If you’re a real road warrior, the chances are you wouldn’t be caught dead leaving the house without your laptop – or, increasingly these days, your tablet. Such devices are great for consuming and creating content, but when it comes to sharing you’re a bit stuffed if the person you want to grace with a copy of your creation isn’t as technologically equipped as you.
The solution – or, at least, a solution – is a portable printer. In the days of the Canon Bubblejet such things were common, but they disappeared when people started demanding higher quality, colour print jobs.
With the HP OfficeJet 100 Mobile Printer, those glory days of printing on the go are back – but is it really something that will find a home in your bag alongside your smartphone, tablet and laptop?
The OfficeJet 100′s specs won’t exactly set anyone’s word aflame: a low resolution of 600×600 dots per inch means that printouts don’t look great, and its quoted top speeds of 22 pages per minute for black and 18ppm for colour are only available at the lowest quality setting – and even then, we struggled to get anywhere near those figures in testing.
The figures quoted by HP for ‘laser-comparable’ quality print-outs are closer to the mark, with a claimed 5 pages per minute in black and 3.5 pages per minute in colour. Even then, HP’s being a bit generous. If you’re hoping to use this printer as a day-to-day workhorse, be prepared to spend a bit of time sitting around waiting.
The device’s 220MHz processor and 64MB of memory don’t help with this sluggishness, and the 50-sheet input tray will mean that you need to refill the device more often than you would a more well-equipped printer. With a pair of small cartridges – the 343 low-capacity or 344 higher-capacity tri-colour cartridges, and the 388 black cartridge – running out of ink is also a real possibility.
Connectivity-wise, the news gets better: the printer includes USB 2.0 for printing from a PC, and PictBridge support, enabling you to print directly from a camera or other imaging device. For those with smartphones or tablets, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR is included for wireless printing.
It’s perhaps unfair to judge the printer too harshly on those somewhat underwhelming specifications. Its key selling point is, after all, the ability to take it from A to B and print on the go – hence the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity.
To help with that aim, HP has provided the OfficeJet 100 with built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery, which will keep the device running even when you’re away from a mains socket. It’s a good idea, and one that turns the device into a potential lifesaver for anyone who needs to create hard copies while out and about.
Sadly, the design of the printer lets it down on that front, too. With the device weighing at a pretty hefty 2.5kg, it’s a noticeable weight to be carrying around – and the Bluetooth printing is slow enough that you’ll probably want to buy a USB cable to go with the printer.
The L-shaped paper path, the guide and support for which acts as a hinged top cover for the printer, also poses a problem: unlike more compact portable printers, such as Polaroid’s specialist Zink-based photo printing devices, there’s no way to transport the printer with the paper inside. Instead, you’ll have to carry a folder full of paper in addition to the printer – or hope that you can find some wherever you’re going.
These facts could be overlooked if print quality were up to scratch – but sadly, that’s not the case. While black-only text prints were of reasonable enough quality, the colour output is near-unusable at the ‘fast’ draft setting, and even at the slower quality settings is embarrassingly pale and washed out.
It’s possible to push the printer into an interpolated resolution mode for photographic printing, which takes the native 600x600dpi and translates it towards an apparent 4800×1200 when using photographic paper. Even at this setting, however, the quality was below what we’d expect from a printer at this price, and the speed was shockingly poor.
Running costs are also an issue. The OfficeJet 100 uses a pair of the smallest cartridges HP offers, to help keep the size of the unit down. This, sadly, translates into an above-average cost-per-page that will leave users out of pocket if they sit anywhere near HP’s quoted monthly duty cycle of 500 pages.
- Built-in battery and Bluetooth are handy for users on the move.
- A high price for a middle-of-the-road printer with a battery attached.
While the idea of being able to print anywhere is a tempting one, we'd advise you to think long and hard about how often you'd actually want to do that - and whether it's worth the high asking price and running costs for what is, at heart, a distinctly average printer.