Fast, easy to set up and boasting a wide array of mobile printing options, the HP Photosmart 5520 ($109) has the makings of a great all-in-one printer. A built-in touch screen makes this device a cinch to use, and the 5520 supports Apple's AirPrint as well as a printing app for phones and tablets and the ability to print via email. Do you have to give anything up to get such a low price?
The 21.5 x 17.5 x 5.6-inch, 11.2-pound Photosmart 5520 isn't the most compact all-in-one printer we've seen (those honors go to the 16.5 x 12.4 x 7-inch, 11.5-pound Kodak ESP 3.2), but it's significantly lighter than both the Canon PIXMA MG6220 (18.5 x 14.5 x 6.9 inches, 20.1 pounds) and Epson WorkForce 845 (17.6 x 14.5 x 11.8 inches, 22 pounds). The sides and lid of the printer sport a matte black finish that nicely resists fingerprints, while glossy black plastic covers the front lip of printer.
The 5520's control panel rests just off-center on the front lip of the printer. The control panel features a 2.1 x 1.5-inch capacitive touch screen flanked by buttons for home, back, help, cancel, next and previous. On the right are buttons to enable or disable the printer's Wi-Fi connection, access ePrint settings, and turn the printer on and off.
A row of settings buttons runs along the top of the touch screen, which let you manage the 5520's Web Services settings (display the printer's email address, download product updates, enable/disable ePrint, or remove Web Services). You can also change the wireless settings, display the printer's estimated ink levels and tweak general settings (including language, screen brightness, sleep mode and enable/disable Wireless Direct).
The touch screen also houses buttons for Photo, which lets you print pictures directly from a memory card and reprint photos using the flatbed scanner). Pressing the Apps button presents Photosmart-specific apps designed to let you print Sudoku puzzles, daily news and other items without a PC. You'll also find Copy and Scan buttons, as well as Quick Forms, which lets you print pre-made calendars, checklists and notebook paper. The touch screen itself was very responsive.
Below the control panel are an 80-sheet input tray and a 15-sheet output tray. The input tray also supports up to 40 4 x 6 cards, five No. 10 envelopes or 30 sheets of photo paper, while the output tray can hold up to five envelopes or 10 sheets of photo paper. As one would expect with an all-in-one, the scanner sits above the control panel, beneath the printer's plastic lid.
To the left of the tray, a small hatch opens up to reveal ports for a memory stick duo or an SD card (64MB max size). AC and Ethernet ports are found on the back of the printer.
Setting up the Photosmart 5520 was incredibly simple. We just plugged in the printer, selected the language on the touch-screen control panel and followed the on-screen instructions (helpfully demonstrated using pictures, making it easy to comprehend in any language).
Installing the necessary software on our PC was also a cinch. After placing the installation disk in our notebook's optical drive, the software asked us if we preferred to set up the printer wirelessly or using a USB cable (we chose the wireless option). The setup then proceeded to automatically install the necessary drivers on our notebook and sync up with the printer. In all, it took less than 10 minutes to get the 5520 up and running, with a minimal amount of human input.
Like the Photosmart eStation C510, the 5520 features HP's ePrint technology, which allows users to send documents, photos and PDFs to their printer's email address (created online when the 5520 is first activated), without needing to use a PC as an intermediary. Although HP recommends that documents be sent from a PC to preserve formatting, the 5520 can print files from any Internet-connected device, including smartphones and tablets.
Using ePrint, the 5520 took 38 seconds to print a 2-page black-and-white Word document that we mailed using Gmail and 48 seconds to print a 2-page color PDF. A 4 x 6 color photo took 2 minutes and 16 seconds. By comparison, the Epson WorkForce 845 and Kodak ESP 3.2, which also offer print-by-email capabilities, printed the same files more slowly - 0:58, 2:15 and 2:40 for the Epson, and 1:01, 1:02 and 1:26 for the Kodak.
HP ePrint Home & Biz
HP also offers an app called ePrint Home & Biz that lets you print straight from your Android or iOS device. Becaue the app automatically detects compatible HP printers, it proved easy to use with our Toshiba Excite 10 LE - we just tapped on the document we wanted to print, selected ePrint Home & Biz from the "Complete action using" list, and then "Print." An options menu lets you change the printer, paper size, print quality, color mode, number of copies and paper source, as well as enable or disable two-sided printing.
EPrint Home & Biz proved faster than competing apps as well. We printed a 2-page black-and-white Word document in just 32 seconds, compared with 56 seconds using Kodak's Document Print App, and 2 minutes and 40 seconds using Epson's iPrint app; a 2-page color PDF printed in 43 seconds (0:54 using Document Print App, 0:58 using iPrint); and a 4 x 6 color photograph printed in 54 seconds (0:54 using Document Print App, 1:04 using iPrint).
