It’s been well publicised that 2011 will be “the year of the tablet”, and with the new version of Android on the way, rumours of a new iPad gathering momentum and a handful of capable devices doing the rounds at the moment, there should be plenty of choice for those who want a larger device than a phone to entertain themselves with come the summer. One thing we weren’t expecting to see was an all-in-one printer bundled with such a tablet, but this is what HP is attempting with the PhotoSmart eStation C510.
At its heart an all-in-one device combing print, scan, copy and (online) fax capabilities, the distinguishing feature of this essentially mid-range offering is the inclusion of a detachable 7-inch screen running Android 2.1. It’s called the Zeen, and as well as offering a large display with which to interact with the printer, brings access to a range of online and offline content to either enhance the printing experience or provide you with some additional benefits to keep you entertained around the home.
The Zeen offers access to a typical array of web-based content via its built-in web browser, Facebook software, range of applications and ability to view ebooks, newspapers, the latest news and weather and more via its configurable applications. More specifically in relation to the device it’s supplied with, the Zeen includes a range of ways to enhance productivity by including downloads to puzzles, colouring books, paper layouts, templates and other content. While the layout and navigation of this device will be familiar to those who have used Android 2.1, it’s worth noting that HP utilities its own interface and homescreen here, which while flexible enough isn’t a patch on the original.
While all of this might sound very useful in the right environment, the device lets itself down purely from a usability point of view. The display itself, while of fairly good quality in terms of colour clarity and sharpness, isn’t very responsive, and though it’s a capacitive model we struggled to get it to respond to our commands initially, with frequent pauses and delays leaving us wondering if it had registered a swipe, pinch or keypress. This gets easier with practice, but considering the fact that it uses an outdated version of the OS it should be emphasised that this is by no means a replacement for a 7-inch tablet, and should be recognised more as a detachable display that works very well when interacting with the printer, but is likely to frustrate when detached and used in isolation.
It’s not entirely surprising to see that the printer itself is a mid-range device offering reasonable performance without being outstanding, with the majority of the price-hike over similarly specced rivals taken up by the inclusion of the Zeen tablet.
It’s perfectly capable as a text and photo printer, offering fairly fast speeds that match the 11ppm specified by HP at standard setting, though falling far below the 33ppm at draft - during our tests we could only reach half this speed. Photo prints are fairly impressive though, with accurate colours and good contrast, though it takes around 3 minutes to output a borderless A4 image, and about a minute for a 7 x 5-inch print. It’s a fairly low-yield device with a 125-sheet input tray, 20-sheet photo tray and 50-sheet output tray, though lacks a decent range of connectivity by only offering USB and wireless connectivity and a SD-card slot on the Zeen tablet – no USB or PictBridge connection for those who require a bit more versatility.
The C510 is an effective copier and scanner, with fast times of around 5 and 15 seconds per page respectively, good recreation of the original document or image and a healthy range of software supplied to both manipulate scanned images and enhance photos for improved output. All of this is fairly standard in this market these days however, and ultimately the device doesn’t really excel in any area of its “all-in-one” capabilities to place any particular emphasis over rivals.
What you’re getting with HP’s eStation is a perfectly capable consumer-based all-in-one device that demands a heavy premium for a detachable “Zeen” tablet that falls sadly short of anything on offer from the dedicated tablet market at present. Though some of the resources and additional benefits on offer will undoubtedly appeal, we can’t see this sort hybrid of technology taking off any time soon.