Here at Pocket-lint, we told you about the incoming HP Photosmart eStation last month, and today we finally got a chance to see it in action. Forming part of the brand's very first UK line-up of web-connected printers, the eStation enables you to print directly from the Internet, and what's more, it even comes with its own detachable tablet that can be used independently of the printer, just like the iPad or any other tablet device.
All of the brand's new Photosmart printers are now web-enabled, and feature the innovative ePrint function which enables you to send a print job directly to the printer, using its own unique email address. This means that you can send content remotely from your laptop or mobile device to print at home, or even send documents or images to a friend or relative's printer from your own home.
The all-in-one eStation enables web browsing and access to HP's print apps, thanks to its detachable tablet. The 7-inch touchscreen device allows you to choose from a selection of specially designed apps such as Facebook, Reuters news, Mappy maps, Google calendar and Crayola and Dreamworks for children's printable activities. There are also some apps that are exclusive to the UK market such as beforeIshop which lets you choose and print coupons.
Based on Android 2.0, the tablet has 4GB of internal memory, which is expandable to 32GB using the MicroSD slot. The tablet charges when placed in the cradle on the printer, and it can also be charged using the USB port or an optional power adaptor. It can be used entirely separately from the printer, just like the iPad and other Android tablets, although there's no 3G connection so you'll have to locate the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot. If one of the family is using the tablet in another room, you can still use the printer via a selection of basic controls on the tablet cradle. An update due in January will enable access to Flash-based websites.
The printer is equipped with separate paper trays for conventional A4 and photo paper, and will automatically use the latter if provided with a Jpeg to print.
The main concept behind the printer is the idea of instantly consuming content from the web that is best viewed in printed form. For example, although you might use a recipe from the Internet you wouldn't want to put your brand new tablet next to the cooker and risk getting it covered in food or cooking oil, so instead you would make a printout.
We found the tablet to be very light and comfortable to use, sporting the familiar Home, Back and Menu buttons on the frame, as found on most Android devices. The screen was sharp with vibrant colours, and the touch-navigation was responsive and intuitive.
We were also impressed with the eco-friendly packaging that includes use of a large reusable bag, rather than the usual plastic wrapper that you find in the box.
The HP Photosmart eStation is shipping now, priced at £379.99.
Keep your eyes peeled for a full review.