HP also equipped the Photosmart 5520 with Wireless Direct, which allows Wi-Fi devices such as laptops and smartphones to send files directly to the printer without using a wireless router. Enabling Wireless Direct on the 5520 is as easy as tapping a few buttons on the control panel. Users can also see what their 5520's wireless name and password are by tapping "Display Password" or "Display Name" (these can be changed through the embedded Web server).
When we used our Droid X to print the same 2-page color PDF using Wireless Direct, the 5520 received the file and printed it out in 44 seconds. A 4 x 6 color photo took slightly longer, at 57 seconds, although this was a major improvement over the time it took to print the photo using ePrint. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get our phone to recognize the wireless connection when we tried to print the 2-page Word document.
AirPrint for iOS devices works almost as quickly as Wireless Direct, and was generally faster on the HP 5520 than on other AirPrint-enabled printers. A 2-page black-and-white Word document, for instance, took just 27 seconds (0:57 for the Canon PIXMA MG6220, 1:15 for the Epson WorkForce 845), while a 2-page color PDF printed in 52 seconds (1:02 for the Canon, 1:18 for the Epson). A 4 x 6 color photo printed in 1 minute and 30 seconds (1:26 for the Canon, 1:41 for the Epson).
Google Cloud Print
HP doesn't leave Google out of the picture, either. The Photosmart 5520 is Google Cloud Print-enabled, which means users can print files wirelessly from most Google products and services. Sending documents and photos to the Photosmart 5520 using Google Cloud Print isn't as simple as using AirPrint - each Google service uses a slightly different method to print - but it's a handy feature nonetheless. Thankfully, we encountered far fewer issues when setting up the service with the Photosmart 5520 than we did with the Canon PIXMA MG6220.
Unfortunately, printing files using Google Cloud Print proved much slower than using the other wireless print options. A 2-page black-and-white Word document printed in 1:05, a 2-page color PDF in 0:55, and a 4 x 6 color photo in a whopping 2:30. Google Cloud Print proved equally slow on other brands.
Printer Performance and Photo Quality
The Photosmart 5520 doesn't lack for speed. When printing wirelessly, the printer spat out a 2-page black-and-white Word document in 22 seconds, a 2-page color PDF in 35 seconds, and a 4 x 6 color photo in a lightning-fast 49 seconds. The Canon PIXMA MG6220, by comparison, took 27, 45 and 57 seconds to print the same files. The Epson WorkForce 845 and Kodak ESP 3.2 offered slightly faster performance, printing the same files in 18 seconds, 34 seconds and 1:20 (on the Epson), and 22 seconds, 47 seconds and 1:17 (on the Kodak).
The printer also features automatic two-sided printing and copying - a feature found on both the Canon PIXMA MG6220 and Epson WorkForce 845, but missing on the comparatively priced Kodak ESP 3.2.
Sadly, the quality of printed documents doesn't quite match the 5520's fast performance. When we printed the black-and-white Word document, we noticed a subtle graininess to the text. This graininess became much more pronounced when looking at the color PDF: The circular blue HP logo in the upper right corner of a document suffered from blotchiness around the edges, and pictures throughout the document appeared faintly blurry.
While the 4 x 6 photo appeared much more vibrant and crisp than the PDF and Word document, the color reproduction was not as accurate as on other printers. Compared to prints made by the Canon PIXMA MG6220, for instance, the blue sky in a photo of a vineyard did not appear as deep in color, greens had a more yellowish hue, and mountains in the background were hazier.
The Photosmart 5520 was also extremely loud, particularly when loading paper. If you're looking to buy a printer for a quiet work environment, the 5520 may not be the most suitable option.
The Photosmart 5520 uses only four ink cartridges - black, cyan, magenta and yellow. Regular replacement cartridges (which last about 300 pages) for cyan, magenta and yellow cost $9.99 each, while high-capacity replacement cartridges (which last about 750 pages) cost $17.99 each. Regular and high-capacity black ink cartridges cost $11.99 and $22.99, respectively. Compared to ink cartridges from other brands, replacement cartridges from HP are relatively inexpensive - replacements for the Canon PIXMA MG6220, for example, cost $13.99 each.
In addition to wireless and USB printing, the Photosmart 5520 allows users to print directly from a Memory Stick Duo or SD card.
The Photosmart 5520 also features a flatbed scanner, which can capture images (8.5 x 11-inch maximum size) at up to 1200 x 2400 dpi. The scanner supports JPEG, TIFF, PDF, BMP and PNG file types. The print tray also functions as a copier, with a maximum copy resolution of 600 dpi for both black and color text and graphics.
Although the HP Photosmart 5520 is less expensive than either the Canon PIXMA MG6220 or the Epson WorkForce 845 and has a bevy of options -- such as printing calendars on the fly -- its lower-quality prints and noisiness prevent it from taking its place as the best value for an all-in-one, smartphone-compatible printer. If you're looking for high-quality prints for the lowest price, we suggest the Kodak ESP 3.2. That being said, the Photosmart 5520 has a lot to recommend, including a huge array of printing options, fast speeds and inexpensive replacement cartridges.