on the side.

I would say that this has been brought on through the popularity of touchscreen smartphones amd tablet MIDs based on the Apple iOS, Android and  Windows Phone 7 platforms. The user interface also is augmented with quick-navigation touch-buttons that light up as required in a “pinball-machine” manner so you can get to the home screen, browse pages on some menus or cancel an operation.

This has allowed HP to apply design flexibility when it comes to integrating the ePrint print-apps functionality which I will be talking about later. As well, HP are able to use a smaller control panel area on a desktop laser multifunction printer while avoiding the problem of reducing the machine’s ergonomics and useability. 

Network connectivity

The printer can work with Ethernet or 802.11g WPA2 Wi-Fi networks. When you enrol the printer in to a Wi-Fi network and you need to enter a WPA-PSK passphrase, you have an alpbabetic keypad on the touchscreen to enter this detail. If the Wi-Fi router or access point supports WPS “quick-setup”, this printer does support the functionality.

It is also worth noting that if you connect the printer to a network via the Ethernet connection, this automatically overrides the Wi-Fi connection. This will mean that you don’t have to do any further configuration if you find that Wi-Fi is too unreliable and you decide to connect it to an Ethernet or HomePlug connection instead.

There could be an option for the user to set up the printer to become a Wi-Fi access point if the printer is connected to the network via an Ethernet connection. This can come in handy if the printer is used in an area where there is insufficient signal strength for the wireless network and it is connected to the network via an Ethernet or HomePlug link.

Walk-up functions

Copy

This unit is capable of working as a basic laser-based colour copier but as the ID copy function as its unique feature.

ID copy

One feature that is peculiar to this machine so far is an “ID copy function” where you can copy both sides of a small document like a business card, ID card, passport or endorsed cheque on to one side of an A4 sheet of paper. This feature has become more important as most business transactions are increasingly requiring one of the parties to present an identification document.

Here, you place one side of the document on the left side of the scanner glass then touch START. The machine will scan that one side, then you turn the document over and place it on the right side of the scanner glass and touch “Done”. Then the machine will turn out a 1:1 copy of both sides of that document.

At the moment, this function doesn’t support the ability to scan both sides of an ID document on to one file or send both sides of an ID document as a fax.

Book-friendly automatic-document-feeder lid

This printer has the typical automatic document feeder that is part of the lid, But it has been also designed so that the lid is able to lift up rather than be hinged in the conventional manner. This can come in handy when you copy, fax from or scan bound documents like books.

Fax

The fax subsystem uses flash memory rather than RAM to store faxes that are to be sent or received faxes. This effectively eliminates the vulnerability of received or pending faxes to a power failure which is a common issue with most fax equipment. It therefore supports a comprehensive “fax vault” function which allows the user to release received faxes upon entry of a password, thus avoiding the situation of confidential faxes falling in to the wrong hands.

There are a few limitations however such as the inability to send colour faxes and no support for T.37 or 7.38 Internet faxing. This latter function would allow the fax to work with IP-based telephony setups that are going to become the norm over the next few years.

USB port and walk-up printing / scanning

The USB port on the front of the machine allows one to print a document or photo held on a USB thumb drive or scan to a USB thumb drive. This function could be augmented with a card slot for memory cards or PictBridge “print-from-camera” functionality.

It doesn’t seem to allow the user to start a scan job which ends up at a nominated computer from the control panel. This is a feature which I consider a serious omission because all of the network-enabled multifunction printers that I have reviewed other than this machine do allow the user to specify which computer a scan job ends up at and what application is to benefit from the image.

Quick-forms and HP Print Apps

This unit has a “quick forms” functionality for printing out stationery like graph paper, ruled paper for handwriting, checklists and music manuscript paper. Like the other HP printers, the graph paper and music paper is relatively limited in what you can specify like 5mm or 1/8” for graph paper; or 10 staves in portrait or 8 staves in landscape for music paper.

