A number of key innovations have pushed forward HP’s latest Photosmart Premium all-in-one devices. The CN503b, which we took a look at recently, features a 2.4in full-colour touchscreen that can be used to control the device control, and offers some web access. The eStation C510 goes one step further, introducing a large 7in touchscreen which, when not being used to access the printer, can be removed and utilised as a wireless digital companion.
The C510′s detachable screen, which is being dubbed the ‘eStation Zeen’, fits snugly into a mount at the front of the device and contributes nicely to the unit’s attractive appearance. The C510 feels solid and well-built, and features some interesting styling that’s far removed from traditional bland grey boxes.
The printer can be configured for both direct cable and wireless access (though there’s no Ethernet port for wired network connection). Wireless setup is straightforward, as you’re walked through the process using a wizard on the Zeen’s display. The Zeen also offers an SD card slot for direct photo printing from camera memory cards – but we were surprised not to find support for PictBridge direct-from-camera printing, or indeed a USB port for connecting other devices.
Putting it to the test
The performance of the C510 is very similar to that of the C503b. HP’s quoted print speed of up to 11ppm proved fairly accurate in our tests, where a 20-page document took around two minutes to complete – though you should prepare yourself for a 15-second wait for the first page of any document to come out.
The device managed a slightly healthier 15 pages per minute on draft, well below HP’s claimed 33ppm maximum. Quality is very good overall with crisp bold lettering – though, like its lower-specced sibling, we did notice some slightly skewed text in draft mode.
The C510 is very capable as a photo printer – we noticed sharp lines, accurate colours and effective contrast that’s not far off what you’d expect from a professional print lab. Borderless A4 prints from the main tray arrived in three minutes, and a 7x5in print from the photo tray in about a minute.
The scanner and copier are also very capable. The device takes around 15 seconds to scan an A4 page, or 5 seconds to make a text copy. Quality here was again very good in most areas. Rounding off the device’s core features are some reasonably-priced consumables. Replacement cartridge prices equate to a cost of between 3p and 3.5p per page.
Of course, the Zeen itself warrants some attention – but while we found it worked very well in controlling the C510′s key functions, we were a little let down by its capabilities when detached for use as a personal tablet. It’s a capacitive display running Android 2.1, code-named Eclair, and should be familiar enough to those who have already spent time with this popular portable OS. It offers a range of features and, like the display on the CN503b, includes access to downloadable print-based content such as puzzles, forms, recipes and more.
The Zeen offers the added versatility of allowing you to set up homescreens that report news or weather, say. There’s access to Facebook, an internet browser, an eBook reader linked to the Barnes & Noble store, email access and a handful of typical apps to play back music, synchronise contacts and read online newspapers.
Not the full tablet
Unfortunately the device doesn’t utilise the traditional Android interface. Instead, HP’s own home screen is used to manage content. It doesn’t allow you to access Google’s Android Market, and in general, users will find the Zeen far less flexible and customisable than even a basic tablet or phone.
We weren’t overly pleased by the responsiveness of the Zeen’s touchscreen either. It often feels rather sluggish. While taps are usually registered fairly quickly, smaller controls are difficult to activate first time, and finger swiping and pinching was a frustrating process. Things improve with practice, as you get used to exactly how much pressure to place on the screen, with what part of your finger and how quickly to swipe – but it’s far from ideal. While the Zeen may come in handy for occasional use, those expecting to join the ranks of tablet owners at the same time they pick up an all-in-one will find the experience rather underwhelming.
Obviously, providing a 7in removable display like the Zeen does involve a cost premium and the C510 will set you back over £300, which is a lot to pay for a consumer all-in-one with mid-range capabilities. In considering a purchase the choice is really quite straightforward – since the core functionality of the device is available for less than half the price (in the form of the CN503b, which performs almost identically) it isn’t difficult to work out how much you’re paying for the Zeen removable display – and to our minds, it isn’t really worth the money.
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