While the competition continues to manufacture generic multifunction printers with the same print, copy, scan, and fax functionality, we admire HP for its innovative approach with HP Envy 100, despite our resistance toward the touch screen printing trend. The Envy 100 encourages you to interact with the screen by way of two new features that set HP apart: an online app store called the ePrinterCenter, and ePrint, a convenient feature that lets you send print jobs directly to the printer from any device that can send an e-mail. The $250 Envy 100 is more expensive than other printers with similarly average output quality and print speed, and we encountered a few speed bumps during set up. Overall, it's worth the extra cost and a bit of hassle for its Web-connectivity features, the potential of its app store, and its stylish design.
The HP Envy 100 is built on a refreshing new platform for HP. It lacks features like exposed paper trays and a bulky display that typically distinguish printers from other electronic devices. You could easily mistake the low-profile, rectangular Envy design for a high-end modern Blu-ray player or a Dieter Rams turntable. The dimensions measure 16.8 inches wide, 13.2 inches deep, and 4 inches tall, and at 20.23 pounds, the Envy 100 is much lighter than most of the all-in-one printers in our catalog.
The exterior of the Envy 100 is cloaked in mirrored black and matte silver, and the scanner lid is finished with a dotted pattern for show. You still get a top-loading cartridge bay and a external storage media bay, but HP hides these features behind streamlined doors that fold flush into the top of the unit--in other words, obtrusiveness doesn't exist in the Envy 100's design lexicon.
You'll notice that the back of the printer is equally spare with only a USB connection on the left and a thin power cord on the right--there's no wired Ethernet port available. Instead, HP offers a USB port for a wired connection to a host computer, or you can alternatively connect wirelessly with the built-in 802.11b/g/n print server inside that becomes necessary to use both the ePrint feature, as well as HP's ePrinterCenter app store.
To minimize the Envy 100's footprint, HP opted for a drawer-style paper tray just underneath the display that can only hold 80 sheets of plain 20-pound paper, or up to 10 envelopes. The tray is an irritating drawback when you consider the $80 Canon MP495 can hold 150 sheets, but you won't likely notice a difference unless you print a high volume of documents every day.
Although it's not heavily advertised, our favorite component on the Envy 100 is the "invisible" output tray that automatically extends to catch outbound documents and retracts back into the printer after the job is done. Our only gripe is that the narrow arm is just a sliver of plastic without a lip at the end to catch multiple sheets, so printing more than 10 sheets at a time results in drops unless you're there to corral them yourself.
The front of the Envy 100 is free of buttons in lieu of a fold-out rectangular control panel with a smaller 3.45-inch touch screen inside. The Envy 100's home screen has a set of scrollable icons for your favorite applications as well as four shortcut buttons at the bottom to bring up controls for photo printing, copy, scan, and fax. You can drag your finger across the list of apps, delete ones you don't use, or download any apps from the growing list in the ePrintCenter.
The touch screen works well enough, but we noticed a degree of unresponsiveness in the touch sensitivity; it's just not as quick or responsive as the Apple iPhone, and the touch delay often caused unintentional button presses that force you to restart the application.
We also took this issue to HP, and we're told that a forthcoming firmware upgrade will mitigate the problem with an adjustable sensitivity slider accessible through the system preferences menu.
The Envy 100 represents HP's vision for the future of printing, with devices that don't rely on an accompanying desktop computer to dictate outgoing print jobs. Along with ePrint, the HP ePrinterCenter is a key component of that untethering. The ePrinterCenter is essentially an online control center to browse applications and load them onto the Web-connected printer. You can also add more software directly from the Envy's home screen using the "Get More" icon.
All applications are free to download and are broken down into categories within the app store: entertainment, greeting cards, kids, news/blogs, photo, and tickets are just a few, and each give you shortcuts to discount coupons, news articles, weather reports, recipes, and more.
HP also plans to release a software development kit (SDK) in the near future so software engineers can create their own apps for the store. HP tried a similar strategy with its TouchSmart desktops in the past, but the result was limited developer interest. We'll have to wait to whether its printer app store can generate more enthusiasm.
The second prong of HP's connected printer strategy is ePrint. The Envy 100 will work with any modern Windows or Mac computer, but ePrint also lets you print from mobile devices like tablets or smartphones that don't have a USB port to connect with a traditional printer. ePrint bypasses this issue by letting you send jobs directly to the printer using a unique e-mail address. With that address, you can use the printer to print from virtually any device that can send out messages.
The first step to set up ePrint on the Envy 100 is to link it to your host computer using a wireless proxy connection. That's easy--you just insert the software disc that comes in the box and follow the onscreen instructions, inputting the details of your wireless router and network username and password.
It's important to take note of your networking situation at home prior to buying the Envy 100; you absolutely need a wireless network to take advantage of ePrint and the multitude of apps available for download--remember, it has no Ethernet port.
The setup gets tricky when it comes time to look for the e-mail address assigned to your particular printer. You'll need to sign up for an ePrint username and password at the HP ePrint Center online, or you can also use your Facebook, AOL, Google, or Yahoo log-ins to bypass registration. Once a connection is established the printer is supposed to print a network setup sheet with the e-mail address, but it took our Envy 100 several tries before we successfully received the e-mail, with the display still indicating a disconnection.