HP Officejet 6500A Plus e-All-in-One

The HP Officejet 6500A Plus e-All-in-One Printer is an inkjet multifunction printer with fax, scan, and copy capabilities. It features HP’s ePrint remote printing and printing apps, and is one of the few printers to support Apple’s iOS AirPrint technology.

Setting up the Officejet 6500A Plus was a breeze. The four individual ink cartridges are easy to install and you can connect via USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, or wired ethernet. We ran into an issue where, when connected over USB, the printer would stop responding after a Mac restart. Interestingly, if we used the drivers downloaded through Apple Software Update instead of the drivers on the included CD, the issue went away. HP is looking into it.

The Officejet 6500A Plus has a small but helpful, 2.4-inch LCD touchscreen that aids in selecting number of copies, faxing options, and setup of the printer’s ePrint features. HP’s ePrint lets you download and use printing apps. Apps range from kids coloring pages to scanning documents directly to your Google account. ePrint also allows you to print remotely, using the e-mail address that HP assigns your printer. And though I experienced spotty service when testing the ePrint service on the recently reviewed Photosmart C310A ( ), the service was much more reliable this time.

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G-Drive Slim

With so many USB storage devices on the market, it’s tough for new models to stand out–and any new external hard drive needs a good gimmick to get ahead of the competition. To that end, Hitachi introduces its new G-Drive Slim—it’s billed as “the world’s thinnest 2.5-inch external hard drive,” and you can only buy it at your local Apple Store (unless, of course, you shop online).

To its credit, the G-Drive Slim is a spiffy looking device. Instead of the glossy, fingerprint-prone shell that you might see on a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex ( ) or the Iomega eGo ( ), the G-Drive Slim is enclosed with a nice gunmetal finish and a rubber ring around the edge. It won’t catch your eye from store shelves, but it’s suitable for any office setting. It also mirrors the MacBook line’s aluminum design quite nicely and feels incredibly tactile, so you won’t be prone to dropping it.

Hitachi’s G-Drive is also an extreme featherweight contender. It weighs a mere .33 pounds and measures about 5.1 inches in length and 3.2 inches wide. If you want to nitpick, it’s a bit wide, but I’d say that the G-Drive is actually a hair thinner than an iPhone 4. While it’s probably not practical for people wearing tight jeans, the drive should still fit nicely in any jacket, briefcase, or backpack pocket.

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Photosmart Premium e-All-in-One C310a

HP’s Photosmart Premium e-All-in-One (C310a) is an inkjet multifunction with a letter-sized flatbed scanner with scan and copy capabilities. It also offers a long list of hot printing features, like 802.11 wireless printing, a 4.3-inch TouchSmart control screen, the ability to download and use dozens of Internet printing apps, support for Apple’s AirPrint, as well as HP’s own ePrint technology. Compared to the like-priced Epson Artisan 725 and Canon Pixma MG5220, the Photosmart Premium e-All-in-One is faster, but not quite as well equipped.

Setting up the printer is easy: just plug it in and follow the instructions on the handy TouchSmart control screen to connect to your computer via USB 2.0 or 802.11b/g/n. The touchscreen itself could be a bit more responsive; I sometimes had to push buttons twice for the input to be recognized.

I also noticed that the Photosmart Premium is a loud printer. Every time it finishes a print job or has been sitting idle, it goes through a long maintenance routine, clicking, popping, and whirring for 20 desk-shaking seconds.

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Lexmark Genesis

Lexmark can't be faulted for modesty in picking the lofty name of Genesis for its groundbreaking new inkjet multifunction. The price is similarly ambitious at $400, far more than most home or small-office users would typically pay for an MFP. Is it worth the money? As with the equally innovative and expensive HP Photosmart eStation All-in-One, that depends on how much you want the gadgets tacked onto the machine.

The Genesis is visually unique due to its vertical, display-like profile, which practically invites you to walk up and examine it. The front panel showcases a 4.3-inch, capacitive touchscreen LCD and context-sensitive touch controls that light up only when needed. This display is especially fun to use with Lexmark's Smart Solutions, an ever-growing collection of apps that you can program to automate local multifunction tasks or use to access Web-based services. Lexmark is adding the ability to search and view your Twitter feed, as well as to view and print from your Facebook wall. I'd love to see this display get a lot bigger on a future model so that it could function as a Web browser, digital frame, or kiosk.

