Product Type: Hewlett-Packard All in one Printer
Newest Review: ... coursework - not helpful. It served me well for a while but being a cheaper make, it was often clunky and in the end refused to ... more
HP Aims For Premium But Achieves Above Average
HP Photosmart Premium e-All-in-One
Member Name: Hishyeness
HP Photosmart Premium e-All-in-One
Advantages: ePrint functionality. Good all - rounder. Environmentally friendly packaging and features .
Disadvantages: Touch screen is temperamental. ePrint functionality can be limited .
ALL IN ONE OR NONE FOR ALL?
With space at a premium in our household, finding a compact, high-functioning all-in-one home office device that does more than just go through each of its motions is something of a challenge. As a fan of hi-fi separates, I am a firm believer in specific tools for specific jobs, so I am not easily convinced that a combination printer, scanner and copier can be a master of all of its trades.
Ideally, such a device should provide high quality photo and document printing, a variety of inputs, true wireless capability, ease of use and truly innovative and practical functionality (as opposed to gimmicks and gadgets that barely get a run-out - admit it, how many of those washing machine programmes do you ACTUALLY use?). That's a tall order, and with an already perfectly adequate (and sometimes exceptional) Canon MP640 nestling in my home office, a few months back, I was offered an HP Photosmart Premium e-All-In-One C310 for free, and the opportunity was way too good to turn down.
I will deliberately try to keep stats (such as pages printed per minute, resolutions etc.) out of this review, and concentrate instead on the experience of using the machine (in any case, these stats and technical specifications are readily available here - http://tinyurl.com/6ju5a48 - on HP's official site for those who dig that sort of stuff)
GETTING UP & RUNNING
The printer arrived in a sturdy branded box from HP, and the surprises started as soon as I started unpacking. HP have gone to great lengths to make the packaging as eco-friendly as possible, using a re-usable shoulder bag and a zip up pouch to enclose the printer and its bits respectively. Whilst neither will be gracing a Milan catwalk, there is a little bit of geeky chic about them.
As with most of these devices, removing it from the box is a two-person job, mainly due to bulk rather than weight. It took a few minutes to peel off all of the protective films, locate the two-piece power cable and get it up and running. The printer comes with an adjustable touch-screen display (a nice step-up from the scroll wheel I am used to using on my Canon) which guided me through the whole set-up process, which was simply and clearly explained. This included installation of the cartridges (which, in common with other manufacturers are not full capacity out of the box), paper, print head calibration, wireless connection to my router and wireless test report. The time from unpacking to getting the printer ready for operation took, at most, ten minutes.
The printer is wireless, which means it can be sited almost anywhere in the house and run off the home network - all you have to do is to find the space for its not inconsiderable 18"x12" footprint (with the paper tray sticking out an additional six inches at the front). For those who prefer a "hard" connection, the printer has a USB 2.0 input, but you will need to source your own cable as one is not provided. A CD-ROM set up disk is included, along with brief "getting started" type instructions in booklet form (offered in a plethora of European languages), so between these and the pictorial guide for cartridge replacement sited next to the printer carriage, HP seem to have all of the bases fully covered.
They even provide a handy wallet sized card with details of the print cartridges the unit uses. Installation of the drivers and software is fairly straight-forward, if a little time-consuming. I still have a fully working HP Photosmart 8250 and little seems to have changed in loading times - the initial software set-up still seems to take an age (over 20 minutes). The touch screen takes a little getting used to, and is probably a little too unresponsive for my liking, but once you get the hang of it (i.e. understand its foibles) it seems to get easier to use.
INNOVATIVE OR DERIVATIVE?
One of the unique features of the unit and ostensibly one of the reasons for the "e" prefix in its name, is the ability to access web services directly from the touch-screen via a number of branded "apps". These include a variety of content such as kid-orientated stuff from Disney, DreamWorks, and Crayola (ex. colouring and games that can be printed off) to practical travel guides, weather forecasts and access to HP's Snapfish and Google's Picasa web-based photo services. It's a nice touch, though I have yet to make it a first destination for such information, preferring instead to use my laptop or desktop PC, whose screens provide much more space for editing and viewing.
You can check for updates and new applications direct from the touch screen and download them to the unit, however, choose a quiet time to do this as the update process can take awhile, and you can't power off or use the C310 while it is underway. The unit provides a handy countdown during the update process, but it is prone to "hanging" so isn't very accurate. In my limited experience, it can take two or three tries to get it to update properly.
