Let’s face it: Despite the specific features that each vendor touts to differentiate its all-in-one printers (AIO) from a competitor’s, there’s pretty much parity between AIOs at a specific price point. They all print, they all scan, and they all copy. The importance and value of those differences varies with the wants and needs of the individual user.
Hewlett-Packard makes a variety of AIOs, nearly all of which are targeted toward the home and small-business markets. With the Envy 120 ($250), a refresh of the original Envy 100 launched in 2010, HP is undeniably targeting the home user.
With its low profile and sleek black looks, the Envy 120 looks more like a multimedia device than a multifunction printer. It’s only when you power it up by touching an almost unnoticeable front panel icon, that you start to realize you’re going to get pages, and not music, out of the unit.
Features and design
When powered up, the 4.3-inch color touch-panel lights up and displays icons for copy, scan, and a host of included HP utilities. These utilities vary by country (ours had Quick Forms, Google Calendar, and several crafts applications), and can’t be used unless the machine is connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi. The touch-panel is designed to tilt up automatically when the device is printing, to allow the document to output through the front. The panel folds back into the AIO when the print job has finished and the output has been removed (you can also hit the “eject” icon to open the panel). On the front you’ll find a front-panel USB port and memory card slot. Most onboard AIO operations are controlled by the touch-panel. Navigating through the menus is intuitive and does not require a heavy hand, and the touch icons and buttons aren’t so sensitive that an accidental brush would launch an unintended function.
At first glance, you’d be hard pressed to take the unit for an all-in-one printer with its low profile and sleek black looks.
Located underneath the tilt-out panel at the bottom of the unit is the paper tray. This tray has an extremely small capacity, only 80 pages. At first thought, that doesn’t seem too bad, but in reality, it can be quite annoying if you print a lot. For example, the performance test we use requires that we print a four-page document suite 11 times each run. And testing both default driver settings (which are very often “normal”) as well as draft settings, requires six runs (three runs at each driver setting). The 80-page capacity of the Envy 120 required that we pull the paper tray and top it off nine times during this one test alone. Plus, the swing-out support that captures the printed output has a limit of around 30 pages – any more than that and you’ll find papers landing on the floor.
Another thing that’s going to require constant attention are the ink cartridges. The Envy 120 uses HP’s 60-series cartridges, which are available in standard and XL higher capacity offerings. Many of the newest printers and AIOs have moved to a four-cartridge ink system, with separate ink tanks for each of the four process colors – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). The Envy uses a two-cartridge system, with a separate black cartridge and a second cartridge containing the other three colors – cyan, magenta, and yellow. But putting three colors of ink in a single cartridge will put a heavy constraint on the number of pages you are able to print with that cartridge. HP gives cartridge yields of 200 pages for the standard black cartridge, 600 pages for the 60XL black cartridge, 165 pages for the 60 tri-color cartridge, and 440 pages for the 60XL tri-color cartridge.
To help save paper the device has a built-in duplexer for printing on both side of a page, and this worked fine during our testing. The scanner is accessible by lifting the lid on the top; there’s no automatic document feed, so pages need to be scanned one-at-a-time.
The Envy 120 is a three-function AIO, rather than a four-function model that adds fax to the mix. Fax capability is becoming less popular and, with the rise of scanning to e-mail, unnecessary. But if you do need fax capability, the Envy 120 won’t be a good choice.
What’s in the box
Unpacking the Envy 120, there was nothing unexpected. The box contains the device, two cartridges (black and tri-color), a quick-start sheet, and a CD containing the drivers for the printer and scanner. Installation software and drivers are provided for both Windows and Mac operating systems. No optical character recognition (OCR) software is provided, nor is a complete manual for the device supplied on the CD (it is, however, available for download from the support section of HP’s website).
Performance and use
The Envy 120 is simple to set up. The device supports only direct USB 2.0 and wireless Wi-Fi connectivity. It does not have a jack for wired Ethernet. The Envy 120 supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) if your wireless network has this capability. You can also set up wireless connectivity from your PC or laptop with a temporary USB connection, which is useful if your network password is a complicated jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols. You can also print directly and wirelessly from a Mac or Apple iOS device using AirPrint, and print documents from the cloud.
We used a USB cable, and setup took only a few minutes, which included installing the scanner driver. The touch-panel gives you the choice of scanning to a PC, to a memory card, or to e-mail. We also tested the scan function with Picasa 3’s import feature that lets us scan an image directly into the application.
We tested the Envy 120 with the driver set in default mode (normal) and again in draft mode. All color accuracy and photo quality tests were performed with the third “photo” setting. HP gives the Envy 120’s color print speed as up to 4 pages per minute (ppm) in normal mode and up to 23 ppm in draft mode. We obtained a somewhat faster 7.3 ppm in normal mode and 11 ppm in draft mode.
HP recommended its Bright White Inkjet paper for testing. We also ran our color test suite using HP’s Premium Inkjet Presentation Paper, HP Premium Plus Glossy Photo paper, and Hammermill Premium Inkjet and Laser Paper. It should be noted that the print driver for the Envy 120 does not have HP Bright Inkjet Paper setting under the media choices.
Our best results were obtained printing on HP’s Premium Inkjet Presentation Paper, and we recommend this paper be used when high quality and accurate color reproduction is needed. With the Presentation Paper, we obtained spot-on color accuracy, and excellent flesh tones and color saturation. Almost as good was HP’s recommended Bright White Inkjet. The Hammermill and Premium Plus Glossy Photo (surprisingly) papers gave acceptable, but not exceptional, results, with color shifts on all prints, poor and washed out color saturation, and inaccurate flesh tones.
When we tested the Envy 120’s scanner, our first attempt provided us with a blank page. We took another look at the scanner before our second try. In the past, some of HP’s scanners have had a transparent lid, as does the Envy 120. Watching the AIO scan, we realized that the original has to be placed face up on the scan bed, rather than the traditional face down as we are used to doing – the scan head is in the lid. Realizing this, our next scan was successful. Scan quality on default settings was acceptable. The scans were somewhat lighter and less dense than the originals, and reds noticeably color shifted and faded (it’s not unusual for scan elements to be less sensitive to certain colors).
HP’s Envy 120 is a beautiful looking printer. However, it does disappoint in a number of areas. To obtain its good looks, the Envy 120 gives up an ADF, which is a convenience found in most AIOs in this price range. Also, other AIOs in this price range use separate ink tanks for each color. The Envy 120 lacks fax capability as well as wired Ethernet, but that might not be a detriment. Finally, while the Envy 120’s print quality is acceptable for most home-based tasks, our best quality output was obtained with HP’s premium papers. These are considerably more expensive than even branded high-quality paper like the Hammermill Premium Inkjet and Laser we use in our tests.
The Envy 120 is a beautiful device, but in terms of print quality and functionality, it doesn’t live up to its price tag.
- Looks great
- Wireless connectivity in addition to USB
- Standard duplexing
- Large 4.3 inch color touch panel
- Small capacity paper tray
- No individual color cartridges
- Print quality with standard paper is only acceptable