There are plenty of all-in-one printers, but how many boast their own 7-inch Android tablet? In addition to high-quality prints, compatibility with Apple's AirPrint, and the ability to e-mail documents to the printer itself, the HP PhotoSmart eStation C510 has a tablet that lets you print photos from Facebook and Flickr. Then again, $299 is far from cheap for a printer. Is the included tablet worth the splurge?
At 17.7 x 18 x 9.7 inches and 17.4 pounds, the eStation C510 is large but stylish, thanks to a mixture of sleek black surfaces and smooth, matte finishes. However, the glossy lid picked up fingerprints easily.
The Zeen, the C510's 7-inch tablet, sits in a chrome-accented docking station. To the right of the tablet dock are three LED lights: an ePrint indicator, another for Wi-Fi, and the last for power. This is where you'll also find the on/off button. Below is a recess for finished prints or copied pages (it can hold 50 sheets), and at the base sits a two-tiered paper tray with a 20-sheet well for photo paper (3.5 x 5, 4 x 6, and 5 x 7 inches) and another hidden 125-sheet tray for other paper types or envelopes.
Removing the tablet reveals several touch buttons: There's a cancel button, two buttons for black-and-white or color copies, and two LED lights for paper feed issues and other errors. The back of the eStation C510a houses a duplexer for two-sided printing, a USB port, and a power plug.
The Zeen is a glossy 7-inch, 800 x 480-pixel tablet surrounded by a reflective 0.5 inch-thick black bezel. Along the top right are three standard Android touch buttons: Back, Home, and Menu. The back of the Zeen is terraced and includes volume controls, an SD card slot, a headphone jack, power button, a miniUSB port, an AC adapter port, and a proprietary port for the docking station. The Zeen weighs in at 1.1 pounds and feels much heftier than the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, which weighs 13.5 ounces.
The Zeen runs Android 2.2 using a 800-MHz processor with 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM. Other than that, the Zeen's specs aren't too far removed from many Android tablets, yet it fails to match those tablets' abilities. Namely, the Zeen does not include the Android Market, or any third-party market, so what you see on the device is pretty much what you get. There are two options for e-mail, one which supports Exchange, and the standard Android e-mail app. (The Gmail app is not on board, but you can import those settings and easily set up Yahoo accounts.)
The Zeen comes pre-installed with a number of photo and print apps: Facebook, Picasa, and Snapfish applications access those sites' cloud-based photo albums. There are also Books, Magazines, and Newspapers applications, each of which pull digital content from Barnes & Noble's cloud store. QuickOffice can read and print Excel, PDF, PowerPoint, and Word documents.
Other apps on the Zeen include Print Apps, web-enabled applications that can be used with the eStation C510. For instance, the Crayola and PBS Kids apps allow children to print blank coloring-book pages, and the MSNBC and USAToday apps print out letter paper-sized news articles. There's even an app that prints out Sudoku puzzles.
The tablet's print-based apps are cool, but the performance isn't great. The Facebook app took more than 90 seconds to load our friends' 80-picture photo album, and the touchscreen didn't respond consistently to drag gestures, scrolling swipes, and button presses. The notification tray wouldn't always respond when we wanted to drag it open or close it.
While the Zeen helps connect the printer to a Wi-Fi network or check on the status of a print job, it's not used to control print settings such as paper size or print quality, and checking ink levels required us to dig into the Settings menu. However, controls for the C510's copier, scanner, and fax functions are located in an app called Printer. The scanner interface made it easy to switch between color or black prints, enable two-sided copies, and select Low, Medium, or High image quality. We just wish more printer controls were easily accessible.
Setting up the C510 was straightforward: After installing the included software, we were prompted to choose Wi-Fi or USB as our preferred connectivity method. The eStation C510 does not include a USB cord, so most users will opt for Wi-Fi. Like many Android devices, we found the separate wireless controls for both the printer and the Zeen tablet under Settings in the tablet's app menu.
The C510 comes with ePrint, an HP service that allows users to print documents and photos by e-mailing the files as an attachment directly to the printer. A special e-mail address must be activated online at the HP ePrint online portal and requires an activation code that can be printed from the C510. ePrint accounts can be set to print from a list of specified e-mails or from anyone.
When we mailed a PDF from our laptop using Gmail, the C510 printed it out in 1:39; a Word doc took just 39 seconds, and a 4 x 6 photo took 1:30. However, photos can only be printed on 4 x 6-inch sheets of paper via this service. Color options (black or color) and paper sizes (8.5 x 11, 8.5 x 14, and A4) for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and PDFs can be pre-set in the ePrint portal.