The HP ePrint setup allows users to download “print apps” which allow a user to print out documents like newspapers, stationery, colouring pages and the like from the printer’s control panel. It also gives the printer a unique email address which works as an “email-to-print” service in a similar vein to the previously-reviewed HP Photosmart B110a. The “email-to-print” service could support a “fax vault” function to delay release of jobs unless a code is entered in to the machine.

I would like to see this printer become equipped with functionality which allows controlled or accounted ePrint job release so it can become a public printer for use with wireless hotspots and other public networks. Here, it could then be feasible for the organisation who runs the hotspot to charge for printouts to recover running costs, use a branded “drop-box” Web page for users to submit print jobs to print or even integration with hotel billing systems.

This issue, alongside the availabilty of many quality walk-up printing apps for this printer class, will be likely to appear as the ePrint platform matures over time.

Computer functions

Driver Installation and Performance

The printer comes with driver CDs for the main operating systems and supports Windows 7 and MacOS X Snow Leopard. It could use the same installation method that was used with the LaserJet M1210 Series multifunction printer where the driver software was kept on the flash memory rather than on CDs that come with the machine.

The drivers offer the basic functionality expected for a small-business printer and don’t offer a confidential-print mode where jobs can he released at the printer using a user-determined password.

Printer performance and image quality

The printer does work efficiently when a print job comes in while it is in standby mode. Here, it will take 12 seconds from when you start a document-based print job at your computer for it to start printing. Then it takes 5 seconds per page to print the job.

It will take a longer time to print highly-detailed photos or other bitmaps and ends up powering down the print engine between each page,  but is quick with text-based material.

When the printer turns out photographic material on plain paper, the images come out darker with colours that  are saturated stronger in comparison to the other colour laser printers that I have tested. The dark print output is a similar issue with laser printers when they print this material on plain paper.

Other issues of note here

The printer is likely to jam if the paper is restocked while it is printing, a common practice that most people do if the printer runs out of paper during the print job. Here, you have to wait until the pages stop coming out of the printer and the motor stops before adding paper during a print job or fax-receive even if the machine’s display shows the “paper-out” message.

Like a lot of printers that I have used and reviewed, this printer could benefit from more flash memory especially as the cost of this kind of memory comes down.

A problem I have noticed with this printer, along with other Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printers is that you can’t buy a “high-capacity” toner cartridge for these printers. This may be of limitation to users who either want to run high-capacity cartridges for reduced “per-page” printing costs or avoid the need to frequently buy and reload toner cartridges in their machines. It may also affect users who are used to inkjet printers that have high-capacity cartridges as an option or users who like to run standard cartridges but need to run high-capacity cartridges for intense print runs.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

This printer may come in handy as an organisation’s first colour-laser multifunction printer or as a low-duty “quality laser” secondary multifunction printer like a reception-desk unit. The unit’s “fax vault” function could appeal to organisations who handle confidential data but have contract staff coming through the premises “out of hours”.

It wouldn’t work well as a primary printer on a site where many jobs have to be turned out in succession.  The lack of an auto-duplex mechanism would impair its ability as a publishing printer and would reduce its “green” credentials a bit.

Therefore I would find that this colour laser printer can become a difficult option to consider for an entry-level colour laser multifunction printer for a small business especially as the high-end colour inkjet multifunctions that are pitched at thsi class of user are  approaching it for speed, quality and print economy.

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HP Asia-Pacific Innovation Summit–My take on it

I have been following the HP Asia-Pacific Innovation Summit through feeds from Facebook and Twitter. It has become a chance for HP to launch printers relevant to the enterprise market but they have put the spotlight on a key feature.

HP ePrint

I have talked about HP ePrint when I reviewed the HP Photosmart Wireless-E B110a “network printing appliance” on this site. This printer had as its main party trick the ability for a user to forward an email to a specified address in order to have it printed out. As well, it was able to run apps like online colouring books or newspapers-on-demand downloaded from a special Website ran by HP.

