HP Photosmart Premium with Touchsmart Web (aka no more cords!)

We are living in a cordless age. Remember internet through the cable in the wall? We have wi-fi. Remember playing Snake on your phone to pass time? Now we have app stores and MMS. Remember printer cables that tied you to the desk whenever you wanted to print something? We got networked printers. But how bout we just go online right from the printer? Imagine, completely cutting out your PC intermediary-- just use your printer to connect right to Facebook or Flickr and print away?

That's exactly what HP released, then, with the world's first web connected home printer. It's called the "HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web." The people in marketing might consider those naming conventions. If every added functionality got a word added to the title, and the future of technology development progresses as I hope it will, pretty soon...you do the math. Too many flippin words. The printer does everything a good printer should-- scans, copies, prints documents and photos. Except now, it comes with a small touch screen that swivels to different angles that is used both as a menu and selector, as well as a gateway to a group of pre-selected HP widgets that interact with web entities like Snapfish and Disney.

For example, if you already have a Snapfish account that's populated with picture goodies, all you have to do is power on your printer, finger brush your way through a few menus and bam! Select the pictures you want to print right from the Snapfish interface on the screen. No need for a computer at all! Sounds like fun to me.

HP sent over the Photosmart Premium with Touchsmart (mouthful, huh) so that I could take it for a spin. The first thing I noticed was the recyclable tote bag the printer came in (um. Why? So you can carry the printer around with you? Its huge.) But the bag is cute,  and I would totally use it for a grocery bag, so hey. Bang for your buck.

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The instructions were ridiculously simple (my applause for that!) and consisted of a single folded page with mostly pictures. It said: "Plug printer into wall."

I simplify, there was a couple  more sentences, but that's all I did. Plugged it in, pressed "On" and away we went. It connected to the wifi in the house pretty easily, prompted me for my passcode, and everything was gravy!

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For serious, the setup couldn't have been easier. I didn't even plug the cd starter that came with it into my drive-- didn't need to. My Macbook "knew" what was going on and auto-installed the drivers I needed, no hassle, no razzle dazzle. I couldn't say that this is what a Windows PC would do though, so don't quote me on that, just have some Mac envy on this one. Plugging in all the inks was ok too-- my concern would be that there are 5 individual inks that the printer takes to run. We all know how the business works-- you buy the printer for one price, but its the all the ink you buy over the years that REALLY runs up the cost, and makes the companies money. 5 cartidges is a lot of cartidges, at around $20 a pop. The printer, at $272 for the holidays at Amazon, isn't the cheapest on the market either. But there would be a premium for the world's first anything, wouldn't there?

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I went online (with my laptop, this time!) to the HP App Studio hoping to learn how to add more relevant widgets to the machine. What I was really hoping was that they'd have Flickr, as that's my photo sharing app of choice. Sadface, though, Flickr is not available...you're just gonna have to deal with what's available, which isn't completely thrilling because why have a web enabled anything if you're locked into a few select widgets and not the whole web? Its kind of like the early days of mobile web on cell phones-- Verizon VCast, anyone?

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Anyway, enough with the rambling. I did get down to business and print stuff, you know. It was my moms birthday in a couple days and I had bought the most perfect mom-daughter card at the store that day-- what better to fill it with than pictures of us?! It was a great test. (And my mom liked the photos, too. We all won.)

The printer has dedicated slots for various media, including SD cards. I put my 2GB one inside which happened to be populated with 500+ photos from a trip to Europe. One thing's for sure. Scrolling through 500 photos using the slow interface is a chore, of epic proportions. Its much faster to pre-select photos you want to print (on a PC, sigh...) and then beam them over for printing. You can use the edit functions right on the touchscreen, but really that just adds more time to the already snail-pace you're operating at, so I couldn't imagine people doing that. People with computers, that is.

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The actual photos print alright, comparable to what you would get printing photos from the kiosk at Walgreens. It takes several seconds to print a photo, up to 30, and when you're trying to print 30 at a time, it gets kind of slow, especially when it needs to refresh the jets and whatnot.

My take on this printer is that its priced in the same range as some more premium, higher-end office inkjet models. It has multiple useful capabilities, like the fax/scan/copy. Its highly functional, even though the attached touchscreen has a tendency to randomly turn itself on and off when I walk by. (Weird.) The kitsch, factor, though, is mostly appealing for those people who are not computer savvy and are scared of picture applications and anything that involves manipulating photos on their PCs. If the photos don't need manipulating, and you're really anxious to print them in the comfort of your own home, without even plugging anything in-- this baby's for you.

If, however, you're capable of uploading pics to Snapfish, you're likely also capable of ordering prints from there too. In that vein, it will be interesting to see how well-received the printer will become, especially as the holidays are just around the corner. Happy wifi-enabled photo printing, everyone! And, you know, holidays.