Review: HP Photosmart Wireless All-in-One B110
Earlier this year, Gizmag attended the Asia-Pacific press launch of HP’s web-connected printers. At the time we were hopeful that the company’s ePrint technology which, amongst other things, allows users to print documents by sending an email, would help cut down on printer hassles stemming from pesky printer drivers. After spending a bit of time with the HP Photosmart Wireless e-All-in-One Printer B110 we’re still hopeful for the future of cloud-based printing, but it seems there are still some kinks that need to be ironed out.
The B110 doesn’t break the mold in the looks or packaging department. There’s the standard chunks of polystyrene and liberal lashings of tape that need to be removed when extracting the printer from its box. HP has thought to wrap the printer in a reusable cloth bag for carting home the groceries along with a smaller toiletries-size cloth bag for storing printer accessories – spare ink I’m guessing. Upon unboxing the B110 looks like your average All-in-One (AIO) printer with a nice piano black finish. No complaints there, but nothing to write home about either.
Since HP is pushing the wireless capabilities of its new printers we thought we’d try setting up the B110 without connecting via USB and see how things went. This meant relying on the B110’s 2.36-inch (5.9cm) LCD display, which unfortunately isn’t as intuitive as a full touchscreen display. HP calls it a “Touchsmart frame” which means only the predefined buttons around the outside of the frame are touch sensitive – these will also only be illuminated if they are selectable for the currently displayed menu. Still, the menu was fairly straight forward and guides users through the set up process pretty well.However, I’m not sure if it’s the altitude I’m at or some other mysterious environmental factor, but I seem to have a bad history with printer heads. This trend continued with the heads of the B110 failing to align properly on initial startup. Since the printer only warned that this would mean I wouldn’t be able to print at full resolution I decided to continue with the setup and worry about aligning the heads later on. Mistake! Since the printer prints the sheet with the all-important printer code and spam unfriendly email address that are required to sign up at HP’s ePrint Center in color, there’s a chance you won’t be able to read the information if your printer isn’t printing in full color. Naturally, I had this problem.
After cleaning the heads a couple of times I was back on track and was able to print out the printer’s email address. Since I had foolishly forged ahead, this required a bit of hunting around the printer’s menus. So, if you’re having any problems with print quality right off the bat, I would recommend persevering with a few head cleans until the heads align and printing properly before progressing.
With that out of the way I was able to soldier on. The printer detected my home network (the B110 boasts 802.11b/g/n) with no problems and with the printer’s email address now in hand I was able to log onto the ePrint Center and set up the printer to receive ePrint jobs.
To try out the email printing we sent a few different types of attachments to see how it fared. PDF, Word documents, GIFs and most JPEGs printed fine, but we ran into a weird problem with one particular JPEG. The original 2,700 x 3,650 pixel image printed fine when sent as an attachment via Gmail. But after cropping it to 560 x 550 pixels the image would not print when sent via Gmail. This highlighted another problem with the ePrint system. If that print fails you won’t know unless you log into you ePrint Center account and check the print log – which is what I did after sitting twiddling my thumbs for five minutes wondering what was taking so long. While the system will send an email when a job has successfully been received and prepared for printing, it would be nice to get an email telling you that the print job has failed too. It would be even nicer if it told you why it had failed – information that isn’t even available when checking out the print job status in the ePrint Center.
The problem was repeated with a few other JPEGs that wouldn’t ePrint when sent from a Gmail account. However, these very same pics printed with no problems when sent from an account using Apple Mail. Other images sent via Gmail on a PC and an iPhone printed fine too. After trying to access HP’s online help which went into meltdown after only giving me the option of specifying my location as the U.S. or Canada – neither of which I am in – I had a look around to see if anyone else was having the same problem. I found a couple or people, but none that had found an answer to the mystery. Hopefully it’s just a teething problem that HP can sort out. When it did work though, ePrinted documents appeared very promptly – none took more than 30 seconds to start printing after sending the email.
I should point out that up until this point I hadn’t bothered to plug the B110 directly into a computer or even install software on my computer. I was curious to see whether it could be done and, indeed it could. So if you were only going to be printing the limited range of documents that HP’s ePrint supports, then it would be possible to do so without dealing with installing the drivers or the massive collection of software that printer manufacturers – HP most definitely included – seem to like to include with their devices.
Still, if you want access to the printer’s full functionality you’re going to want to install the drivers, if not the software, that comes bundled on a CD-ROM because printing via email doesn't allow control of settings such as print quality. This can also be done wirelessly over the home network without any fuss. If you initially set up via USB and want to switch to a wireless connection, the initial set up process places an icon on your desktop to take you through this step by step as well.
The printer apps, which can be downloaded either on the printer or selected through the ePrint Center using a browser, all worked without a hassle. Many of these are aimed at youngsters – coloring pages and puzzles – so didn’t really hold much appeal. Although the Sudoku app provided a few number-based challenges to wile away the time.
Being positioned at the lower end of HP’s web enabled printers, the print quality of the B110 wasn’t overly impressive. Small fonts tend to bleed a little and blacks in photos can have a slightly green tinge, but it’s pretty much what you’d expect for a printer at this price point. The specs list the printer as printing up to 32 ppm for draft quality in black and up to 30 ppm for color but things obviously slow down considerably if you’re sending a large photo using ePrint – a 6 x 4-inch 2.8MB photo took over a minute to print out, while the same photo crunched down to 512kb took around 30 seconds, although the loss of quality was evident.The B110 takes four ink cartridges – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – and can also use XL cartridges, which cost more but are slightly more economical.
If you’re looking for an everyday printer for non-critical documents and pictures then the B110 is comparable to similarly priced offerings from other manufacturers print quality-wise, so this wouldn’t be a deciding factor. If, however, you’re likely to use the ePrint functionality then this should tip the scales in HP’s favor because no other manufacturer provides this capability. The ease of use of the ePrint system – when it works – makes it a hassle-free way to print (an admittedly still fairly limited variety of documents but the main ones are covered) without having to be tied geographically to the printer. If HP can iron out the kinks then it could make the decision of whether to buy a printer with this functionality or one from another manufacturer without it a foregone conclusion.We reviewed the Australian B110 model, which measures 450 x 420 x 200 mm W x D x H (17.7 x 16.5 x 7.8-inches) and weighs 6.02kg (13.3 lbs). It is priced at AUD129 (approx. US$118). Save for a few minor differences, it appears comparable to the U.S. D110a model, which is currently priced at US$99 after a $30 instant rebate.