sales accelerating the pace of office wireless developments
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
January 22-28, 2008; issue 952
High Tech Office
networking (a.k.a. 802.11g) was once limited to hotel lobbies, trendy
cafes, and the homes of the technology bleeding edge. WiFi popularity
has increased with the growth in laptop sales. I can check nearby WiFi
routers with my iPod Touch; it’s a rare Vancouver corner that has fewer
than three or four WiFi connections showing up.
networks nearly a standard feature in homes and small offices, it’s now
showing up in more sorts of devices, making them accessible without
having to string cables from room to room. Recently, I spent time with
a pair of all-in-one printer/scanner/etc. devices with built-in WiFi
Accessing a printer wirelessly used to require a
special-purpose (i.e. relatively expensive) wireless print server or
one of a few WiFi routers designed to allow printer connections. Or the
printer could be shared from a computer connected to a network. Until
recently, if you connected a multifunction all-in-one (AIO) device, you
might be able to print from other networked computers, but you probably
couldn’t access the device’s other functions across the network.
was pleasantly surprised with both Lexmark’s X6575 ($199) and HP’s
C8180 ($399). Both had built-in WiFi wireless network and both allowed
any computer within wireless range to print, scan, copy or fax. And
both installed easily and worked with Windows and Mac systems. On the
minus side: both offer meagre 100-page paper trays.
It’s rare to
find any sort of networking built-into a printer or AIO at the X6575’s
price; even rarer to get WiFi. Some AIO devices drop the fax machine;
many others include a flatbed scanner usable for scanning, copying or
faxing one page at a time, but awkward for multiple-page jobs. The
X6575 includes both a fax and a multi-page sheet feeder, and even
offers double-sided printing.
It uses two ink cartridges: black
and colour for everyday text and colour printing; the black cartridge
can be replaced with an optional photo cartridge giving high-quality
While the jury is out on whether single-colour
cartridges are more affordable than separate cartridges for each
colour, the X6575 allows the use of high-capacity ink cartridges for
lower cost per printed page. Memory card and USB inputs are included
for direct camera connections. Nice feature: a front panel light that
switches between orange and green depending on whether the WiFi
connection is working.
HP’s Photosmart C8180 All-in-One matches
most of the Lexmark’s features (though it lacks that unit’s fax and
sheet feeder). It ups the ante with crisper text quality, faster print
speeds, a built-in DVD+RW drive with LightScribe for labelling discs
and burning photos direct from memory cards, separate paper trays for
eight-inch- wide paper and 4” x 6” photo paper, and a generally solider
A 3.5-inch LCD panel doubles as a touch screen,
simplifying working with the menus. HP’s Photosmart C7280 (which I
didn’t test) drops the DVD drive and touch screen but adds a duplexer,
automatic document feeder and fax.
Both models include wired Ethernet and WiFi connections along with the
more traditional USB.
Photosmart models use six ink cartridges. These were perhaps the cutest
ink cartridges I’ve seen, an adjective I never thought I’d find myself
using in this context. An odd omission: you can only burn an image onto
a disc in the DVD drive when the unit is connected to a computer via
USB. As with Lexmark’s model, other functions are available to any
computer across the network.
With both home and small-business
users increasingly using laptops that are not tied down to a specific
desk, the ability to print, scan or fax from anywhere within WiFi range
is a big convenience. •