Review: HP Photosmart eStation C510a

Our score: 4/5
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January 6, 2011 7:45 PM
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Published: January 5, 2011 11:00 PM
By Marine Goy / Morgane Alzieu
The HP Photosmart eStation is the star printer in the HP 2010/2011 range. With ePrint, it's connected to the Internet and can print web content without the need of a computer. It stands out for its detachable tablet, a feature which certainly polarises opinion. Some find it totally off the wall and superfluous, others see it as a real jump forward.

Hardware: a detachable touch tablet!

This all-in-one wi-fi, scans, copies, faxes and can be piloted from a touch tablet that's connected up to the Internet. The answer to our prayers? Not only is it a full touch screen but it's enormous: 17.8 cm is huge for a printer. Lets stop for a second however and put our enthusiasm into context: there's still room for improvement. While we like the idea and the finish is good, the tablet is still quite heavy and a little slow. Moreover, with its narrow viewing angles, the user must be right in front of it for decent legibility. What's more of a problem is that the tablet display sometimes messes with the text on a site and misses out certain characters (this is particularly problematic for non-English language sites). A work around to this is to print straight from the site itself, avoiding the "print from the tablet" feature.
Coming back to the fax , you can send and receive up to 20 faxes a day. Heavier users will need to sign up to eFax.

There are five separate cartridges for printing (1 black, 1 cyan, 1 magenta, 1 yellow and 1 photo), all available in standard and XL formats.


The touch tablet

HP isn't positioning it as a printer remote or as a separate tablet. They call it "a detachable touchscreen" for your multifunction printer. The aim is to give them the edge over current competition and facilitate printing anything published on the Internet. HP have noted that mobile Internet users often need to print web content.
Nicknamed the HP Zeen, this tablet runs on Android 2.1, but does not come with the Google environment or Android Market. Linked up to the Internet, you can access various widgets (weather, photos, clock, calendar and so on) and social networking apps (Facebook). Content in any form can be printed at any time. You can also use it to listen to music, watch videos and read eBooks. HP has announced battery life at 8 hours. A very attractive product, it is mostly positioned for applications designed for printing.

Tablet demo


Speeds


Office document speeds are comparable to other models in the range (HP Photosmart Premium e-ALL-IN-ONE C310, HP Photosmart With Wireless (B110)) tested recently. 12 pages per minute (ppm) isn't great for pro usage but is more than enough for the home. To give you an idea, this is equivalent to the speeds you get with the Canon Pixma MG6150, a high end general consumer model.

Note however that when you turn double-sided mode on, a useful function for saving on paper and producing pro looking documents, speeds drop to 4 ppm!



It's the same old song when it comes to the speeds announced by the manufacturer. In fact HP uses its own speed measurements and this makes us livid every time. They use the ISO standard for speeds when they're talking to journalists but in the shops this changes and they announce colour speeds of 32 ppm! What are we to say when we know that in reality HP's printer manages a third of what it's promising to the consumer? They really need to come clean on the real speeds.

Photo prints bring the printer's rating down: 2 minutes 48 seconds for an A4 and 1 minute for a 10 x 15 cm print. Although pretty common, these are relatively slow. The Canon Pixma MG5250 is twice as fast in this mode!
 

Quality: disappointing

Office document quality is just about passable. The main problem, which is also in evidence in photo prints, is colour accuracy. The prints are sharp but dominant yellows dull the image.

Colour photo quality is a little better and merits a four star rating. Here again however there's a problem with colours that is especially obvious on the wood in our test photo. Dominant yellow and green dulls the image. Detail is lost and the size of the droplets is visible in certain areas. If you look at the faces close up, it looks as if they have been sharpened up. The contours are too clear and face colour is unusual (dark purple).

The dominance of green, which darkens the prints, can also be seen in black & white. For these we rate it at 3 stars. Shaded areas also lack precision.

Strangely, quality isn't as good as on the HP Photosmart Premium e-ALL-IN-ONE C310. Both printers use the same cartridges however and are from the same generation. You can see this in the Face-off images for the C310 where the contours are finer and shaded areas better managed.

We're waiting for answers from HP (holiday period) but if there's no rational explanation for the difference in quality, we'll test another model of the eStation to make sure that the model we tested wasn't defective.

 



Scanner and copies

Here the speeds are good: 7 seconds for preview, 6 seconds for scanning at 75 dpi (not bad at all) and 7 seconds to scan at 300 dpi (fast).

The scanner's native definition (1200 dpi) isn't that great and you can see this on the image quality. You lose detail and sharpness and the colours aren't as bright, especially on the face of the child. The colour difference is a high 8.5%.
 
Prints in copy mode of our reference graph are just about passable. Here again the lack of sharpness is noticeable and the images (colour and black and white) are grainy. We like being able to do double-sided copies so easily.
Speeds are ok at 16 seconds for a black & white copy and 18 seconds for colour.


Energy consumption & Noise levels

Energy consumption in standby is announced at 6.41 W in the tech spec. This is in fact an average. We took a reading of 8 W, which is too high for an ink jet, especially when you think that most other HP models consume between 2 and 4 W. Charging up the tablet is what is upping the figure here. When you remove the tablet from the printer, energy consumption in standby drops to 3.2 W.

The noise levels are 48 dB(A) on average, which is pretty quiet.
 
 

Cost per page

With a cost per page, in colour with XL cartridges, of 7.4 pence, the C510 is more economical than average.

Try and avoid the standard cartridges as they'll increase costs by another 50% or so.

ISO cost per page with XL cartridges

Cartridge Price ISO lifespan
Cost per page
364 XL (black) £17.50 800 2.2 pence
364 XL (cyan) £14 750 1.9 pence
364 XL (magenta) £11 750 1.5 pence
364 XL (yellow) £11 750 1.5 pence
364 XL (black photo) £14 4500 0.3 pence

Cost per page with XL cartridges: 7.4 pence.
4/5 HP Photosmart eStation C510a DigitalVersus 2011-01-06 00:00:00

Pros

  • Connection to the Internet with wi-fi, option to print without using a computer
  • Large 17.8 cm touch screen (tablet)
  • Wi-fi + double-sided + fax
  • Innovative and original concept with tablet
  • Economical with ink: 7.4 pence per page

Cons

  • Tablet could be improved
  • High stand-by energy consumption: 8 W with tablet charging
  • Disappointing quality prints
  • Low double-sided speeds

Conclusion

This printer introduces an attractive innovation with its detachable tablet, which represents a real added value and allows you to browse on the Internet independently of the printer. Who is it targeted at however? Expensive for home use, we can't really see how it would fit into a company setting either.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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