It's 2018, And I Actually Care About This Inkjet Printer

Photo: Alex Cranz, Gizmodo

The HP Tango X, a compact home printer which is trying incredibly hard to be contemporary and relevant, is actually pretty cool. No, it is not 1999, and I am not typing this from a Gateway desktop tucked in a corner of my mum’s kitchen. This really is an inkjet printer to get excited about. Honestly. I swear!

But there are some caveats, chiefly (and obviously) that you have to be the kind of person that still needs to print stuff at home. If you’re fine with using the office printer to pump out tax documents or your latest lease, then this printer probably means nothing to you. But for a lot of people printing at home is still an occasional necessity, even if it’s not something you have to do every day. The Tango X, an attractive one wire-printer that can be shoved in a closet or hidden in a cabinet when not in use, feels like an attractive alternative to printing personal junk on the office printer, or tracking down a Kinko’s, or an ageing family member who still has their old inkjet. It’s about the size of a few hard back novels and thanks to a stiff cloth cover that doubles as a paper tray it doesn’t need a whole lot of space to do its duties.

When HP sat me down to chat about the Tango X, company reps were eager to point out all the cool features meant to entice younger people. They pointed to the fact that you can print from anywhere as long as the app is on your phone, and that it can be linked to an Alexa device so you can, I guess, shout at it to print more. It was sort of like someone in HP marketing grabbed up a handful of millennial buzzwords and threw them at the wall.

In practice the printer has performed well so far, and not because of connected features that allow me to do things like print something from my phone while I’m on the train or connect to my smarthome via IFTTT and print every time someone new logs onto my wifi or something. Those are neat features that aren’t commonly available on an inkjet printer. But neater is this printer actually looks attractive when it’s all closed up and sitting in my office area, as it will be about 90-per cent of its life.

This LED flashes different colours depending on the status of the printer. (Photo: Alex Cranz, Gizmodo)

The $US200 ($276) Tango X comes with a cloth cover that doubles as paper tray, and HP promises other trays, including a fetching cork one, will be available. The basic Tango will retail for $US50 ($69) less and exclude the tray, going with a dorkier plastic instead.

Yeah, I know, I called a basic printer plastic and implied a $US50 ($69) cover makes a printer cooler. But look, I’m practically an adult now. I have throw pillows and a credenza, and I want the technology in my home to be apparent but not obtrusive. I like things to look like they’re integrated into the space rather than loudly shouting that they are technology.

To that end, this dumb little printer has me excited, but I can’t swear by it yet. HP says the ink in the printer should last about seven to nine months before needing replacement—and intimates it could be even longer as ink cartridge lifespan has improved significantly since 1999. Yet that’s still $US40 ($55) every 7 months on top of the $US200 ($276) price tag for the Tango X, which may just be too much for the sporadic printing I and most people I know do. So I’m going to use the printer as usual over the next year and see if that ink holds up or fuzzes out. If you don’t care about the potential lifespan of your ink then you can buy the HP Tango X starting later today.

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