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Like the model it replaced, the $200 Photosmart 7520 can access Hewlett-Packard's ePrintCenter apps directly on the large 4.33-inch landscape display, though a wireless network is required to log in to the store. The Web connectivity also engages HP's suite of apps, including the convenient ePrint service that takes your print queue to the cloud and adds remote printing. There is no shortage of useful apps in the ePrintCenter, not to mention high-resolution yields for an affordable price, but you'll be just as happy with the Photosmart 7510 if you can find it at a discount.
Design and features
The Photosmart 7520 combines the functionality of a printer, a scanner, and a copier in a low-profile chassis finished in matte black that fits with HP's current design aesthetic. Its footprint -- 17.9 inches long by 17.7 inches tall and 7.7 inches wide -- does demand a large amount of desk space, but the tray that corrals outbound pages does fold back into the unit to save space during dormancy.
On the 7520, HP continues its trend of touch-compatible displays, with a 4.33-inch color screen positioned on the far left of the device. The color graphic display (CGD) takes on the familiar shape of the original iPhone with a rectangular screen fitted inside a rounded edge, with virtual buttons that illuminate to help with navigation and selection.
Though the sensitivity of the display is indeed a large improvement over some of HP's earlier touch-screen models, it's still prone to precision missteps when it comes to scrolling through the landscape menu pane. Unless you start a finger swipe on the outside of the display, the menu has a tendency to continue moving even after your finger lifts off the screen -- frustrating if you're trying to quickly parse through a lot of apps. The quirks of the display take time to get used to, but you'll have an easier time once you train your finger to unlearn the familiar iPhone gestures you might be used to.
The top of the printer houses the autodocument feeder (ADF) that you'll use to scan a stack of documents, though it's limited to 25 sheets at a time, so I recommend checking out a multifunctional laser printer instead if you need something to handle heavy-duty workloads. A single 125-sheet paper tray loads on the bottom of the device and there's a separate top-loading 20-sheet photo paper tray for 4x6-inch and 5x7-inch media. An intelligent sensor picks up on the best kind of media to use for each job and accesses the appropriate tray accordingly.
Another gripe I have about the hardware is the low capacity of the paper output tray -- you can keep only 50 sheets in the dock at a time before the stack gets too high for the machine and clogs the receiving belt -- another reason for hard-core users to consider a more business-friendly printer.
In addition to using a direct USB connection (like most vendors, HP does not include a USB cable with the printer), you can set up the Photosmart 7520 on your network via Wi-Fi, which also lets Apple users make an easy connection through AirPrint on a compatible iOS device. Using AirPrint, you can print out a photo from your iPhoto library by simply choosing the connected printer and hitting Print.
Unfortunately, HP omits an Ethernet port in an effort to push cloud printing features that can work only on a Wi-Fi network, which you should probably be using to reduce clutter anyway. Still, I'm still not ready to see Ethernet printing extinguished entirely until wireless connectivity becomes more ubiquitous, and the gap will likely be a deal breaker for IT professionals shopping for a networked printer to connect an office.
I tested the Wi-Fi connection process and found it simple to navigate through the initial setup screens, with help from the instructions on the driver disc. HP's latest Auto Wireless Connect reduces the setup time to less than 2 minutes -- if you make your network visible, that is. If keeping the network private from intrusive leeches is your concern, you can also manually input your network username and password details on the virtual QWERTY keyboard and the printer should immediately connect. Macs and PCs alike on CNET's lab network were able to see the printer without the need to install any additional software.