Now that the Officejet Pro X is available, what’s it like?

Christine Dunne
Feb 26, 2013

Part three: The device’s usability

In my previous blog post I discussed the experience of unpacking and setting up an HP Officejet Pro X page-wide inkjet device (the X576dw MFP). In this post I will be sharing my thoughts about the device’s usability. Before delving into this topic, I’d like to clarify that my background is not in the office print industry but rather journalism and communications. Having only been at InfoTrends for a little over a year, I have not seen dozens of printers and MFPs in action over the years like many of my colleagues who are print and document industry veterans. In fact I’d like to think that my non-print industry background makes me representative of real-world customers/the typical office-based knowledge workers that will be the users of the Officejet Pro X.

Typical office workers

As a typical office user, I value technology that is easy to use and after using the Officejet Pro X576dw I can definitely say that usability is a major benefit of this device. It was very easy for me to set up and use a wide range of functions, including printing from a PC, printing from a smartphone, printing from cloud apps, printing from a USB drive, scanning to a PC, scanning to a USB drive, scanning to email, scanning to a network folder, and copying. I wasn’t able to try out the device’s fax functionality as our copy room doesn’t have a phone line available. Nevertheless, the inclusion of fax, as well as all the other functions, is a key selling point of the device. The fact that these functions are so simple and straightforward to use is really the icing on the cake.

Printing

Printing from my networked PC was very easy and really no different from printing to any printer or MFP. After clicking File -> Print, perusing the print options, and clicking Print again, my print job was on its way. It was nice to be able to walk over to the printer and find my 10-page print job already sitting in the output tray. According to HP, the Officejet Pro X576dw MFP is capable of printing up to 70 pages per minute in general office mode (the other two modes are professional and presentation). I can attest that the device has been more than fast enough for my day-to-day needs.

The device in action

Printing from a mobile device

While I was not surprised by how easy it was to print from my PC, I was amazed by how simple it was to print from my Android smartphone. All I had to do was open a document (I selected one from my Dropbox app) and email it to the printer’s email address. The printer’s email address can be accessed via the Web Services icon on the printer’s touchscreen. The one-page document (shown below) was perfectly formatted. If more people knew how easy and painless it is to print from a mobile device to an ePrint-enabled printer, I would definitely expect more people to be using this functionality. I believe this type of printing could really benefit people who are in the office but do not have access to a networked computer, including clients, contractors, and remote workers.

The fact that you can use your smartphone or tablet to access documents from a wide variety of cloud locations speaks to the potential relevance of this functionality. As my team tends to rely on Dropbox for sharing and storing documents, I can definitely see myself continuing to send Dropbox documents to print using my smartphone now that I know just how easy it is.

 

Printing from an app

 

While it was nice to be able to print a document using my smartphone, I think the idea of accessing a document directly from the MFP touchscreen is even more enticing. Not only do you not need your smartphone/tablet on you, but you don’t have to use any data allowance. With HP’s print apps, you can access documents and content directly from your ePrint-enabled device. You just click on the Apps icon, select the appropriate app, sign into your cloud account if necessary, and print the desired content.

All of the apps I tested were very easy to use. I especially appreciated the “Google Docs” app as I sometimes use this service for work. After logging in to my Google account via the touchscreen, I was able to open files in my account and print them out, as well as scan hardcopy documents to my Google account. I expect HP will at some point be updating the name of the Google app, as Google Docs is now integrated into Google Drive.

While HP offers a number of other potentially useful business apps, including Box (cloud storage), Scan Receipt, Stamps.com, Docstoc  (provides business document templates), Biztree (also provides business document templates), and Biz Card (enables the scanning of business cards), the overwhelming majority of HP’s 115 print apps are very consumer-focused (e.g. puzzle apps, cartoon apps, recipe apps, news apps). In addition, the majority of the 35 apps that were pre-installed on the device were consumer-oriented, including Busy Moms Weekly, 7-Day Menu Planner, Universal Crossword, Kids Only, and Crayola Daily Coloring Pages.

Sample Crayola Daily Color Pages printout

Fun though these are, the Officejet Pro X576dw is a business-class device and it would perhaps make more sense to include some of the more business-oriented apps out-of-the-box. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that it is incredibly easy to replace the apps from within your Web Services account at www.hpeprintcenter.com.

