If there’s one thing I intensely dislike about printers it is drivers. You know, every time you try to set up one of these things something is incompatible. Well I think that is changing.
I think it is changing because the traditional hegemony that we call the PC experience has forever been disrupted by the growth of different wireless devices like tabets and smartphones.
But it is also changing because I think finally the penny has dropped and companies like HP realise this – ordinary technology users are not IT managers and don’t care a fig about drivers or updates – they don’t want to know!
HP also realizes that we are in a social network centric world where if you want devices to be sexy they have to march in step with avid sharers and all that jazz.
So now HP are bringing out printers with LCD screens that allow all manner of entertainment for families and individuals. For example, a Dreamworks app on the HP Envy 110 allows you to print off colouring pages and even masks like Puss in Boots from Shrek – I would imagine this kind of thing would be a godsend for parents on a rainyday and the kids are climbing the walls.
But back to boring stuff like drivers and updates. The Envy 110 has to be the only all-in-one printer I’ve reviewed in years that so far I haven’t been bothered with driver issues or updates.
The really crucial reason is quite selfish actually – I admire Apple’s AirPrint technology on iPhone and iPad devices and I love the simplicity of just printing off a photo or web article wirelessly. That has to be a real coup for both HP and Apple.
The other thing I notice is HP seems to be standardizing its cartridges for these consumer-oriented printers – this really makes sense. On this device and Envy predessesors the same colour and black and white 300 cartridges apply.
Again, consumers want to do hi-tech things, they just want to do these things without the bother so common sets of consumables make more sense – I hope HP engineers are reading this. If I’m right, I salute you. If I’m wrong then it’s just a lucky coincidence.
Appy to say printing arrives in the 21st century
So on to the technical stuff. Firstly the Envy 110 allows users to print both sides of the page which could save users up to 50pc on paper usage. The machine is capable of printing lovely large A4 glossy photos, standard colour or black and white pages and A4 glossy postcard-size photos.
One of the novelty factors of the machine is its LCD screen which is robotic and shoots out when printing is in operation – very sci-fi.
The winner here is wireless, however, and HP would be winning a major perception battle if users can continue to just send stuff from their mobile devices and not worry about compatibility issues. HP Auto Wireless Connect.14 is designed to easily connect with most home and office wireless networks.
Another big winner is the apps that exist for the HP Envy family – this is where HP has really turned a corner and really sets the trend for printing into the future – you can download mapping apps like Mappy, music apps like Last.fm that print off lists of music in your area, Picasa, Crayola, you name it – very innovative stuff.
One criticism I have is I think the LCD panel on these machines is too small to get a real sense of what’s possible with these apps and I would prefer to see a larger display. Who knows, perhap soon we’ll have larger displays with printers capable of capturing video stills! I don’t work in R&D so I’ll say no more.
I’m pleased to say printing has made it into the 21st century. I was worried there for a while.
The machine is available in most computer stores for around €299.99.