Another reason for the funky prefix is the ability to print to the C310 "anywhere, anytime... even on the go" - HP's words, not mine, but a very good précis of a key selling point. In order to enable the functionality, you access the web address provided, add your printer using a unique code provided during the set-up process (this is only valid for 24 hours, but a new one can be generated at any time), and then set up an "allowed sender's list" to identify the e-mail addresses that can use the unit to print. You can then print by sending an e-mail, with the document or photo to be printed as an attachment, to a designated e-mail address. Unfortunately, you can't customise the e-mail address after registration, and as it is a series of hard to remember random letters and numbers, HP seem to have missed a trick. The system itself works remarkably well - the unit knows when you are sending a photo or document and prints from the appropriate tray.
Of course, the downside is that you need to make sure you have enough of the right paper loaded in the right tray, otherwise you could end up printing a fifteen page document onto A4 photo paper. I have found this feature especially useful to print straight from my Blackberry, without the fuss of transferring photos or documents from one device to another. Photos dry practically instantly (the exception seems to be deep, concentrated blacks which are prone to smudging if handled too early), so there is no danger of one sticking to another if you give it multiple print jobs.
That said, not everything will print. Several jobs I sent by e-mail from my work PC (graphics rich presentations and large photos) exceeded the 5MB (or ten attachment) size limit, but generally, most documents seem to come through fine (I have had some issues with sizing - especially with Excel or similar spreadsheet applications). You can use the web-based print centre to keep track of what has printed and what has been discarded, but HP send a confirmation to the source e-mail address either way.
BACK TO THE DAY JOB...
The paper/photo trays are at the bottom of the unit. The lower compartment is accessed by lifting off the smaller, photo-specific tray, and can accommodate around 125 sheets of A4 paper or photo paper. The upper compartment uses photo paper only and takes around twenty pages of varying sizes, up to a maximum of 5"x7". You can set it to print duplex (both sides of the paper) and it does so by printing one side, spitting out the paper, and then pulling it back in to do the other side.
Print quality on documents is very good with no sign of bleed on decent quality paper, but as with most ink-jets, it's best to let the ink dry for a few seconds before handling, otherwise it is prone to smudging. Likewise, with photo printing, colour reproduction, saturation and detail are very nicely captured. I have been diligently printing off the best of my Armenia photos from last summer with good results.
The photocopying (both in colour and black and white) and scanning functions are easy and intuitive to use. The flatbed scanner accommodates up to A4 size paper. Both functions are accessed from the "front page" of the touch screen and provide easy to follow walk-through's for ease of use. You can scan to a file on your chosen destination PC, or directly to a memory card in a bewildering array of formats. The unit accommodates Sony Memory Stick Duo, MMC and SD cards in a slot at the front, allowing you to print direct (or scan onto) without the need for a PC.
In a refreshing change from the industry norm, when installing the software on the CD-ROM provided, HP seem to have refrained from clogging your PC desktop with bloatware. Apart from a shortcut to "shop" for HP supplies, the three other icons give you: (a) quick access to the web-based HP ePrinter Center; (b) link to download HP Photo Creations (which I haven't tried) and, perhaps most usefully, (c) the HP Solution Center, which provides a one-stop shop for diagnostics, settings, functionality, and the obligatory special offers. The program is easy on the eye and equally easy and intuitive to use.
IS IT WORTH THE PREMIUM?
Having read some of the feedback on the HP site, I have not experienced any of the print head clogging problems others have reported, and have found the unit reliable and effective. It compares well with my incumbent Canon for print speed and quality, with the added features providing something different from its Japanese rival. However, whilst it does many things pretty well, it doesn't really stand out in any particular area. Its performance and features are best described as above average.
It still offers decent value for money provided you manage to get hold of at a substantial discount to its £179 RRP (It's going for £99 at John Lewis at the time of writing (i.e. April 2011)). It's five separate print cartridges (two of them black) allow for individual replacement, it runs fairly quiet, duplex printing cuts down on paper costs, and in standby mode it uses very little electricity.
If you are looking for a solid all-rounder that would be at home in a document-heavy home office environment, with the ability to copy and scan to an acceptable level, then the C310 is an option. If it seems I am trying hard to enthuse, it's because I am. Ultimately, for the RRP there are better options available, and one of them, my trusty Canon, is winking conspiratorially at me from the corner of my office.
© Hishyeness 2011
Summary: A good all-round all-in-one, but there are better available at the asking price...