PC

HP Tango: Printer for casual users

HP wants to make the home printer less intimidating, soften the edges of this functional device and update it for a modern audience accustomed to interacting with their gadgets using a smartphone or even with their voices.

The result is the Tango, a stylish and compact inkjet printer without USB or Ethernet ports. There is no touchscreen or control panel either, though it has a few buttons to cancel or resume a print job.

My review set, the Tango X, is identical to the base Tango model. But the Tango X costs more as it has a linen cover that folds over and conceals the printer when not in use. I was slightly disappointed the cover does not attach magnetically or otherwise to the printer. Instead, it is held in place by the weight of the printer - a relatively svelte 3.4kg.

Switch the printer on and its lower front edge lights up like a domesticated cousin of Knight Rider's Kitt. The colours, reminiscent of mood lighting, shift among soothing shades of blue, green and amber, depending on the printer status. There is no angry red light to indicate a problem - it blinks amber instead.

As you might imagine, given its lack of ports, the Tango relies on wireless connectivity. It is designed for smartphones, but can be used with Windows and Mac computers.

Simply install the HP Smart app (available on iOS, Android, Windows 10 and macOS) and it will find and add the Tango. It even detected that my Android smartphone lacked a software component and directed me to download it. The app also shows relevant information like the current ink and paper levels.

Its paper tray can hold up to 50 sheets, which is fairly limited. It requires two cartridges - tri-colour and black - and you can order ink from HP via the app.

Because I tested it with an Android smartphone, the app can print only PDF documents. It can print online documents from a linked Google Drive or Dropbox account.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $289

    YIELD: Up to 200 standard pageseach black cartridge and 165 pages each tri-colour cartridge

    PRINT RESOLUTION: Up to 1,200 x 1,200 dots per inch

    SPEED: Up to 11 pages a minute (black), eight pages a minute(colour)

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3.5/5

To print Microsoft Office documents using an Android phone, you have to first open them using Google Drive. This is not the case if you are using an iPhone or if you are printing from a PC or Mac computer, as these platforms support Microsoft Office documents.

The Tango can also connect to Facebook or Instagram to print your photos directly from them.

The print quality is decent. Photos have natural colours and fine details, though text has a hint of pixelation.

The print speed seems slightly faster than advertised. On the Normal print quality setting, the Tango printed 13 black-and-white pages in one minute, which is about two pages more than I expected. It also took just a couple of seconds to start printing after I sent the print job from my smartphone - a pleasant surprise.

The Tango does not have a built-in flatbed scanner. Instead, the HP Smart app doubles as a copier and scanner - it uses the smartphone camera to capture the image and software to straighten the edges and make it suitable for printing.

It does the job in a cinch, but the quality falls short of what an all-in-one printer can achieve with its scanning or photocopy functions.

To keep up with the times, the Tango works with smart voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana (not supported in Singapore).

I had to register the printer with Google Cloud Print before I could use it with my Google Home smart speaker. But this feature has limited usefulness because you can ask the printer to print only colouring pages, games (it printed a crossword puzzle when I tried this) and Google Calendar. Also, once the printer finished a job, I had to repeat a lengthy voice command to get it to start another, which could be tedious if I have multiple print jobs.

At $289, the Tango X is more expensive than some of HP's all-in-one inkjet photo printers or monocolour laser ones. If you are a light user who prints more often than scans or copies, the Tango X may be adequate. But most home users will benefit from a printer with more features.

• Verdict: The easy-to-use Tango X is a good printer but lacks the functions of an all-in-one model.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'Printer for casual users'. Print Edition | Subscribe