Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Printer For Any School, Work, or Home Project

With the beginning of the new school year, I knew I needed a new printer. My old printer, an HP all-in-one, has been a reliable printer for over 4 years, and still works fairly well despite heavy use and abuse.

But my desktop computer has reached a point where it needs to be retired, and my printer is connected to that computer - a computer that no longer has access to the internet. Printing required us to load anything from our laptops to a flash drive, then upload it to the old desktop and print. I wanted an easier system, I wanted to get rid of the desktop, and I also wanted to print photos. I needed something new.

So when HP e-mailed me to tell me about their new products for fall, I immediately told them I needed a new printer. Originally I asked about the Officejet J4680, but my friends at HP asked me to try a similar printer to suit my needs. Less than a week later, I opened the box of my new HP Photosmart C7280 printer. This is an all-in-one printer that offers printing, scanning, copying, faxing, and photo printing. It has one other important feature, though: it can connect over a wireless network. I immediately set it up and decided to put it through a tough test.

Set-up was fairly simple (aside from network set-up - mentioned later), with a small color graphics display that guides you through most of the process. It does most of the work on its own. There are 6 ink cartridges for this printer that produce brilliant colors. The software was also just as easy to install.

The big question: can it print well? Yes! I can now print from my laptop in a different room from my printer, without the use of a flash drive. The HP Photosmart C7280 prints quickly, quietly, and brilliantly clear and colorful. The on-screen menus are intuitive and easy to use. It also has some added features, like built in templates for lined or graph paper, should you need some for school projects. (That will be extremely useful for my statistics class next quarter.)

On the top of the printer is a document feeder that lets you scan or copy more than one page without needing to manually switch out pages. Scanned images can be saved to a flash drive or saved to a computer on your personal network. Ports on the front of the printer can accept most memory cards (including the SD card from my digital camera) and USB flash drives.

The paper tray holds up to 100 sheets of paper, plus there is a smaller tray built in that holds up to 20 sheets of photo paper (4x6 or 5x7). Photo printing produces very good results - not as good as some photo labs, but still perfectly acceptable for framing or giving to grandparents. I'll continue to play with the photo settings to see if I can get the look I want.

The networking feature is by far the feature that thrilled me the most. With this printer, you can connect to your computer via a USB cable, an ethernet cable, or wirelessly using a wireless router and home network. The printer's network card can find and access your wireless network - you can enter your security code using the LCD panel to connect through any wireless security.

I had only one small problem with this printer, and it also involved the network. At first I had to deal with my computer constantly losing the printer in the network, even though it was visible on another computer. I solved this problem by not only adding the printer to my computer using the supplied HP software, but also by using the Add a Printer wizard from Windows XP and adding the printer's IP address. I haven't had any problems with it since I did that.

Overall, the HP Photosmart C7280 is a dream printer for a family. It can do anything I need it to do - print school papers, make copies of coloring sheets for my daughter, scan images, fax paperwork to Cordy's school, and print photos from my digital camera. With the power of wireless networking, it's also perfect for the busy family who all need access to the printer from different computers.

It's original retail price is about $300, but you can find it cheaper at Amazon and other online retailers. Amazon has it right now for $194.02 and free shipping. I consider that an excellent price for a multifunction printer that offers wireless access as well.

This printer is a very successful replacement for my old HP - it does many of the same things my old HP printer did, only now with higher resolution and additional features. I think it will do a great job under the pressure of my last year of nursing school as well as 2 years of preschool and hopefully a few years of elementary school to come.

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