The Photosmart eStation has clearly been designed to facilitate printing from, well, just about anywhere you see fit. Firstly, it includes the Zeen, a detachable, touchscreen tablet running Android 2.1 (surely a play for iPad enviers?) that allows you to surf the web and send print jobs to your eStation over your local wi-fi network from your couch. Secondly, it makes use of HP’s ePrint cloud-based technology, which allows you to “email” print jobs to your printer from any Web-enabled device.
That is, if you can get the thing to work. And I sure couldn’t. I’ve got to give this printer the benefit of the doubt somewhat, though: I used a review model that, quite clearly, had been tested by other media outlets before I got my hands on it. As such, I didn’t have the benefit of a fresh, out-of-box experience. What I did have, though, was a frustrating one. Even when I restored the settings to factory defaults, I just encountered problem after problem in the set-up process. And that shouldn’t even affect the ePrint side of things: at the time of writing, all of the print jobs I emailed to the printer are yet to print (despite the fact that I received “print job confirmation” emails each time). It seems they’ve just been lost in cyber space. The only success I had was when printing Web pages from the Zeen.
And how about the Zeen? Well, despite the fact that it’s clearly intended to ride on its coat tails, it’s no iPad. It runs a resistive touchscreen (as opposed to the resistive touchscreens of high-end devices) and, subsequently, general responsiveness and sensitivity proved to be a bit of a problem. Although it looks rather nice, running Android 2.1, many times it would register my attempt to scroll a menu as a “tap”, sending me off into an unwanted part of the interface. Also, it failed to load Web pages using my home wi-fi network 90% of the time. It’s just not a particularly pleasant browsing experience, and it just feels like an unnecessary gimmick that’s not particularly useful. Think of it as little more than a glorified remote for your printer, and you won’t be terribly disappointed.
PROS: (Theoretically) allows you to bypass the PC when it comes to printing. (Theoretically) affords the convenience of sending print jobs via email.
CONS: What should have been a hassle-free experience was far from it. The Zeen is not a particularly pleasant tablet experience, either.
VERDICT: This could be an excellent printer in the same way the Titanic could have reached New York. Unfortunately, my experience just goes to demonstrate that it can all fall apart all too easily. No printer should give you this much trouble, even if it has been used before and configured to another user’s set-up. Even giving it the benefit of the doubt: it’s a neat idea, but you’ve got to weigh up the gimmick of what seems to be a me-too iPad and the ability to print from anywhere (how useful would that be, really?) against the potential hassle.