Why Web-Connected Printers? Wirth Consulting Looks Back At Two That We’ve Tested

Hewlett-Packard’s latest announcement of new Photosmart e-All-in-Ones with e-mail printing and Web apps has renewed interest in Web-connected printers, with many people asking, what is the use or value in Web connectivity or Web applications?  How can I use this in the home or office?   Wirth Consulting has insight into all of these questions and more–last year, we tested two of the first Web-connected printers, Lexmark’s Platinum Pro 905 and Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web.  Following are a sampling of our test results and our observations on Web connectivity and Web apps.

Lexmark Platinum Pro925 as testedLexmark’s Platinum Pro 905

Wirth Consulting tested Lexmark’s Platinum Pro905, a color ink-jet All-in-One, in November 2009, shortly after its introduction.  List price was originally $399.99 at Lexmark’s Web site, but the system now lists at $299.99.  Unlike HP’s Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Premium Web, which is consumer-oriented, the Platinum Pro905 sits at the top of Lexmark’s color ink-jet family for small and mid-size business.  It incorporates an automatic document feeder and direct scan to e-mail from the touch screen, for instance, and its Web apps are designed primarily for business tasks.  Following are some key findings on the Platinum Pro905 in our tests.

  • Don’t expect blazing-fast print speed, but our tested print speeds weren’t shabby either.  The system took 78 seconds to print our full-page color photograph test document, and 92 and 97 seconds to print our 10-page Adobe black text documents and 10-page Microsoft black text documents respectively.
  • Image quality was overall good; the Platinum Pro905 produced good black text image quality, down to as small as 4 pt. font size, which is the smallest most home and office users will typically require.
  • Photo image quality was very good.  In our tests, we did not observe any unacceptable problems, such as banding or major color infidelity.   One key image-quality test is a system’s ability to print human flesh tones.  Flesh tones can be one of the trickiest elements to reproduce, as they vary widely, and at the same time, appear very often in photographs, so getting them right is important.

Lexmark-PerfectFinish-PhotoRaw TIFF photo of the test target printed on glossy Lexmark PerfectFinish photo paper by the Platinum Pro905.  While the overall effect is good, compared to the same test sample produced by the HP Photosmart TouchSmart below, there appears to be a bit of overexposure–the musician’s forehead appears a bit washed-out, while the jumpsuit she’s wearing appears a bit too dark–it should not appear brown, but instead should be a burgundy shade, as displayed in the Photosmart TouchSmart’s sample below.

HP-Advanced-Photo-Paper-ConRaw TIFF photo of the test target printed on HP Advanced Photo Paper by the HP Photosmart TouchSmart Web.
Touch Screen And SmartSolutions Web Apps
The Platinum Pro905 features a very high-quality 4.3” color touch screen that is crystal-clear and responsive–it’s a huge leap forward from the LCD display and hard-key systems typically found in this class that can sometime make executing copy, scan and fax tasks very time-consuming.  For instance, with scan to e-mail, the Platinum Pro905’s touch screen has a QWERTY-style keypad for entering the e-mail address–no more using an awkward numeric keypad.  We’ve been using office copier/MFP touch screens for too many years to count, and the Platinum Pro905’s touch screen is first-rate.

Lexmark S905 Home ScreenThe Platinum Pro905’s touch screen (home screen).

The Platinum Pro905’s Web apps (which Lexmark’s includes as part of what it calls SmartSolutions) include direct printing of real-time content from sources such as Apple Hot News and MSNBC.  Other Web apps include:

  • Picasa Photo: Access photos stored on Picasa.com, a free photo-editing Web site, display them on the touch screen, and print selected photos.
  • Cartridge Finder: Identify conveniently located ink-cartridge retailers. Lists of retailers are displayed, as well a maps indicating their location.
  • Google Calendar: View and print meetings and appointments displayed on a custom calendar created at Google.com.
  • PhotoBucket Viewer:  Access photos stored on PhotoBucket.com, a photo- and video-sharing site; display photos on the touch screen, and select which ones to print.
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