Xavier Verhoeven June 29, 2010
HP had a special event a few weeks ago to launch, among other things, a new range of printers that feature what it calls HP Smart Install – plug one in via USB, and it automatically uploads its drivers to your computer, installs itself and is ready to go within minutes. Great, right? Well, if you’re the kind of person who likes your PCs in a beige box, it is. Unfortunately, there’s no Mac support for this nifty feature. But all is not lost – the P1102w (the w is for wireless) will work with your Mac. It just takes a bit longer to get going.
Although the PC installation is simpler, these instructions take up six pages of the printer’s manual, while the slightly-more-difficult Mac directions get only a single page. One of the reasons for this is that the manual doesn’t include instructions for setting up the P1102w’s wireless printing on a Mac. It was only the wireless logo next to a Mac logo on one page that hinted setting this up was indeed possible. A few Google searches later, and I found the instructions here.
To cut a long story short, USB installation is simple. Plug everything in, insert the CD (or download the drivers from the HP website if you happen to have a MacBook Air), click install, and a few minutes later you’re done. Wireless setup was a little more involved, but if you follow the steps at the link above, you should be ready to go in a few more minutes.
But really, it’s not all about the installation – since you’ll only ever do it once or twice. And once that’s done, the P1102w is a pretty solidly performing printer. At $189 for the wireless model and $149 for the USB-only, its performance is pretty good for use at home or in a small office. Replacement toner cartridges come in at $95, and boast 1600 pages at 5 percent coverage.
The P1102w also features HP’s new auto-off/auto-on feature that puts it into a deep sleep when not in use. So deep in fact, that it appears to be completely off, with even the Wi-Fi indicator light going dark, despite it maintaining a connection. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but I guess every little bit counts when minimising standby energy usage. And according to HP, the printer uses three times less than a normal sleep mode would.
From a cold startup (having gone into sleep mode the night before) it took just under 30 seconds for my Mac to find the printer and begin printing. A ten-page document then took another 36 seconds to go through. Once the connection had been made and the printer was on, it took only 4 seconds to begin printing again, and 34 seconds to print the same ten pages. This is pretty close to the 18 pages per minute that HP advertises the P1102w is capable of, and is about average for a printer in this price-range.
Occasionally, it took quite a while to find the printer over wireless connection once it had gone into sleep mode, but given the unknowns of any wireless network, it’s hard to say whether this was the fault of the printer or something else interfering. Connection via USB worked quicker in these cases.
Printing is flawless for text, and even pretty good for images – but this is hardly the printer for you if you want to print photos or other images regularly. (Our multifunction lab test has a few better options that combine printing and copying).
As well as a 150 page input tray, there’s also a 10 page ‘priority feed’ input with adjustable guides for printing envelopes or smaller paper. I tend to prefer printers with input draws, however this can sometimes mean losing the option to print on other sized media – so if this is a priority, the P1102w will suit you. The P1102w is also one of the smaller printers in this price range, making it a great option if you’ve got a particularly tiny desk, or have a 27in iMac taking up all the space.
Speaking of a beautiful 27in iMac, the P1102w is – as far as printers go – a pretty good-looking option that wouldn’t look out of place next to a new Mac. Its high-gloss black finish with select matte panels makes it look less like a typical budget printer.
The P1102w is a good all-round laser: it’s a quality printer at an affordable price. There are undoubtedly cheaper options available that offer similar print quality and speed. However, the 1102w has an edge due to its power-saving features, design and size. The wireless printing is also a useful feature, and means anyone on your Wi-Fi network print quickly and easily. Just keep in mind that if you’re buying for a Mac, you’re losing one of the printer’s key selling points – but setting it up without Smart Install is still relatively straightforward.
Wireless printing; auto-off/auto-on; good print qualityCons:
Smart Install doesn’t work on Macs; wireless instructions aren’t provided for Macs
RRP: $189 for wireless model; $149 for USB-only