If I had one suggestion for HP regarding their app database, it would be to continue adding business-related productivity apps. This could mean apps for other popular storage sites such as Dropbox, Evernote, Amazon, and SkyDrive, or an app to print labels, envelopes, and the like. I believe the existence of these apps would not only make the device even more valuable to the customer but could also provide incremental print volume.

Printing from a USB drive

 

While I’m not sure people use USB drives as frequently as they once did, I can still see a use for them if you did not want to sign into your cloud account to access documents. In fact, a friend of mine who works in tech support said he relies on USB drives for this very reason. While I don’t tend to carry a USB drive around with me, I brought one into work the other day to test the X576dw’s “Plug and Print” function. After clicking the Plug and Print icon, I inserted the USB drive into the port behind the touchscreen–which was very easy to locate. I selected a photo I wanted to print, adjusted the settings appropriately (settings included rotate image and adjust brightness), and clicked send.

The photo printed fairly quickly and there were no issues. I’m not sure I will be using this function again but it’s good to know it exists as an alternative for people who require this workflow.

 

Scanning

 

The X576dw’s touchscreen provides access to four scan destinations: computer, memory device (i.e. USB drive), network folder, and email. After Bill, our IT support specialist, made sure all of these functions were properly configured, I went to test them out. Once again, the functions were very easy to use. I was able to successfully scan a several-page document to each of these destinations; the automatic document feeder sped up the process.

My document during the scanning process

For my purposes, I think the scan to email function will prove most useful. I can access my email wherever I am via my work PC, home laptop, or smartphone, but I cannot necessarily access my work computer, company network, or USB drive at all times (in the case of the USB drive, it’s because I choose not to carry it around all the time).

I think that a scan to cloud function could also be useful, as one can access a wide array of cloud services using a mobile device. While the X576dw supports scanning to Google Docs and Box using the Google Docs and Box apps on the printer touchscreen, I believe these functions should also be available via the Scan icon. Also, as mentioned earlier it would be nice to have MFP apps for more cloud services, including Dropbox, Evernote, Picasa, Flickr, Amazon, and SkyDrive.

Copying

While copying is less relevant today than it used to be, there are surely still cases where employees might need or want this function. The copy function on the X576dw is very easy to use. You just click the “Copy” icon and then adjust the settings accordingly. I especially appreciated the “Preview” feature, which allows you to view the document before printing and rotate it if necessary. I decided to make 10 two-sided copies of two separate documents. Given that the main paper tray holds up to 500 sheets of paper, I could have made 500 two-sided copies before having to refill the paper tray. This is clearly a significant productivity advantage over the majority of inkjet devices on the market.

I have invited a number of my colleagues to set up the Officejet Pro X576dw’s drivers on their PCs, and test out the device themselves. As I have asked them to try using the device the way they normally use one of the HP LaserJet devices in our copy room, it will be interesting to see how many of them opt to use the copy function.

Other user-friendly features

I mentioned in my last blog post that the process of installing the Officejet Pro X576dw’s drivers was very straightforward. I also want to add that the “Printer Assistant” that was downloaded to my PC seems quite user-friendly. It provides access to a variety of resources, including device information, estimated ink levels, diagnostic information, shopping resources, HP ePrintCenter, help pages, and device preferences.

These resources can also be accessed online by inputting the MFP’s IP address into the browser’s address bar. One advantage of the online service is it also provides access to usage reports that detail information such as total pages printed, total scanned pages from ADF, total scanned pages sent as email messages, and total copies. For businesses looking to understand and manage print and copy costs, these reports could prove beneficial.

Usability summary

 

There is a lot to like about the HP Officejet Pro X576dw. The fact that the device has so much functionality could potentially be daunting. However, people are more likely to just try out a couple of things based on their own needs and how they prefer to work. With the device designed for multiple users, this flexibility is a major advantage. By enabling several ways to achieve the same end result, HP is allowing the customer to define how they choose to use the device.

While I am happy sending a document to print by email from my smartphone, there will doubtless be others who prefer to access their documents through the touch panel. Because all of the functionality is so easy to access and use there is no learning curve, which in turn should encourage usage. At this stage I am extremely happy with the device and I will begin to solicit feedback from my colleagues in the coming days.

What’s to come?

 

While this post deals primarily with the topic of usability, the next post will focus on the topic of print quality. The post will incorporate feedback from my colleagues and discuss how the output compares to that of our HP color laser printer. Stay tuned!

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