HP puffed its chest when announcing the Photosmart Premium web-connected touch-enabled printer, and I understand why. You print colouring books, movie tickets and news reports without even owning a computer, let alone connecting one. It works, and works well.
What the hell is it? It's a $US400 Wi-Fi printer all-in-one (yes, this includes fax). It has a touchscreen that includes a string of different branded widgets. The widgets do many things you can do on your mobile phone or a computer, but they all centre around printing. So you don't just order movie tickets, you print them out, along with weather reports, blank to-do lists, Google calendars, colouring book pages from Nickelodeon and Disney, news synopses from USA Today and coupons for everything from Hasbro toys to Yoplait yogurt.
$US400. Count 'em. That's more than twice what most similarly classed all-in-ones cost.
The Widgets — and What's Missing
In case you're not picking up on this, regular Giz readers may not be the target audience. It's as much an arts-and-crafts hub as it is a don't-want-to-mess-with-a-computer resource, full of easy-access widgets that scream out "overworked mother of five", with barely anything for "twentysomething nerd". (Honestly, I can picture Kristin Wiig using this and making one of those weird smiles of surprised satisfaction.) Still, I was impressed by the diversity and wealth of resources this thing has — at launch.
Here's what it still needs though, and has the SDK to provide, so listen up, developers:
• Driving directions - Google Maps is included, but for now you can just print the actual maps. A note says that driving directions are coming soon, and that just isn't soon enough. Hurry!
• Boarding passes - Airlines widgets would be glorious: With all the emphasis on printing out boarding passes at home, how about a way to log into Delta or United and pull up your latest boarding passes?
• Email - I swear HP had some device that printed emails out for old people who didn't like computers but liked hearing from their grandkids. Why isn't that app on here?
• Epicurious - There's already a recipe widget, and you can already sift through nearly 600 dishes, but that's not satisfactory. Let's have proven content from the culinary maestros.
• Sesame Street - As a dad, I am impressed with all the colouring and crafts that you can do with this thing, but if there's no Elmo, someone's gonna cry.
I realise I've used up most of your attention talking about the services, and that's because the printer itself works fine. I have criticised HP's colour palette in the past, but ever since my Epson blowout, I have given up on trying to find "the best printer" in all aspects. Epson may still have the absolute best colour representation, but here I found a printer that jumped onto my Wi-Fi network faster than anything I've seen from Epson or Canon, and soon started spitting out out perfectly usable snapshots — not just from my computer but from my iPhone, using HP's simple but effective iPrint Photo app. It's a quick printer, if you don't count the painfully long "one-time" ink initialisation period or inkjet head calibration.
Do I think you should spend $US400 on this printer? Not for your bachelor pad, dorm room or group home, that's for sure. But do I think you and the rest of the fam chip in to get this thing for mum for Christmas? To quote one of the more famous mums of our time, "You betcha".
Possibly the easiest Wi-Fi setup experience I've had to date
Fast, decent print quality using HP premium print paper
Amazing diversity of widgets for printing coupons, coloring books, movie tickets and more
Designed for a full house, with kids in need of boredom relief, and parents in need of quick data and services—it's not for everyone
The $US400 price is twice what other all-in-one printers in this class cost, so basically the widgets cost you $US200
Launch was great, but there's a lot of fluff in the content lineup, and it's missing key applications that would make it a must-have appliance