HP’s Multitasking Printer Spreads Itself Too Thin

1290297617 63 HP’s Multitasking Printer Spreads Itself Too Thin

The HP Envy 100 box is daring me to open it, but I am afraid. four words: Print Scan Copy Web, hover over an ominous printer on the box front. I gently slip open the top, anticipating the terror of endless plastic wrap and cardboard. What’s this? A tote bag? Sweet, I didn’t even have to donate to PBS! Yes, even mere mortals like yourself, and not just obscenely “rich” and “handsome” tech writers like me, will have your HP Envy 100 wrapped in a delicious free tote bag.

But seriously, the Envy’s packaging is a welcome change from the usual mess of plastic and parts. And while there is the requisite foam and some baggies, at least HP put a bit more effort into presentation while minimizing unnecessary bad-for-mother-earth clutter. Plus, a free tote bag never hurt anyone.

Once you haul it out of the box, you see that the Envy 100 printer/scanner/copier looks like it was designed by Darth Vader. Ominously coated in gloss black with silver accents, it’s barely 4 1/2 inches tall; sleek enough to slip into a pretty small space. Even the paper-output handler is an automatically retractable arm that barely sticks out. on the outside, this machine looks badass. but just how evil is it?

First, you’ll need to install the rather small ink cartridges. unfortunately, there aren’t separate color ink cartridges that would save money on refills. you get one multicolor ink cartridge and one for all your blacks. Perhaps more alarming: after running through one 50-page load of plain paper and a few photos, the Envy software showed black ink hovering near 50 percent. HP claims the ink-measuring software may not be completely accurate, but be forewarned dear reader, your ink costs could get real big, real fast.

After connecting the power cord, the 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen lit up, and the Envy held my hand as it led me through a zenfully simple setup process … until it was time to install the software on my computers.

Installation on a Vista PC came off without a hitch, aside from the usual “opt out to not install this extra addware that you’ll never use.” next up was a real test where the Envy scored with a +2 critical-hit bonus roll. Yes, dear reader, HP graciously provides Linux drivers on their website. So, for all 20 of y’all out there using Ubuntu or K or X whatever, HP deserves a shoutout. Just be prepared to go through the usual “missing library” installations Linux requires to make anything work. (Mac users can ignore this entire paragraph.)

Once hitched up to my home Wi-Fi network, and loaded with paper (up to 80 sheets), it was time to waste some trees with hard-copy output. on a notebook running Vista, using a wireless connection, and Normal print-quality settings, the Envy averaged 4.5 pages per minute when handling simple text or text with grayscale graphics. on plain paper, text was sharp and dark, while color photos printed in grayscale tended to be slightly dark.

The Envy showed more moxie with color graphics. A high-resolution full-page photo printed out in slightly more than nine seconds. While that may be pretty poky, the colors were excellent with subtle detail, and a near perfect match to the graphic onscreen. of course, to get good results, you’ll have to make sure your color management is spot on, as well.

The only strike against the Envy’s printing was that some glossy photo paper came out with faint, but noticeable marks from the paper-feed mechanism. Some gloss-paper coatings are more delicate than others, and different paper brands and qualities had different results, with a good number showing no marks at all. Photo perfectionists should try a few different kinds of paper. in my tests, Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II has the best ink saturation while HP Premium Photo Paper matched the original the closest.

Copying is a no-brainer. Just touch the Copy button on the LCD screen, pick color or black, choose the number of prints, and you’re done. Copying output was a shade faster than printing, but not by much. for black-and-white copies, the Envy averaged 4.2 ppm. A single page color copy came out at 42 seconds. It’s certainly not blazing speed, but output on plain paper was on par with the Envy’s printing.

Scanning with the Envy is straightforward, as well. you can scan up to 1200 dpi so it’s useful for blowing up old photographs and other small artwork. The Envy tended to brighten scanned images a bit, reds in particular, but overall detail was very good, and any slight color variations were easily fixed in photo-editing software.

As with most other printers in this class, the HP Envy does direct printing from cameras, as well as from memory cards, with a top USB port and SD card slot. you can also scan results to a memory card instead of to a computer.

Another nice printing touch is e-print. Just send an e-mail from your phone or a computer to the printer’s unique e-mail address, and you’ll have hot, fresh copy ready and waiting when you get home. you can also check the status of an e-print job online.

Lastly, we come to the apps. Apps? you say, “I have enough electronics yapping at me all day. I just want my printer to print, my scanner to scan, and my copier to copy.” HP says, “with the Envy, you’ll have your apps, and like them!”

Flip out the Envy’s LCD touchscreen and you’re presented with a bunch of preloaded app icons. Some of the available apps are fairly useful, some definitely not. Do I really need a printer to spew out tic-tac-toe games when a pencil is about 100 times more efficient? more importantly, why would I want to print only the first couple of sentences of a blog post?

Other apps like Google Maps are useful for a quick print. Even so, it feels awkward and silly to peck out an address on the tiny LCD screen when my computer is a few feet away. true, you wouldn’t have to turn your computer on, and it might come in handy if you have a large home with the Envy as the central output/input peripheral. Thankfully, you can delete apps you don’t want or need to reduce clutter, and load some new ones you do want.

The HP Envy 100 is a jack of all trades, and does most jobs pretty well. It’s not particularly fast, but solid text output combined with excellent color prints merit consideration. The real question is: Do you need all the extras like apps and e-mail printing? if not, you could probably save some bucks and get similar performance from a more stripped down all-in-one.

And then there’s the boondoggle of most printers: per-page costs. with limited ink capacity and a hungry appetite, you might be buying ink cartridges more than you’d like, but at least you can carry them home in your new tote bag.

WIRED Excellent color output with subtle detail on gloss photo paper. Super-sleek Vader-approved design, low-profile chassis doesn’t hog space. Easy setup and installation. Downloadable Linux drivers available. good LCD touchscreen

TIRED Small ink cartridges — doesn’t use separate ink cartridges for each color. Mediocre print speed. Gloss-black finish is a fingerprint and dust magnet. Cover for USB and memory card feels fragile. Paper-feed mechanism can mark some gloss-paper coatings.

See also:

  • Review: Brother Printer Offers Wireless iDevice Printing Now …
  • Review: Polaroid PoGo Printer Spits Pics on the Quick
  • Canon PIXMA iP4700 Printer – Wired News
  • HP Photosmart A646 Compact Photo Printer – Wired News
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