This is the first of a new wave of HP inkjet printers that are Internet-connected out-of-the-box (assuming you have a broadband link, of course). The advantages, say HP, are that you can print from anywhere, simply by sending an email to your printer.
The Photosmart Wireless B110a, not to be confused with the Photosmart Wireless B109n, a similarly named but older model without Internet connection, is a surprisingly low-end, ink-jet all-in-one to be the first to have the email connection treatment.
Its matt black case, with glossy lid punctuated with a hexagonal motif, is a conventional HP design. The input tray folds down from the front panel and can take plain or photo paper, though not at the same time. An output support with flip-up paper stop swings out from the front lip of the tray, giving a simple, but slightly ungainly, paper handling system.
The control panel is unusual as the 2.4in LCD display is surrounded by six, illuminated touch buttons, in what HP calls a Touch Frame. These are sensitive and easy to use, though the left and right arrow buttons are also used for moving up and down menus, which is confusing.
Although the printer has a wireless network connection, unusually up to 802.11n speeds, there's no cabled network socket at the back, just USB. So to hook it up to the Internet, you need to have a wireless network running.
Our out-of-box experience wasn’t great. It took quarter of an hour to remove the glue the advertising label left on the lid and the machine then claimed the 364XL cartridges supplied with our review sample (and mentioned on the box as suitable consumables) were incompatible. HP tech support sorted it by providing an arcane sequence of touch key presses to reset the machine.
Software installation is boringly long-winded and the wireless setup includes having to enter the IP address of the Photosmart into the software – something we’ve never had to do before. Still, installation only happens once.
As with Lexmark’s SmartSolutions, HP’s apps have to be selected and downloaded from a dedicated site via a computer. If the idea is to make the printer more of a standalone device, the site really ought to be accessible directly from the Photosmart’s control panel.
It's early days yet, but there were only six apps available on the HP site for this printer, including ones from Disney, DreamWorks and Yahoo. Most involve printouts for youngsters, such as join the dots puzzles, but with HP 's industry clout, we imagine the selection will grow quickly.