Later on, I touched on Apple’s desire to have these printers work with their AirPrint setup for printing from iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad). From this event I had heard that 85% of smartphone users were wanting to have “there-and-then” hard copy of documents or other material that they bring up on these devices. As well, I had heard that the Apple AirPrint technology will be enabled on the LaserJet lineup of printers as well as the OfficeJet lineup of inkjet printers.

This event also was a chance to justify the business case for implementing HP ePrint technology in business-class printers. The main benefit was to provide accelerated mobile productivity because of its ability to satisfy the demand to “have hard copy now” while I use my smartphone or portable computing device. It also emphasised the fact that the printer is not just a dumb device but a fully-capable appliance as I have noticed with the Photosmart B110a.

Some put up an idea of using Instapaper “newspaper-on-demand” technology with this HP ePrint technology to provide a “hot-off-the-press” daily newspaper from these printers, As well, Matteos Del Campo who founded SPAN Architecture and Design had highlighted the ability to print plans for the Austrian Pavilion for the World Expo over the Internet from around the world using HP ePrint technology. This was done using the ePrint&Share plugin for AutoCAD.

I still had further questions to ask such as whether HP ePrint could allow for a “universal driver” setup and if this kind of technology, especially the “print by email” function, could support business operations who want to provide printing in conjunction with public Internet access.

Other News

HP also had used this event to launch the smallest colour laser printer which has the footprint of a typical desktop monochrome laser printer.  I had the usual reservations about this one as I have with other colour laser printers due to the cost of replenishing the printer

They had also introduced a “copy fix” technology that improves the quality of copies made from bound originals. This is by “squaring up” the copy if the original is not squared to the edges as well as cutting out the dark background that occurs due to the lid not being closed when you copy or scan these originals.

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Apple iOS 4.2 beta becoming enabled with handset-driven printer access

iOS 4.2 beta hits Apple’s developer portal, wireless printing dubbed ‘AirPrint’ – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

HP ePrint enabled printers first to support printing direct from iOS devices |  The HP Blog Hub

My comments

A function that most of us who own smartphones long for is the ability to print documents from the smartphone using a regular printer. The main problem with this is the requirement for the computing device i.e. the smartphone to have drivers for the various printers that it will encounter. Typically this has been achieved through printer manufacturers providing free single-purpose apps through app-store platforms like iTunes App Store that only do a task like printing photographs on the manufacturer’s printer.

Now Apple have taken up the initiative by establishing a one-size-fits-all printing mechanism as part of the iOS 4.2 operating system. This mechanism is intended to work with the HP ePrint-enabled printers like the HP Photosmart Wireless-E printer that I previously reviewed but is intended to be rolled out to more printers offered by other manufacturers.

There are a few questions that I have about this wireless-printing platform. One is whether the platform is really reinventing the wheel that standards like UPnP Printing have established or simply is a way of allowing a manufacturer to market one of these standards under their own name?

Another more serious question is whether other handset operating systems and platforms like Android will implement the wireless-printing platform in a universal way at all. It may be easy to accept the status quo with Apple providing support in the next version of iOS but if this feature is to work properly, it has to work for other handset operating platforms and devices made by other manufacturers.

Other issues worth tackling include support for public-access printers, including secure job submission and collection as well as support for paid operation models.

This concept may open up a new field of access to hard copy for devices like smartphones and tablet computers as well as dedicated-function devices.

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Product Review – HP Photosmart Wireless-E Multifunction Printer (B110a)

An Internet-based printing appliance from HP

Introduction

I am now reviewing the HP Photosmart Wireless-E Multifunction Printer (B110a) which is the successor to the Photosmart Wireless (B109n) printer that I reviewed previously on this site.

HP Photosmart Wireless-E all-in-one printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 2 x A4 USB
Inkjet     Receive e-mail from Web-based service   802.11g/n WPA2 WPS wireless

Prices

Printer

RRP: AUD$129

Inks

  Standard   High-capacity  
  Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$18.76 250 AUD$51.20 800
Cyan AUD$16.76 300 AUD$29.56 750
Magenta AUD$16.76 300 AUD$29.56 750
Yellow AUD$16.76 300 AUD$29.56 750

There are no fees or charges to use the ePrint service for print-to-email or the ePrint applications.

