By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Who gets excited about printers? Printers, after all, are pretty straightforward and somewhat "dumb" devices, right? Even the all-in-one multifunction models focus on a handful of tasks. Print, copy, scan and fax, no biggie. Well, HP's Photosmart eStation C510 has our heart racing. This all-in-one , which comes with its very own (sorta kinda) Android tablet called the Zeen, is probably the smartest printer we've ever seen.
We first saw the eStation all-in-one C510 ($399 in most Canadian resellers) at this year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and were intrigued by the prospect of a dockable Android tablet doing double-duty as the brains of the printer.
The HP Zeen is a 7"inch Android-powered tablet, which isn't too different from the Samsung Galaxy Tab in terms of shape but that's where the similarities end.
This tablet is first and foremost a controller for the printer and is limited to a number of apps it can run. The underlying OS may be Google'sAndroid but it does not come with the Android Market app (which as a result shuts users out of the greater Android app experience). Most of the apps and widgets are from Yahoo! and not Google, which makes things even stranger. The 800x480 resolution is good enough for most of the applications.
Now, if you need a tablet for your kid to play with or are happy with e-mail, Facebook, web browsing, music and a handful of widgets for weather, news and stocks then the Zeen will sufffice. It seems unlikely that you will get a full-featured Android OS or experience in future updates.
Having said that, the HP Zeen should not be considered a full featured Android tablet as it won't be sold as a standalone device nor will it be able to do all the things a Samsung Galaxy Tab (which costs $600) will be able to do. Still, it is a well-build, responsive and functional device that is limited by the software it runs.
HP's printer solutions have been gravitating towards wireless integration and getting the eStation all-in-one C510 up and running is dead easy. Unpack the printer, remove the crazy amount of plastic and protective tape on the 5 ink cartridges (1 each black, cyan, magenta, yellow), add paper, plug it in and then sign in to your home or office's Wi-Fi network.
On a MacBook, the printer is located wirelessly through Apple's Bonjour service and automatically gives you the option of searching and downloading the necessary driver which is convenient and even ideal for notebooks and netbooks that don't have optical drives. Once the drivers are installed, you can print or scan right away.
On a PC notebook running Windows 7, we downloaded the drivers from HP's website and installed them, restarted the notebook and were good to go.
Out of the four notebooks we have in our office, three of them managed to find, connect and print from the C510 without any issue. One of our Macs had trouble getting things printed and while the notebook thought it had printed a document, nothing was coming out of the printer.
Printing draft quality colour documents wirelessly at 32 pages per minute and draft black and white documents at 33 pages per minute is remarkable. Hit print from your notebook in you bedroom and by the time you get to your home office the printing is done. The C510 also manages two-sided duplex printing nicely which is a feature that saves paper and is ideal for creating draft layouts of flyers, newsletters and CD sleeves. Best of all, no wires.
If you want to print from your SD Card, the HP Zeen has a slot which accepts and reads memory cards. You can then select the orientation of your photos and print them directly. HP also offers a number of dedicated print widgets and apps for cropping or retouching images and documents prior to printing.
The eStation C510 even has its own e-mail address that you can e-mail documents to from anywhere and it will automatically print those documents once they are received. We would have liked to have seen printing integration between HP Palm's Pre 2 smartphone but maybe this is coming in the near future.
We were also impressed at the eStation all-in-one C510's quick and accurate scanning capabilities, the 216 x 297 mm scanning area size is ample for most small business and home office needs. We like how HP's set-up is completely wireless and so intuitive.
The HP Photosmart eStation all-in-one C510 printer is an amazing and extremely functional printer. The addition of the HP Zeen tablet is a neat and clever add on but does also add on signiicantly to the cost. While it does give you a glimpse into the tablet experience, it is severely limited by the software. Still, this is a tablet that can surf the web and connect to e-mail plus it has 4-6 hours battery life which may be enough for some users.
The C510 overdelivers on the promise of wireless inkjet printing and document scanning and also innovates functionality with the Zeen tablet. HP's innovation and design daring does yield some interesting results but this product will be successful because it has a great multifunctional wireless printer, scanner and fax combo at the very core.
4.5 out of 5