Behind the design news, you'll find the technological news: a 10-megapixel camera for creating digital images, instead of the traditional CIS (contact image sensor) or CCD (charge-coupled device) scanning technology. The vertical platen has a wide clip for holding small pieces in place, and the cover telescopes to accommodate media up to 10mm thick. In our tests it scanned any kind of image, regardless of complexity, in a matter of several seconds, as opposed to dozens or hundreds of seconds using conventional means. Even though the Genesis, like many consumer-level multifunctions, lacks an automatic document feeder for handling multipage documents, the speed of its scanning certainly compensates.

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MacBook Air flash storage torture tests

As you probably know, the MacBook Air uses flash storage instead of the hard drives found in every other Mac. And while the initial results using our Speedmark 6.5 test suite showed that the Air’s flash storage helped provide a performance boost, we were concerned about whether that performance could be maintained over time.

Solid state drives (SSDs) and flash storage (Apple doesn’t call the Air’s flash-based storage an SSD; it doesn’t use a 2.5-inch hard drive housing like a conventional SSD) offer a number of advantages. Compared to hard drives, flash-based storage performs faster. And since it lacks moving parts, flash-based storage is more shock resistant and not prone to the mechanical failings that hard drives are susceptible to.

The obvious downsides are that flash-based storage devices are much more expensive from a price per gigabyte perspective, and they offer lower storage capacities.

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HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus

The HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus color inkjet multifunction printer (for printing, copying, scanning, and faxing) may look expensive at $300, but you get a lot for the money. It's a comprehensive small-office machine with excellent speed and print quality, and low ink costs. The machine's touch controls and legal-size scanner lift it above competing models such as the Canon Pixma MX870 and the Lexmark Platinum Pro905.

The shiny, all-black Officejet Pro 8500a Plus might look a bit like something out of a sci-fi flick, but there's nothing alien about using it. The entire control panel, from the large, 2.4-inch color LCD to the surrounding controls (which light up only when needed), is touch-sensitive. The menus shown on the LCD are laid out logically.

Paper-handling features include a front-mounted 250-sheet input cassette and a 150-sheet output tray directly above it. Automatic duplexing is included for printing, copying, and scanning, the latter two via the 35-sheet automatic document feeder. Most ADFs can scan legal-size media, but the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus's flatbed scanner is legal-size as well. For loading digital images, you can use the USB/PictBridge port or the media card slots for MMC, MS/Duo, and SD Cards.

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HP Envy100 e-All-in-One

HP's Envy100 e-All-in-One color inkjet multifunction printer (for printing, copying, and scanning) makes being decorative a higher priority than being useful. Created with the same stylistic flair as HP's like-named laptops, such as the Envy 17, the Envy100 gets green points for being free of PVC plastic and for having ink cartridges made with recycled materials. Unfortunately, the $250 price (as of November 30, 2010) does not buy you decent speed or cheap inks. Aesthetically pleasing rivals include the Epson Artisan 725 and the Canon Pixma MG8120.

Predominantly shiny black with silvery accents, and low-slung (just 4 inches high), the Envy100 e-All-in-One will blend easily into any modern décor. Turn it on, and you'll see its 3.45-inch color touchscreen LCD and touch-sensitive controls gleaming at you from the front panel. The panel is supposed to tilt up and down automatically during operation, but on our unit, this feature sometimes stalled. HP is working on a firmware fix for the inconsistency.

Looks aside, the Envy100 is suitable for light use. An 80-sheet, letter/A4-size input drawer pulls out from the front. A narrow plastic output arm swings out to catch printed pages (up to 25 sheets) and retracts after you remove them. Automatic duplexing (printing on both sides of the page) is standard for both the PC and Mac. The letter/A4-size flatbed scanner has a glass cover with an eye-catching finish that graduates from pure black to mirror. A discreet door covers a USB/PictBridge port and a media-card slot that takes MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and SD Card media. HP's numerous Web apps are available through this machine, if you give it access to the Internet.

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