The printer itself

This unit looks as if it is a copy of the previous model, with the same compact black chassis and small screen with ATM-style operation and “pinball-machine” touch-buttons around the screen. The printing mechanism is very similar to the predecessor and using the same consumables.

But there is a lot more that meets the eye when you plug it in and switch it on,

Improvements over the B109n

Wireless-network setup

You will notice the first improvement when you set up the printer to work with your wireless network. Previously, if your Wi-Fi network’s router or access point didn’t support WPS “push-button” setup, you had to connect the printer to your computer and run the HP-supplied software to enrol it with your secure wireless network. With this model, you can enrol it with your non-WPS wireless network segments using the control panel. This is done using a “pick and choose” text entry method for entering the network’s WPA passphrase.

Another improvement is the ability to integrate properly with 2.4GHz 802,11n Wi-Fi network segments which means that you don’t need to “downgrade” your 802.11n router or access point to “mixed mode” or 802.11g for it to work properly.

The Internet-based printing appliance

The printer can now work as a network-based “printing appliance” for emails and MMS messages as well as being a network printer and scanner. There is also support for “print apps” where the printer can print out Web pages, RSS feeds, Sudoku pages and the like from the control panel. These are all set up by visiting the HP ePrint website (http://www.hp.com/go/ePrintCenter) where you establish an account using your Google, Facebook or openID credentials or site-particular credentials. Here, you enrol the printer by entering the device-specific code which is on an “ePrintCenter” sheet that is printed as part of the setup process.

ePrint Apps on unit's screen

ePrint Apps on unit's screen

Once set up, you have a machine-specific email address which you can add to your laptop, smartphone or MMS-capable mobile phone. Here, you then forward your document, photo or message to this address or add this address as a BCC address to an email to have it printed on the printer. This will then be printed out by this unit without you needing to have a computer at the same location switched on all the time. You may have to make sure you type some text before the photo if you are sending a photo by MMS so the ePrint service doesn’t reject your picture as spam.

HP ePrintCenter Web page

HP ePrintCenter management page

Similarly, HP have introduced “ePrint Apps” which allow you to print items provided by certain content providers from the control panel. I have talked about this feature on this site last year when HP released their first TouchSmart-based Web-enabled multifunction printer that had this functionality. One of these “ePrint Apps” that I like is the “Tabbloid” which allows you to have today’s posts from a list of RSS feeds that you select printed out at the touch of a button. Of course, there is the HP Quick Forms application which allows you to turn out ruled paper like notepaper, graph paper or music-manuscript paper using the printer’s control panel. This application still has some limitations like only being able to print 10 staves on the music-manuscript paper which is useless for certain music projects such as “vocal+piano”, quartet or organ pieces.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

On the other hand, the small control panel makes it harder to perform most walk-up printing tasks. Here, you have to highlight the task, touch “OK”, then work through menus to determine the task, which can make the whole process more difficult and confusing to perform and lead to more operation errors. This is a real limitation for older people or those of us who have eyesight or dexterity limitations.

As well, like the previous model, this unit doesn’t have Ethernet connectivity, which may be required if your Wi-Fi network is plagued with reception difficulties and you want to use HomePlug as an alternative networking method or connect it directly to the router using an Ethernet cable.

Some of these limitations may be to do with a common practice associated with the design of manufactured goods as the design nears the end of its lifecycle. This is where the manufacturer creates a model that is based on a common physical and mechanical design as other popular models that have the design but this model has a swathe of improvements over the previous models either in order to “finish off” the design or rush certain features in to that design.

Conclusion and Recommendation Notes

I would recommend this printer for home use as an entry-level network-enabled printer especially if you are moving towards the laptop-based wireless-network-driven “new computing environment”. It would also work well as a secondary printer for the study or kitchen area or in another building, especially if you place high value on the unit’s function as a “network printing appliance” that prints emails and photos that you send to it.

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