I blogged a few days ago about my experiences at the Aiming Low/HP party and how I was asked to review the new HP Photosmart Premium TouchSmart All-in-One Web Printer (whew! Web Printer for short). I love it, but here’s a more in-depth review of my experiences.
- Wireless – yay, no more super-loud print server!
- Two paper trays – one for regular paper, one for photo paper
- Duplex (two-sided) printing
- Print coupons, movie tickets, coloring pages, maps and more directly from the printer
- Separate “photo black” ink cartridge for getting real black on photo prints
- Super easy to set up
- Built-in, easy access slots for photo cards and USB flash drives
- No document feed tray for multi-page copies and faxes
- Duplex printer attachment adds to the footprint
- Paper trays can be tricky to get in and out
Right out of the box, I was impressed by the HP Web Printer. First of all it looks great. But it also displayed a commitment by HP to reduce wasteful packaging. Printers typically arrive wrapped in plastic and then tucked into styrofoam. The HP Web Printer came wrapped in a reusable bag similar to the kind you’d use for grocery shopping. The cords came in a zipper pouch, much like a toiletries bag. It’s a nice presentation and definitely gave a good first impression.
I’ve installed many a printer and I don’t find it particularly difficult. Still, I was pleasantly surprised that the “quick start” guide basically said, “Remove the tape. Plug in the printer. Turn it on. Follow the directions.” The Web Printer has an iPhone-like touch-screen display that leads you through the set-up process, including adding ink, adding paper, setting up the wireless access and installing the software on your computer. Setting up the printer is incredibly easy, but I have one complaint. The ink cartridges have a plastic piece that twists off and it isn’t clear from the printer (or the written directions, for that matter) how to do that without breaking anything. In fact, it isn’t even clear that you need to do anything to the ink cartridges from the printer instructions. It’s a minor thing, but it keeps the printer setup from being as breezy as it could be.
Installing the printer on my laptop wasn’t quite so simple. I suspect I’m partly to blame for not closing all of my windows the first time around, but it took me about 5 tries to get it installed. There is an auto-run program that is supposed to load the drivers and any other programs you need/want. The first time, it failed. The second time, it failed. The third time, it offered to figure out why it was failing and supposedly fixed the problem. It didn’t work. The fourth time it failed again. Finally, I went the old-school route and told my computer that I wanted to install a printer. It found the printer, installed the driver and all was right with the world.
I decided to put the HP Web Printer through the paces by printing Christmas letters (double sided) and some 4X6 photo cards (I made them with a trial of Adobe PhotoShop Elements I downloaded – now I really want the full program). We send out about 75 cards, so this wasn’t trivial. Since the HP Web Printer has a tray dedicated to photo paper, I was able to alternate printing letters and photos without leaving my seat. The duplex printing was super easy, but it does take a bit longer than printing a bunch of single pages. The printer pauses before printing the second side in order to let the ink dry. I had no problems with the wireless connection, although I think it’s a bit slower than printing through a USB connection. The printer is so much faster than our last one that I don’t notice the difference.
The photo cards look gorgeous. They look like they were processed at a store. We used glossy HP Advance Photo paper and it doesn’t even show fingerprints! I gave a few to the kids to play with so I could see how they stand up to wear and tear and a little bit of drool. They behave just like a photo from the store… mild scratching after having been stepped on, driven over, spilled on, etc. You have to hold it up to the light to even notice the scratches. I’m really picky about photo quality and hate even the slightest blurriness or ghosting in my prints. To say I’m impressed is an understatement. I can’t believe how much better the technology has become in just a few years.
While printing I started running low on ink. I was annoyed that the printer kept reminding me, but under other circumstances (printing in smaller quantities), that might not have been an issue. I like one notice that ink is getting low and then I want it to print until it can’t any more. That might be wishful thinking. Anyway, replacing the ink cartidges is so easy and I love having separate cartridges for each ink color. I no longer have to feel guilty for printing too much blue if I want to!
Ok, so the big reason for buying this printer over similar models is the Web functionality. The Web printer comes with a number of different apps (with more to download and others under development) that you can use without a computer at all. There are coloring book pages and crafts, recipes, coupons, Fandango movie tickets and Google maps. Since I have a laptop, I do like being able to print things without having it connected. If I’m running out the door and need a map, I’ll be thrilled to be able to print one without booting up my machine. Will I use the apps on a daily basis? Probably not, but then again, I don’t have a bunch of people clamoring around one computer. The features will be a lot more useful for a family who has one computer to share.
I haven’t had the chance to try out the fax and scanner. I do use those features on a regular basis for business purposes, so I may revisit my review once I’ve tested them out. My one really big complaint about this printer is that it doesn’t have a document feeder. Faxing multiple pages (do you ever fax just one page?) or copying documents is a pain without one. To me, it’s almost not worth having an all-in-one if you’re not going to give it a document feeder and I think it was an unfortunate design choice from HP. Obviously this printer isn’t geared towards business users, but I think it would have held a much wider appeal with the document feeder, especially with the price tag.
The bottom line is that this is a great printer. It’s easy to use, fast, and produces gorgeous prints. With the option to go with the wireless, ethernet cable (included), direct from USB or memory card/USB stick, it’s incredibly versatile. The dedicated photo tray is fantastic for people who are regularly printing photos and don’t want to keep switching out paper. Duplex printing saves paper and money and a document feeder is really the only thing missing. I’d recommend this for families who do a lot of personal printing and have just occasional use for scanning and faxing. But, since you’re paying more for web printing capabilities, make sure you’ll use the apps on a regular basis as well.
Disclosure: I received an HP Photosmart Premium TouchSmart All-in-One Web Printer for review purposes. There were no promises of a positive review and the opinions included in this post are mine.