Printers: Wireless printing explained What is a web printer?
Web printers, or web-enabled printers, offer additional features as well as wireless printing, courtesy of their web connection.
Depending on the particular model, you may have access to a growing number of downloadable print applications, or be able to receive prints via email or even use the web-printer's screen to surf the net.
Some models have more features than others, and although their features may appeal to some people, web-connected printers cost more than regular wireless printers. It's only worth getting one if you think you'll use the additional web functionality.
Check out our test results and reviews of web printers.
Eprint is an HP function only available HP e-All-in-One printers. These web-enabled printers have their own unique email addresses, so you can email documents to the printer. Eprint is handy if you have lots of devices compatible with email, but don't want to have to connect them to your home wireless network.
Email attachments that can be printed via ePrint include:
- Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel
- Text files
- Images: bmp, jpg, png, gif and tiff
The maximum file size you can print via eprint is 5MB and there is a maximum of 10 attachments per email – so if you want to use ePrint to print a number of photos you may have to send them one or two at a time.
See how HP ePrint printers work in our video from the launch of the first HP e-All-in-One printers.
Just as smartphones have apps, there are apps available for some web-enabled printers. Currently the only manufacturers that have apps specifically for printers are HP and Lexmark. The apps a printer can support depends on the specific model of printer.
Lexmark calls its print apps 'SmartSolutions'. They offer access to online services as well as printable templates.
SmartSolutions-compatible printers start from as little as £80 with the Lexmark Interact S605.
Other compatible models include the fast-scanning Lexmark Genesis S815 and the Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901, which uses Lexmark's cheap 105XL black ink.
You can find test results for these models in our Lexmark printer reviews.
Although you need to use a computer to put SmartSolutions on to the printer, once you've downloaded the app you don't need the computer on to use it. Downloaded apps are displayed as icons on the printer's colour screen – as with phone apps on smartphones.
Some SmartSolutions apps let you print things, others are used to customise the printer's screen so you can use it for other things when you're not printing.
The types of SmartSolutions available include:
- Print templates Examples include blank sheet music, customised stationery, wall calendars and sudoku games.
- Screen apps Some apps let you use the printers screen to display a clock, calendar, news headlines or your Twitter feed when you’re not using the screen for printing purposes.
- Photo app Picasa, Photobucket and Flickr apps let you view photos stored on your online photo-sharing accounts and print them directly.
HP apps can be downloaded directly to compatible HP printers or downloaded to the printer via a computer.
To download apps you need to set up a free HP ePrint Center online account first.
Some apps can only be used on HP printers with larger displays. For example, the HP Photosmart B110 only has a small screen, so many of the photo-based apps, such as the Photobucket, Picasa, Snapfish and Facebook photo apps won't work on this printer.
However they can be downloaded onto the HP Photosmart eStation C510 printer – which has a large tablet screen.
Selecting the model name of your printer from a drop down menu in your ePrint Center account lets you see exactly which apps will work on your printer. You can then download the ones you want.
There are more than 100 HP printer apps available for US consumers, but around 30% fewer for European consumers.
Some apps are developed by HP, but others available from the ePrint Center are from third-parties like Disney. There are more third party apps available for HP printers than Lexmark.
The types of HP apps available in Europe include:
- Printable stuff for kids Printable pictures for children to colour in and printed designs and shapes to fold and make from the likes of Disney, Dreamworks and Nickelodeon.
- Printable games and templates Print games like sudoku, word puzzles, free sheet music, maps and news headlines
- Photo printing apps Directly view and print photos stored on photo sharing websites such as Photobucket, Picasa, and Facebook.
The downside with the ePrint Center is that when browsing all apps you can't tell which are available on which printers. This means it's hard to use the availability of apps to help you choose which e-All-in-One printer to buy.
Printing via email isn't the only way to print from an iPad or smartphone. Read our mobile printing page for more information on printing from mobile devices.