While a large percent of the general population believe that printers were put on this planet to make us miserable
, I have to digress and say that for the most part I’ve had quite a happy relationship with my printer over the years. Sure, I seem to be trading it in for a newer model each year when the cartridges mysteriously stop being produced, but who’s really keeping track?
My latest assignment (should I choose to accept it or not) is to check out the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275. At first the spec sheet made me think of this as just another printer/scanner combo, but it wasn’t until I saw the word ‘3D’ did I sit bolt upright. Was this a 3D printer from HP? Could I start churning out miniature models and spare car parts? Alas, the 3D only referred to the printer’s ability to scan 3D objects which brought my dreams of mass production crumbling down. But still, a 3D scanner? What on earth would you need a 3D scanner for? If you’re constantly taking photos of items that are either meant for your website or a catalog or online auction, then this printer just might do the trick. The TopShot scanner claims to be able to capture objects faster and better than going through the hoopla of setting up a professional product shoot with the right lighting and camera. But how exactly did it stack up in our tests? Read on to find out.
Build Quality & Design
The TopShot combines both matte and glossy plastic in its design – matte for most of the body and glossy finishes for areas around the top of the unit. It also features a small adjustable touchscreen to configure and operate the printer, and includes both wired and wireless print configurations. The printer has a 150 sheet loading tray but doesn’t have other paper handling options or automatic duplex. On the top of the device is the TopShot scanning mechanism, which consists of a white flatbed and a camera mounted on the end of an arm. When not in use the arm can be folded down and automatically latches in place thanks to a magnetic clasp. The arm is constructed from plastic and cannot be removed, and felt a little bit delicate when I moved it up and down. Lifting off the flatbed scanner allows you to access the toner cartridges – these are compact and easy to replace should you need to. Overall the unit is just a tad bit big for placing on your desk, but otherwise would be fine to accommodate.
Setup & features
The TopShot has a number of features that makes it quite a robust laser printer. The wired and wireless options allow it to adapt to almost any environment – I opted to set it up wirelessly which took me all of 2 minutes to accomplish. The bundled CDs come with the HP software for both Mac and Windows, and takes a couple of minutes to install and detect the printer. There’s a stack of software that unfortunately comes along with the installation, so opt for a custom install if you don’t want to have unnecessary programs running on your machine.
This printer also has tight integration with HP’s suite of ePrint services. Once connected to the Internet, you can register your printer and obtain an ‘email address’ for it – this will allow you to send documents to the printer via email for printing, which is great for instances when you don’t want to setup the printer manually on a PC. You can also choose to scan documents and send them instantly to Google Docs, making them available to other users as well. There are also a number of ‘apps’ that you can download to the printer for one-touch activities such as printing news headlines, daily Sudoku puzzles, craft items, and much more.
Print & scanning quality
I ran the printer through a variety of print tests, and each document was produced beautifully every time. From full pages of text to A4-sized photo printouts, the TopShot performed well in all the print jobs I queued up and was able to print things within an acceptable time frame. Colors were bold across multiple paper types, and fonts were crisp without any toner smudges or fading.
Given that producing laser printouts was a no-brainer, I turned my attention to the 3D scanning aspect of this device. The TopShot scans in 3D by taking a series of photos using the mounted camera and LED flashes, and then makes some minor adjustments before printing out the result or saving it to your PC. Now the term ‘3D’ actually can be a bit misleading, as it’s not really a proper 3D image that’s being taken, but rather a ‘top-down’ photo. The only 3D that comes into play is that the device is able to supposedly capture better depth than a traditional scanner. To test just how good the 3D scanning was, I tried the following items:
- Snickers bar:
this came out looking like you could grab the bar off the paper! The wrapper wasn’t distorted in any way and was reproduced beautifully.
- An apple:
this also came out quite well, though the apple’s texture and skin tones were slightly lightened because of the TopShot’s flash.
we did this just for kicks really, but it also illustrated that the photos taken by the TopShot are very zoomed in, so if your item is larger than about 6 inches, then you’re going to get parts cut off.
- Lifesavers sweets:
what this scan showed was the difficulty the TopShot had with shadows (see photo below). The shadows were a bit tricky to mask out in Photoshop and also appeared quite grainy, probably caused by the TopShot’s automatic contrast and color corrections.
Frankly though, while the 3D scanning was a neat and fun thing to try out, I see it having very limited uses. Many of the promotional content for the TopShot featured jewelry being used in the scanner, so I scanned a watch and pendant to receive fairly standard\ results. Again the shadows here were starting to get in the way, so experimenting with different positions in your scans is highly recommended.
Apart from scanning in 3D, how did the TopShot do with traditional flatbed scans? To be honest, not spectacularly. The TopShot essentially just takes a photo of whatever document is on the flatbed, and that’s your scan. There’s no option to scan multiple pages, and if you’re trying to scan a page from a book, you’ll most certainly get your hand accidentally included in the photo or the shadows from the curling pages if you don’t manually specify that you’re scanning a document and not an object.
So who exactly is the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 catering to? Well if you’re looking for a laser printer for light to medium workloads, this printer will fit the bill. If you’re constantly items up for sale (small items that is), then the TopShot will do a decent job. But that’s about it – it’s a niche product that a few consumers will drift towards, as its lack of other scanning options doesn’t make it too friendly to use for other purposes. The touch-panel can also get a bit sluggish at times, and there’s no option for printing items from USB or memory cards. In short, the TopShot is a great laser printer but the 3D scanning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.