HP's new wireless portable printer is a long-awaited solution for people attending events where the ability to print would be useful, or who are simply working on the road, where power (and the space for a full size printer) isn't readily available.
Portable travel printers are a space that have been curiously unfilled in printer makers' product lineups for a long time. HP sees the increasing trend of mobile working as creating the right environment for the return of the portable printer.
It measures 35 x 17 x 8 cm -- about a half the volume of a small cabin bag, or a quarter of a large one.
It weighs 2.5kg -- about the weight of an average laptop. So if you're taking it in cabin baggage with a 7kg limit, beware that the laptop, printer, and your bag will probably combine to 7kg before you pack anything else.
A lithium ion battery with a 22.7 watt hour capacity powers the printer, which fits easily below the 160Wh limit imposed by Qantas for batteries carried on the plane, and below the 100Wh limit for batteries able to be carried without airline approval.
The ink cartridges of the printer are slightly trickier for international flights... Qantas advises that you'd need to present at the security check-point with a few things:
- You would need to ensure if the cartridge contains liquid ink that it doesn't exceed 100mls
- That it is new and in its original sealed packaging and will not leak
- Proof of the contents of the ink cartridge eg a 'material safety data sheet' which can be obtained from the manufacturer (usually on their website)
The exception to this is if a customer is travelling to the USA. Last year the US Transport Security Administration prohibited the entry into the US of toner and printer cartridges (over 453g/16oz) in checked and carry-on baggage on passenger aircraft. Qantas of course is compliant with these requirements.
HP says the battery life is about three hours of the printer being in full "on" mode, or 500 printed pages. However, you'll be able to eke longer battery life out of it due to the printer's power management features which put the printer into sleep mode after a configurable period of time.
The recharger that comes with the printer is a compact laptop-style one, which HP points out can also do double-duty as a power-pack for any HP laptop that takes a 65 watt input.
Wireless connection to your laptop
The clever part of the printer is its use of Bluetooth wireless technology. It allows a laptop to connect to the printer even when there's no Wi-Fi network available.
Various Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, HP webOS and Nokia Symbian smartphones can also print directly to the Officejet 100 -- although we imagine very few people will be printing directly from a phone.
The protective lid doubles as a sheet feeder with a 50 sheet capacity, and although there's no output collector tray, we found the design of the printer allowed sheets to fall into a reasonably neat pile.
HP claims 22 pages per minute of black and white output, and 3.5 pages per minute in colour.
Australian Business Traveller tested real-life print speeds using the Bluetooth connection and found printing to be significantly slower than claimed, but still surprisingly fast for a battery-powered printer.
A 17 page black and white text document printed in 2 mins 57 seconds -- about 10.4 seconds per page, or six pages per minute.
A colour page with lots of images took about 35 seconds to print, or about 1.7 pages per minute.
Bluetooth is a notoriously tricky type of wireless connection to use, due to the number of different sorts of devices that can connect to each other through the protocol, and different types of password protection.
HP has worked around these issues with a good software wizard, available for both Mac and Windows PCs, which configures the computer and the printer to work together. It has to be plugged in via USB the first time it is set-up, to allow the wizard to interact with the printer before the wireless connection is up and running.
The RRP for the Officejet 100 is $439, but it sells online for around $333.
The HP 95 colour cartridge only lasts 200 pages at 5% ink coverage, while the black-and-white cartridge is rated to last 400.
One significant problem for air travellers is that the ink cartridges are not watertight (or rather, ink-tight) at aircraft pressures. HP recommends people buy new cartridges each time they land in a new destination.