Sunday, August 2, 2009

HP Quality is really slipping

Over the years, I've had a bunch of printers. My first printer (which I still have, and it still works) is an Apple ImageWriter II. A dot matrix printer. My second printer was an HP DeskJet 520. It worked (but was noisy) when I got rid of it a year or so back. I've had a slew of Epson inkjets (clogged heads doomed them all), a bunch of HP Inkjets (various issues), and some others.

For the longest time, HP used to be the go-to company for quality inkjets. Canon never used to have very good Linux support. Epson had reasonable (but not great) Linux support, but their printer design (permanent heads) doomed every one of them to mediocre or troublesome printing with a few years. HP, however, had excellent, early Linux support and their for some of their printers, the print heads are built into the cartridges - this makes fixing a print head issue as easy as replacing the cartridge or cartridges. I'd love to give Kodak a try but their refusal to provide any sort of Linux support - at all - not even basic drivers - puts them out of the running. I won't even talk about Lexmark's awful injket printers.

However, the overall quality of HP printers over the last few years has really left me wondering what happened to this once-great "engineeer's" company. A failed LCD panel doomed one printer - rendering it totally worthless for anything but basic printing - and a google search revealed this to be a very common problem on that series. Another printer (DJ6540) I have occasionally loses its mind and needs to be hard reset. This officejet is a higher-end inkjet, certainly, and I expected no problems. By and large that has been the case. However, driver installation on Windows has proven to be a complete and total disaster. I had to reinstall windows to get the drivers to install - sorta - and their firmware updater absolutely refuses to upgrade a printer unless it is configured in windows as a printer. This, despite the fact that the firmware updater clearly tries and appears to support upgrading over TCP/IP. Did anybody test this thing? How did this ever get released to consumers? A google search also reveals I'm not alone. Driver problems, driver installer failures, and so on. I expected more out you, HP, and I'm not only disappointed I guarantee you it's going to influence the advice I give and the buying decisions I make in the future. I will be trying your competitors, but sadly I suspect that in general printing is a race to the bottom.

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