It's not often that a printer gets us excited over at Pocket-lint. Ours are primarily reserved for the reproduction of slightly awkward looking holiday snaps to send to grandparents. There are, however, a few exceptions to that rule and the HP TopShot is most definitely one of them. It allows for, in theory, an entirely new take on sending photos to the family.
A top mounted 3D scanner means we can produce studio grade mugshots, sure to satisfy any grandparents' insatiable need for family photos, by simply sticking our head directly underneath its high resolution camera arm. You could also, of course, use the TopShot for genuinely useful purposes, like quickly scanning products you are flogging on eBay or Gumtree, or producing product shots or anything else you think a 3D scanner might be used for.
Before we get into all the excitement of the 3D scanner we thought it best to first take a quick look at all the web integration the TopShot packs, which for a printer is pretty impressive. HP has gone on an app bonanza with its TopShot, incorporating things like Google Docs, AirPrint, ePrint and Biz Card, all of which contribute to a much richer printing experience, if there is such a thing.
We tested out the TopShot's ability to scan directly to Google Docs, and it worked a treat. We imagine this to be a hugely useful corner cutter, particularly for those who backup a lot of documents to the cloud. There is also an app called Biz Card which essentially scans and logs all your business cards into one searchable database. Unsurprisingly this is very useful for businessmen. It is also good if you fancy keeping an organised log of your Pokemon card selection. We also had a play with the HP Shoeboxed app, a clever expense tracker that recognises receipt amounts and adds them to an online HP cloud storage, for you to access and manage later.
The actual TopShot itself consists of the usual all-in-one design, bar the inclusion of a giant photographic arm on the top. It is largely plasticky, but not overly cheap in construction. HP's all black approach to things also ensures that the printer looks as sleek as a printer possibly can. The included 3.5-inch colour touchscreen display is also a nice premium touch, shame it isn't running webOS however; we did ask HP if it would, and somewhat unsurprisingly it said it couldn't see it happening.
Now onto the juicy part of the TopShot: the 3D scanner itself. On top of the printer is a sort of long arm, reminiscent of the old overhead projectors teachers used in school. The difference is that rather than project your bad biology homework for the class to enjoy, it uses a high resolution camera to capture studio-like shots of objects placed beneath. The arm will fire six different flashes from different angles and then combine those six images into one perfectly balanced and lit shot. We tested it on our face, phone and fingers to see what sorts of detail it could pick out, it worked surprisingly well.
The last thing worth mentioning about the TopShot is the printing itself, which at 600 x 600 dpi is good enough, although isn't the best photo printer quality. With all the apps and scanning going on it is easy to forget the thing is a printer at all. It certainly fired out copies fast enough, and standard black and white documents looked great. The printer isn't specifically designed with photography in mind so we suppose the not-quite-super-sharp photo printing is forgiveable. The TopShot is definitely a printer with a twist, and worth considering if you deal with a lot of documents daily.