Although its print quality is limited by a dual-ink cartridge bay, the $80 HP Deskjet 3050A is built for productivity with wireless connectivity and mobile printing by way of HP smartphone apps and the company's ePrint remote printing service that lets you access downloadable content from any computer. We wouldn't recommend its 60-sheet paper input capacity and low-volume ink cartridges for larger offices, but the Deskjet is certainly worth a look for periodic users on a strict budget.
Design and features
The Deskjet 3050A's natural, flowing curvature appears to draw inspiration from the aesthetic principles of mid-20th-century furniture designers. The external pieces are brushed with various shades of matted gray and burnt umber, and a 2-inch monochrome LCD pops out of a cut-out on top of the printer for quick access to application controls, the set up menu, and one-touch installation for a wireless connection and HP's ePrint service.
A 60-sheet input tray also folds flush into the unit and features an adjustable marker that can align with a variety of media sizes down to No. 10-sized envelopes. Of course, several markings also exist for standard size sheets of 4-inch by 6-inch and 8-inch by 10-inch photo paper, but the single tricolor cartridge inside limits the quality of photos this printer can produce.
Pairing the 3050A with a companion computer is easiest with a hard-wired USB connection, but a wireless router offers a more elegant solution and lets you take advantage of ePrint, a service that lets you send jobs directly to the printer using a unique e-mail address issued to the printer when you establish a connection. Similar to your Facebook or Flickr e-mail address, you can load print jobs into the 3050A by either copying an article directly into the message body or attaching a document to the e-mail.
It's important to note your home networking set up prior to buying this printer, as you absolutely need a wireless network to take advantage of cloud printing. Also, the 3050A lacks a networked Ethernet port, so only one user can print at a time. The ePrint system can print e-mail message attachments in the form of images, document files, PDFs, and photos, and it will send a separate job for any text that appears in the body of the e-mail.
The default preferences let anyone with the address print wirelessly, but you can also set up a list of verified senders to allow on a private network. We confirmed in testing that the ePrint functionality works with a wide variety of Web clients: we used Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and Microsoft Outlook with positive results, and you can even e-mail articles directly from an RSS feed like Google Reader.
The 3050A's flatbed scanner accommodates up to 8.5-inch-by-11.7-inch documents, although the hardware doesn't have an expandable hinge for thick media and books. It also lacks a USB port for saving resulting scans to a flash drive, so we actually recommend the HP Photosmart D110a e-All-in-One for amateur photographers and media professionals who want easy access to print and save photos.
We trust that budget users shopping for a printer like the HP 3050A will value cost over print speed, but it's also helpful to know that this is a capable, if not slightly faster than average printer compared to the competition. Though the differences are negligible across all four speed tests, the 3050A did achieve top-tier results in our 10-page slide presentation test, and performed slightly faster than the photocentric HP D110a in all four tests.