We've been hearing a lot of hype surrounding HP's new touch screen printer, the Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web, and finally got a unit into the CNET Labs for a full set of tests. It's HP's flagship printer and the first of its kind to allow wireless Web connectivity directly from the printer itself, courtesy of a large 4.33-inch LCD display. To kick off the launch, HP also debuted an App Studio for users to browse and download custom shortcuts and widgets for the printer.
Now that we've had a week to thoroughly review the HP Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web, we're feeling underwhelmed by the lack of overall features and usability. We ran into several snags during the testing process, on top of our disappointment at the lack of an autodocument feeder and the letter-size scanner bay. For example, the display feels dull to the touch and lacks the responsiveness that we've come to expect out of an interactive screen. We found ourselves struggling to firmly select an icon, which often resulted in misguided navigation. On top of that, many of the applications had a tendency to freeze up during our tests, requiring a sluggish restart time.
Our main issue with the printer is that the touch screen and app studio just don't offset the $400 price tag, especially when you can purchase a perfectly capable HP multifunction Photosmart for $270 that actually has physical buttons--as long as you're willing to sacrifice the gimmicky touch screen and app store. As it stands, the App Studio doesn't quite offer the functionality and ease of use that we expected. Each app, like Google Maps or USA Today, has its own submenu...with sub-submenus...with sub-sub-submenus, to the point where we started wondering why anyone would bother tapping 15 times on a 4-inch screen when an actual computer (with novel hardware like a keyboard, mouse, and large monitor) can't be too far away.
We even performed an anecdotal timed test to further prove how the app store and a touch screen without any hard buttons can overcomplicate an otherwise easy-to-use machine, but you'll have to read the review for the unsurprising results. One final note: HP has informed us that an SDK will soon be available for developers to make their own apps for the printer, which we hope will add more exciting and useful apps to the line-up, but judging from the poor reception to its desktop TouchSmart SDK, we're not holding our breath.
Check out our full review and video for the HP Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web.