More and more user time is spent nowadays with mobile devices, but the lingering need to print remains for many.
A few weeks ago, Ed Bott on our sister site ZDNet reviewed his first two months with the Surface RT. He brought up a problem that he had with the device: Lack of support for his printer. I experienced the same problem with my home printer. Considering that the printer is now around five years old, I chose to solve it by purchasing a new printer.
The opportunity to upgrade my printer meant I could also look for some of the newer features available, such as direct printing from various memory cards and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as any improvements in resolution and speed.
My first step was eBay, and after sifting through a large number of printers, I decided on the HP Photosmart 7510 e All in One Printer for around AU$150 delivered. I've had good experiences with a range of HP printers, but any new printer should offer much the same features. This gave me a scanner/photocopier/printer that would connect to my Wireless-n network. The printer provides around 33ppm for black and colour in draft mode, and around 13.5ppm in black and 9ppm in colour for normal printing. Colour resolution on photographic paper is 9600x2400dpi, which is great for producing photographs, and will also do double-sided printing. It also provides HP ePrint and Apple AirPrint for mobile devices. It uses a five-cartridge ink system that means you only have to replace the cartridge that is low.
While the printer is new, it's not the latest model, with a newer version on sale at HP — but I saw no need to get the latest, as it offers only minor improvements, and the price and free delivery from eBay were also tempting.
Like any modern device, the HP 7510 has a touchscreen control panel and a 40-page manual. Actually that's a five-page English manual with only the first page dealing with setup. You simply unpack the printer, remove the shipping tape and turn it on. Setup actually happens on the touch display panel. The display will step you through the setup process, beginning with installing cartridges. There is a very useful animation available for each step, which will show you how each action is performed.
Once the printer is up and working, and the test pages have appeared, the touch panel suggests that you may like to install the HP printer software on your PC from the accompanying CD to set up Wireless connectivity. I hadn't connected the printer to any PC, so I decided to just install the Wi-Fi manually and the printer quickly identified my network, and I simply entered the password. I could now place the printer anywhere in the house without the need to connect it to a PC.
The next stage was selecting the printer on my various windows 8 PCs and tablets. When I chose PC Settings under the usual Settings charm, I selected Devices and Add a Device. The HP Printer appeared in the Device list and I selected it — that was it. Windows 7 correctly identified a wireless printer when I used Add a printer from the control panel, but then forced me to select the manufacturer and printer type from a list of available drivers — I prefer the Windows 8 method.
HP also offers ePrint on its website to allow you to print from mobile devices, so I registered and entered my Printer code (that I printed from the ePrint icon on the display) and was given an email address, which you can change to something more meaningful if you wish. You then select whether you want the address to be available to anyone or a limited list of senders. I recommend the latter, as I don't know what HP's spam filter is like.
I then went to my HTC Windows 8x phone and selected a document in Word from SkyDrive (one of my earlier columns with embedded images) and sent it to my ePrint email address. Around a minute later, it came out of the printer. With PCs, tablets, and cloud storage available, I can't really see a use for the feature personally, but for those who mainly use their phones for social and business purposes, it might be extremely useful.
My immediate success with ePrint was followed by a problem: Any image I sent to the email address automatically selected the Photo tray in the printer, which was unfortunately empty. Setting the default preferences to only the Main tray didn't help, so I had no luck printing the images on A4 standard paper from the email address. A quick search of the help forums showed others with this problem and no apparent solution, and I can only hope HP addresses this "feature" in the future.
I was happy with print quality, colour reproduction, and speed, so I went to Windows Store on the desktop PC and installed HP Printer Control and the HP Scan and Capture apps. The Printer Control is mainly a support page, but you can also start Scan and Capture from it.
Starting Scan and Capture resulted in a message telling me to select a device. Upon entering device selection, the automatic search found nothing. I then chose Manual and entered the IP address for the printer (available in the Printer Control when you touch the image of the printer). Windows then found the device and identified it as an HP Photosmart printer.
I placed a photograph in the scanner, clicked the Capture Photos icon on my desktop, and the image appeared. I repeated the same process with the Surface RT with the same result — although Scan and Capture would also let me use the tablet's cameras as a device, as well. The Capture Document feature will save your scanned documents as PDF files.
I now have a printer/scanner photocopier that I can place anywhere in the house and is accessible from all our devices. I didn't have to hunt through any manuals, connect cables, or install any software from the CD. Windows 8 found the printer automatically and was then available from apps with the Devices charm. HP's Windows 8 apps from the store make the process of scanning photos and capturing documents easy, and it's a good incentive to me to start digitising some old photos before they fade away.
I'm now pleased that my Surface RT didn't support my old printer.