It's probably horribly printerist to say this (and we may have just accidentally invented printerism along the way), but most multi-function printers look pretty much alike.
That's part of the issue relating to form and function. There's only so many ways you can dress up a scanning plate, paper feed and print head mechanism, and the established big players have pretty much drained that well dry.
We've got to give some marks to HP, though, with its Envy line of printers. Like the rest of its Envy range, the focus here is on style. Or at least as much style as you can reasonably get out of the form of a multi-function printer. HP's been producing Envy printers for a good number of years now; back in 2010 when we reviewed the Envy 120's predecessor, the Envy 100, it was notable for looking different; since then, we've had the duplexing-capable Envy 110 and now the Envy 120. Like its predecessors, the Envy 120 certainly looks different to most multifunctions.
It's just that unlike the Envy 110 and 100, which more or less looked like explosions in an iPod factory, the Envy 120 is visually more akin to an old-school 1970s-era overhead projector. That's an image created almost entirely by the fact that one of its innovative features is an entirely clear top scan plate. It certainly changes the look of the Envy 120 compared to its forebears, although the accent is still on a printer that you might not mind having in your living room. At 432x495x337mm and 7.98kg, it's not going to be a subtle part of the decor, mind you, and at AU$329, we'd advise against using it as a coffee table.
Despite its unusual design, the HP Envy 120 is otherwise a stock-standard multifunction printer with inbuilt print, scan and copy features, but no faxing. It's essentially built for light use, given that HP only graces it with an 80-sheet paper tray.
HP's made a lot of noise in recent years about its interfaces and app selection. Like much of HP's line-up, the Envy 120 features a touchscreen panel that offers a variety of both business- and consumer-centric apps, all with one core mission: to make you use more printer ink. There's nothing wrong with them if you see value in that trade-off, but there's little within the app space that doesn't end up with a printed page or two along the way.
From a connectivity viewpoint, the HP Envy 120 hooks up via USB or Wi-Fi. Our review sample came with the USB cable, but it wasn't entirely clear whether this is supplied in retail models. It'll also read SD/MMC and USB drives for photo and document printing, as well as Wi-Fi direct printing from smartphones and tablet devices.
In terms of straight-up speed, HP rates the HP Envy 120 as being capable of "up to 28ppm" in draft mode for black printing, dropping to "up to 7ppm" for laser quality. Switching to colour sees that drop marginally in HP's estimation at 23/4ppm. In the photo-printing stakes, the Envy 120 is rated as being able to shoot out a draft 10x15 photo "as fast as 26 sec". We've emphasised HP's own claims there, because "up to" are weasel words at their finest, and so very often, inkjet printers fall well below manufacturer claims.
We connected the HP Envy to an iMac running OS X via USB to minimise the risk of Wi-Fi disruption to print speeds. Drivers installed rapidly, although for some reason, every time we powered the HP Envy 120 on the connected iMac, it complained of an unreadable connected disk.
From a black printing viewpoint, the HP Envy's performance was something of a mixed bag. Part of what HP sells the Envy 120 on is its quiet operation, and, for the most part, that's true. It's somewhat enticing — at least at first — to watch its front panel tilt up and the paper tray slide out smoothly, and when printing at best quality, it ranks amongst the quietest home printers we've ever tested.
We can't say it's particularly fast, however. A single normal coverage page took 25 seconds to emerge from the Envy 120, and it only managed a very ordinary 3.5ppm in that mode. Draft was substantially quicker, but also much noisier, with a single page fired out of the Envy 120 in 11 seconds and an average of 13 pages per minute printed out. Quality was acceptable in both modes, as it was for photo printing, where a 4x6-inch photo took an average of 72 seconds to print. Average doesn't mean great — it just means average.
The HP Envy 120 uses two ink cartridges, one for straight black and one tri-colour cartridge. Both cartridges come in standard and XL sizes, with HP's local website listing an RRP on the standard and XL blacks at AU$25 and AU$48, respectively, while the colour variants sell for AU$30 and AU$56, respectively. HP's specifications for the cartridges suggest 600 standard pages for the XL, and 200 for the standard black, which suggests a rough cost per page at 8c and 12.5c per page, respectively. On the colour side of things, expected yields are 430 and 160 pages, which equates to around 13c and 18.75c per page. As always with inkjets, the cost per printed page is a little higher than comparable laser printing, so heavy document users are likely to end up dissatisfied with the HP Envy 120.
The HP Envy 120 is a stylish printer, which you'd expect from the Envy line. The switch to a clear scanning lid is an interesting step, but it's one that we'd argue slightly distracts from the previous Envy printing designs, simply because it looks a little more functional rather than design centric.
HP lists the Australian RRP of the Envy 120 at AU$329. A quick online search found plenty of places selling the Envy 120 at around the AU$250 mark, which seems like a bargain.