Back in the 1980s, when having a personal computer in your very own home was a brand-new reality, having a printer was an essential part of the equipment. If you had a computer, you had a printer. How else could you share those brilliant documents or spreadsheets you were creating? You needed a way to transfer information from computer to paper to share with others. School assignments, work reports, letters to family and friends—everything was sent from your computer to your ink printer. As a blind professional, I've used a variety of printers over the years. As the use of email and the Internet evolved, however, many of us found the need for ink printing to be shrinking.
Over the last decade, here has been a typical scenario in my home office: I suddenly need to print something, just one thing, and I need it immediately. Maybe it is a signed copy of a legal agreement. Maybe it is the envelope to a friend’s birthday card. Maybe it is the notice I need to tape to my front door for the FedEx driver so they know where to leave my package. And, of course, because I haven’t needed a printer for weeks or maybe months, my attempt to print gets an "out of ink" error message. The one time in two months I need to print, and the printer fails. The problem isn't that the ink is gone, it's that the ink has dried up from lack of use and a new cartridge is required. This is the scenario with ink jet printers—affordable machines with less affordable ink cartridges, made even less so when they need to be replaced even before being spent.
If this scenario is familiar, and I suspect that it is for many readers, this article holds good news. For far too long, I neglected to update my own awareness of the printer market. Laser printers, long recognized for their ability to produce high quality text and graphics, historically have been priced significantly higher than ink jet printers. Happily, that is yesterday’s news. Laser printers are no longer expensive, they still print high quality text and graphics, and they do not have the downfall of dried-up ink for those of us with only occasional printing needs.
For the first time in many years, I have a printer that is ready whenever I need it, a printer that is on my wireless network so that it can print documents from my computer, my phone, or any other device that logs into my wireless network and, perhaps, best of all, takes up a fraction of the desk space required by its inkjet predecessors.
Meet the HP LaserJet M15W
There are plenty of affordable and reliable laser printers on the market. I’m particularly pleased with the HP LaserJet M15W because it fit my personal criteria: - It’s small, measuring just 7.5 by 13.6 by 6.3 inches and weighing just eight pounds. - It can connect either via USB or wirelessly - It prints from any device that is on my wireless network - I was able to set it up myself! I ordered the HP LaserJet M15W from Amazon. It cost $108 and was here in three or four days. Lifting it out of its protective Styrofoam shields, it appears to be a single piece, with abundant ribbons of tape holding things together. Also in the box are two cords (a power cord and a USB printer cable), and a fairly small amount of printed documentation. Secured to the front of the machine is one small piece of paper. I took a picture of that paper with a few recognition apps on my iPhone (Voice Dream Scanner, Seeing AI) and realized that it must be graphic. Sure enough, when I called AIRA, the agent was easily able to recognize that the page was assembly instructions. (If you don’t happen to have a subscription to AIRA, you could get similar input from Be My Eyes. If you don’t have that app either, but are reasonably mechanically and spatially aware, you could probably figure it out for yourself.) Getting set up requires that you first remove several ribbons of tape, which hold components in place during shipping, from various points on the printer. Removing the tape frees the toner cartridge, which runs the length from left to right of the unit, but is not yet engaged. Once all the tape is removed, you then insert the toner cartridge in its correct position for operation. The only difficulty, and it was a minor difficulty, in setup was orienting that toner cartridge correctly. The rounded bar that runs the length of the cartridge should be positioned toward the back of the machine. When I finally positioned it correctly, it dropped into place like the most satisfying of clicked-in puzzle pieces. On the top left of the machine are three buttons. These are mostly flush with the surface of the machine, but are detectable by touch. The one closest to the front edge is Power, the one nearest the back is for turning wireless capabilities on and off, and the middle one is for canceling a print job or error.
All About The HP SmartApp
Once I dropped the toner cartridge into place and attached the power cord, the printer was ready—but I did not power it on until I installed the iPhone app. The HP Smart app is free. With it, you can perform a variety of functions with a variety of HP products. I downloaded the app, opened it, turned on the printer, and waited for my iPhone to recognize the printer. From there, the app guided me through adding the printer to my wireless network. That’s all there was to it. I can now print anything from my phone from anywhere within range of the printer. Because the printer is now on my home wireless network, I can print to it from any computer able to see that network. If anyone else is visiting and has a printing need, I only need provide them with logon credentials for my wireless network to enable printing from any smartphone or tablet.
The paper tray on this printer is the most easily adjusted I have ever seen. Just slide the left and right guides to fit the paper or envelope being inserted. I have printed on full size paper, greeting card envelopes, standard #10 envelopes, and small notepaper, adjusting the paper guides easily to accommodate the varying widths. The printer has occasionally given an "out of paper" error for no reason, but powering it off and then on again seems to solve the problem. The PDF version of the user’s guide I downloaded is for HP LaserJet M14-17W, so there are obviously other models of this printer. This particular model is small, lightweight, and prints only in black. There are no ink cartridges to dry out, and it doesn’t seem to mind being neglected for days at a time. For basic print jobs and the convenience of printing from any or all of your devices, the HP LaserJet M15W printer is an affordable and accessible step forward from an inkjet printer.
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
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