Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

HP Printers are Worth Another Look

by Pat Fauquet

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

Several years ago I was an Apple Product Representative for the Performa product line. I worked with store personnel and customers helping them choose great products to sell or buy with Macintosh computers. I was with the program for five years and each year I saw the Hewlett-Packard products for the Mac decline in both numbers available and features. When HP stopped selling Macintosh printers and scanners, I was relieved not to have to answer customer questions about HP products. With the advent of the iMacs, HP was late out of the starting gate and there were real issues with their printer drivers. Their Mac compatible scanners had been overpriced, under featured and the scanning software was the worst in the marketplace. During the same timeframe HP began marketing their own brand of PC computers which were a big hit with the consumers and I suspect the company decided that Apple was sure to be gone in a few years, so there was no need to deal with Macintosh owners.

Times have certainly changed. Apple's product line and market share have grown, other PC computers are now the top-selling machines, and HP has realized that the Mac market is one to recapture. They are writing much better printer drivers, their Mac tech support is better than most, and their products seem to last forever.

Of course, we also do different things with our color printers since scanners and even digital cameras are owned by many Mac users. While HP photo printing quality is better each year, it requires changing to a separate photo cartridge. This is not as convenient as Epson's six color photo printer cartridges and the lack of both normal and light cyan, and magenta in the HP photo cartridge does not yield quite the color range of the Epson six color photo printers.

Last year's product line was interesting, but the recently introduced HP products are truly exciting. Check their web page (www.hp.com) and you will see twelve different ink-jet printers to choose from ranging in price from $89 to $699. All are USB and the features offered on various models range from the ability to print 4 x 6 photos, to being able to print directly from a Compact Flash card from a digital camera, to auto sensors to detect the type of paper in the tray, to having an infrared port enabling a Palm or PowerBook user to print without attaching any cables. They also have two portable printers for the mobile PowerBook user and two wide-format inkjet printers.

You may not see all the listed models at your local computer or office supply store, and you may find lots that are not Mac compatible, but shopping Mac catalogs or making a trip to the HP web site where you can purchase the printer, cartridges and HP paper online or by phone will give you access to the full product line. The online prices are the same or within a few dollars of those offered in local stores. HP also offers refurbished machines on their web site.

The HP laser line up includes seven models ranging in price from $399 for a basic model to $2099 for their top of the line networked Postscript printer.

The really exciting printers in the HP product line are their multifunction machines. Last year's line up included two inkjet models which are now available in Costco stores around the area.

The G55 model will act as a printer, scanner and color copier. It looks like a tall flatbed scanner with an opening for loading and ejecting paper. The price on the web is $399.

While this is a good solution, the new PSC 750 is the one to be looking for. The MSRP is $299. It is about 1/3 smaller than the earlier model, and the stylish case in a neutral gray and blue is certainly attractive. There are more machine-based features that the average consumer might use. The scanner portion provides a 600 x 1200 dpi optical resolution with 36 bit color. The scanning software has been totally redesigned and looked to be very intuitive for managing scans and basic touchup work. It is the best I have seen (I do not like the layout of the scanning software shipping with the G55.)

The PSC 750 copy button on the front of the unit has several great features. You can make multiple wallet-size photos from one original on the same sheet of paper without having to use software like Photoshop or PhotoDeluxe. You can also enlarge or reduce pictures without using the scanning software. Since it has a flat bed, you can make color copies of virtually anything (books, 3D objects, paper) also without using the scanning software. However, when you want to scan a portion of the orginal, touch up the scan, or scan something to be saved as a file, the software is well laid out and intuitive for a new user. The included OCR software by Readiris is the best I have seen for easy, accurate OCR work.

Last year's g85 multifunction model is also showing up at Costco for $549. It is the machine I long for since it also includes fax capabilities. I am not sure if the scanning software is like the g55, and it is quite large, but being able to replace three large machines in my home office with one is very tantalizing. The fax capabilities are available in the machine and do not involve your computer, so this model would be great for when I do not want the g55, and it is quite large, but my computer on and the fax software active to receive a fax while I am away for the day.

The above three models are all based on the inkjet technology. Owners of inkjet printers quickly discover how costly printing can be. Cartridges seldom last into a second ream of paper, and replacing both cartridges can often come close the price of one laser tone cartridge, while the laser cartridge will often print a case or more of paper.

HP offers several multifunction laser printers, but they all have one drawback. They are shaped like plain paper fax machines, and so you can only scan sheets of paper with them. I find I scan smaller photos, books and 3D objects, and these machines cannot scan any of these things. They do scan in color, but they only print in black and white. The LaserJet 3200m at $699 supports printing, copying, faxing and color scanning. Missing from this unit is the ability to do wireless printing.

My dream printers for home and small office use would be a flatbed inkjet multifunction printer that could scan, print, copy, accept digital media such as Compact Flash and print from a wireless device. Next to it would be a laser multifunction printer that could scan, fax, print from wireless devices while being postscript enabled and networkable. Of course, I would love it if the bill for both machines totaled less than $1000! Perhaps the next machines introduced by HP will have these feature sets.

Pat Fauquet teaches classes for Washington Apple Pi, is an avid digital photographer and owns a color Handspring Visor. Her needs may be more than yours, but she suspects that most Mac owners will have digital cameras, digital video cameras and PDAs in the next few years.