My first stop when looking at AirPrint printers was HP’s line of all-in-one Photosmart inkjet printers. There are some great offerings there, ranging from the inexpensive D110A to the office-capable C410A. But home users like cool gadgets, and HP has delivered two sexier printer options: The Envy 100 transforms from a glossy black monolith to a compact and functional printer when needed, while the Photosmart eStation does double-duty as a docking station for HP’s first “Zeen” Android tablet computer!
“Photosmart e” Common Features
The “Photosmart e” is the latest in a series of Photosmart printers from HP. These have historically combined document and photo printing in an affordable package, with all-in-one models including scanning, copying, and fax capabilities.
The “e” signifies HP’s “e-print” feature, which assigns an email address to each registered and compatible printer. Any device with email can then send a document to the printer and, assuming it is correctly configured, the printer will spit out a hard copy. These printers also offer built-in Apple AirPrint support for iPad use sans email as well as the use of a variety of “Print Apps” that encourage you to print everything from coloring pages to airline boarding passes directly from the printer.
Both of these printers fall in the “Photosmart e” line, though they differ in naming from the basic all-in-one models. They include document and photo printing, scanning and copying, duplex (2-sided) printing, and wireless networking built-in. Neither model includes a sheet feeder for fax and scanning.
HP Envy 100
The Envy 100 (officially called the HP Envy 100 e-All-in-One D410a Printer, CN517A) is designed for buyers who dislike the ugly “box with lots of buttons” look of most modern printers. When sitting in standby mode, the Envy 100 is an attractive slab of glossy plastic with a patterned top. But press the power button (or send a document via WiFi or email) and it transforms, with a motorized screen and paper tray rising and expanding.
It’s all very cool to look at, but the Envy 100 isn’t my cup of tea. It is woefully limited, with a low-end 2-ink (HP 60) printing system and 80-sheet paper tray. I was surprised to see duplex printing included, but a scanner sheet feeder was cut in the name of fashion. Examining the specs reveals that the Envy 100 is little more than a fancied-up D110A: The specs are almost identical, though the list and street prices are almost 2.5 times higher! I guess that’s why both model numbers start with “D”.
Unless you’re desperate for a better-looking printer, steer clear of the Envy 100. It’s not much of a printer for a lot of money. Yes, it features duplex printing and a large touch screen, but the Photosmart Premium C310A has all that along with better inks yet is still cheaper! How much is a pretty face worth to you?
HP Photosmart eStation
The Photosmart eStation (officially the HP Photosmart eStation All-in-One C510A Printer, CQ140A) is an intriguing beast. It’s large, fairly expensive, and includes many features, but that’s not why it earns a sweet in-store “endcap” display, nor why most buyers will stop and gawk. No, the eStation’s true differentiating feature is HP’s walk-around “Zeen” screen, which serves as both the eStation’s display and control mechanism and a basic Android tablet computer!
The Zeen isn’t a great tablet (it’s definitely not an iPad killer) but the “cool factor” will dazzle consumers and tempt them towards the checkout line. Although it features a Barnes & Noble-compatible e-book reader and other HP apps, the Zeen isn’t a full-featured tablet. It lacks pretty much every Google service (including Gmail!) opting instead for Yahoo. The capacitive touch screen is slow to respond, perhaps due to the down-spec 800 MHz CPU. Although it’s a name-brand device, the caveats in my “Do Not Buy Weird, Cheap, Off-Brand Android Tablets” discussion definitely apply to the Zeen as well.
But the eStation is a printer at heart, and a reasonably good one at that. Its specs are very similar to the Photosmart Premium C310A, including duplex printing, flatbed scanning, and HP’s multi-cartridge 564 ink system. It’s likely to print well, but the $150 price premium for the eStation isn’t money well spent. The tablet isn’t worth much after the initial excitement wears off.
Although they tempt buyers with sexy features, the Envy 100 and Photosmart eStation aren’t good values. Save your money by buying a pedestrian D110A or C310A instead: You’ll get an equal or better printer/scanner at half the cost. And after all, weren’t we shopping for a printer, not a cool new toy?
Folks looking for AirPrint capability like me already have an Apple iPad. The chunky, heavy, and slow Zeen tablet is only going to annoy anyone who has used an iPad in the past month. I suppose fashion-conscious Apple buyers might like the Envy for its looks, but they’ll never go for the eStation.
I decided on the Photosmart Premium Fax C410A. It’s the most utilitarian offering in HP’s lineup, but it’s priced right and has every feature I wanted, including duplexing, a sheet feeder, and integrated fax. I feel so relieved to have been able to resist the temptation of HP’s “gadget printers”!
One final aside: Was HP trying to alienate consumers with their web site? The eStation and Envy 100 web pages don’t do any favors to these “fashion forward” devices. They’re really awfully-designed, with ugly layout and anti-enticing writing. The proliferation of superscript nonsense further detracts from readability. (8 footnotes? Seriously?) Apple’s online store does a much better job of selling the Envy 100 than HP does! Maybe there’s a better product page, but the site gave me a headache so I gave up looking.