Another print solution for the C510 is the free HP iPrint Photo app for iOS and Android devices. Unlike Canon and Kodak's apps, the iOS version of this app can also print Word and PDF documents, although the Android version cannot. While sending a photo file from an iPod Touch to the C510 was instantaneous, it took 1 minute and 10 seconds to print a 4 x 6-inch photo, which was much slower than all the other printers we tested. By comparison, the Epson Artisan 835 took just 27 seconds, and the Canon Pixma MG6120 took 35 seconds. However, we liked that we could change the paper size and type in the Android app. The iOS version allowed us to change paper, image, and border size as well as paper type and source. Other perks for iOS users include support software for scanners and the ability to print saved documents and PDFs.
The C510 is one of 17 HP printers (full list here) that works with AirPrint, Apple's print-over-Wi-Fi software for iOS 4.2 and 4.3 devices. AirPrint adds a print option in Safari, the photo gallery, e-mail, and document viewer apps, and can print photos, e-mails, web pages, PDFs, and Word documents. Like ePrint, AirPrint does not output photo sizes other than 4 x 6 inches, but it will support up to 99 copies at once as well as double-side printing and page range control for PDFs and documents. During our tests, AirPrint activated the C510 in no more than 3 seconds and printed out a 4 x 6-inch photo in 1:05, which was faster than the iPrint app, but still slower than all the other printers. Though AirPrint is not as speedy, it was easier to use, and more versatile than other printers' options.
Printer Performance and Photo Quality
To test the C510, we printed one three-page Word document, one three-page, color PDF, and a 926 x 612-pixel photo (on glossy 8.5 x 11-inch paper) over Wi-Fi, via USB, and with ePrint. Over Wi-Fi, the C510 printed the photo in 2 minutes and 49 seconds, which beat out both the Epson 835 (3:15) and the Canon MG6120 (4:24). The Kodak C310 took just 2:03, but it has a much lower supported resolution of 600 x 600 dpi.
In terms of quality, text in Word documents looked smooth and bold, but the 9-point fine print on our test PDF document was fuzzy and a little hard to read. The good news is that the PDF rendered images with rich colors: The black-to-gray gradient added excellent detail to an image of a computer monitor.
Our photo tests proved slightly less vibrant. Though our sample image burst with color, it was much darker than its source file. An outdoor photo that was taken with ample natural lighting (and lots of nearby artificial lighting too) looked as though it was shot without so much as a street light nearby. The Epson Artisan 835 produced photos that were brighter and more detailed.
Home office workers take note: The HP Photosmart eStation C510 was the noisiest printer we tested. It spooled up loudly and got louder as it printed.
The C510 uses five cartridges: Regular black (for documents) costs $11.99, and photo black, cyan, magenta, and yellow each cost $9.99. High-capacity, non-photo black ink costs $22.99, and high-capacity color cartridges cost $17.99. There is no high-capacity option for photo black. HP bundles cyan, magenta, and yellow into one package for $26.99. Compared to ink cartridge prices for other machines, HP delivers affordable supplies. Though color ink for the Epson Artisan 835 is priced similarly at $10.44, black ink for that printer costs $17.09. HP also offers a cheaper color multi-pack; cyan, magenta, and yellow cost just $22.99 in that package.
The C510 also has a flatbed scanner that can capture images at 1200 x 2400 dots per inch, a copier capable of 99 copies at a time, and a digital fax machine. The system also includes a duplexer for two-sided copies but there is no autofeeder, so the source files must be scanned manually to get front-and-back documents. For faxes, HP uses third-party service eFax, which works over the Internet, not a phone line, and supplies 20 incoming and outgoing messages per month for free. Beyond that, eFax requires a membership (starting at $16.95 per month).
Even though $299 for a printer is on the pricey side, HP bundles an 7-inch Android tablet with its PhotoSmart eStation C510 for about $120 more than other all-in-ones. You also get HP's convenient ePrint service, Apple AirPrint support, and a iPrint app that works well with both iOS and Android devices. However, the Zeen tablet has limited functionality, and the C510 itself offers sluggish Wi-Fi printing speeds and produces somewhat dark photos. As versatile as the C510 is, we prefer the $179 Epson Artisan 835 All-in-One. It doesn't have an Android tablet, but the 835's excellent print quality and superior speed make it the better choice.