IT companies have never been known to turn down a good buzz-word, and few such words have popped up with greater regularity over the last 18 months than the ubiquitous label ‘3D’.
This can mean many things of course. In these pages we’ve seen many an inkjet manufacturer tacking a rather gimmicky feature onto their printers that turns any image into a slightly unsatisfactory imitation of full-depth three-dimensionality.
But with its new business model, HP’s approach to 3D is approaching something unique.
At first glance, the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 appears to have a carrying handle bolted onto the top. Closer inspection reveals this adjustable frame to have a camera built into it.
The roof of the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 comprises a white podium. Place an object onto the podium, manoeuvre the camera into place, and, three flashes (and six camera shots) later, the M275 creates a ‘3D’ image of the object. In practice, the effect is a bit like having a moderately experienced photographer come and shoot the product from an angle.
To call this ‘3D’ is pushing the term, but the resulting pictures do look more rounded and less two-dimensional than is typical in photographs. A typical shot took 46 seconds to create and print out.
Whether the effect satisfies or not will depend partly on the subject matter. Anything 50mm or less in height tended to work pretty well, although you do need to sometimes experiment with the angle of the camera. Tall objects create less satisfactory results, and anything above 150mm tends to create problems with focus.
Neither was the colour of the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 always as accurate as it might be. A bright orange Jaffa cakes box, for instance, appeared to be yellow. It’s also very easy for light reflections to create artefacts. The quality is good enough to take shots of documents, although you’ll struggle with anything that doesn’t lie flat – a book with a thick spine, for instance.
The feature is undoubtedly interesting, but whether many users will be making frequent use of it is highly questionable. Much has been made of its suitability to eBay sellers, and this printer would certainly aid with taking photographs of auction items. For the majority of us, though, its 3D facilities are likely to remain of limited use in the long term.
It can operate as a scanner and as a copier, but more traditional 2D MFDs and scanners will offer better results in many cases.
As it happens, the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 does work very acceptably – if not compellingly - as a printer. The camera frame folds down almost flat, and the podium can be removed, making for a compact but well-built printer.
Set into the base is a sturdy 150 sheet input tray. The output tray is rather flimsier, and can hold no more than 50 sheets of paper, so you couldn’t rely on the M275 for large print jobs.
It has plenty of connectivity options, with Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and 10/100 ethernet capabilities alongside USB 2.0. And, as with most new models, you can access the web directly as well.
The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 also comes with Smart Install, HP’s new feature that allows the printer to install itself on your PC without recourse a driver disc.
A bright graphical touchscreen is nicely implemented, and lets you select the M275’s many features quickly and easily.
HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275: Performance
In actual use, the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 works well for text. The realworld speed of 12.2 pages per minute (ppm) wasn’t amazingly fast, but perfectly proficient. And while the text itself was a little thin, the characters were cleanly defined. Text was never less than highly readable, and for documents the M275 would work reasonably well.
The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 struggled a little more with graphics. It’s not so much the 3.4ppm speed that disappoints, but the dark and gloomy colour palette that casts almost everything in fog. Even with a few tweaks to the settings, we were never to strike a suitable balance.
It’s not disastrous for colour, but there are undoubtedly better graphical printers out there. The running costs are a touch high, with 3.3p the rate for a page of text, and colour at a steep 12.6p.