The new HP, the one called HP Development Company, hasn’t been shy when it comes to trying new things. Between the world’s thinnest laptop (the HP Spectre), a 3-in-1 smartphone (the HP Elite x3) and the world’s fastest desktop printers (the Officejet Pro range), the company has had a busy 12 months.
HP engineers have now sought to add another Guinness World Record badge to the collection with the DeskJet 3720 (J9V93B), the world’s smallest all-in-one (AIO) printer for the home and presumably also for a small office.*
And matters started off well enough – we were impressed by the dimensions and weight of the device which is about half the size of its nearest rival with a volume of under 10 litres. Some laptops we’ve tested recently actually weigh more than the 2.33kg DeskJet 3720.
Priced £59.99 at Currys (around $80, AU$105), it isn’t expensive, although you are paying a premium for going small. If you don’t mind something bigger, the HP Envy 5540, with its flat scanning mode and duplex printing, may well be a better option.
The box this MFP comes in contains a few leaflets, an installation disc, a power cable, and a USB lead – a rarity in this day and age for a cheap printer – along with the printer itself.
The printer embraces a bright blue colour scheme, perhaps to distance itself from its blander looking siblings.
The first thing you notice is the absence of a flat scanner bed. That had to go in order to reduce the size and complexity of the all-in-one. Instead, you have a fixed sensor and a mechanism that pulls the document to be scanned from bottom to top.
The sensor module hosts all the buttons and a tiny display panel. The buttons include an information one, resume/cancel, wireless, start copy colour, start copy black, web services and Wi-Fi Direct.
The minuscule ink cartridges are located behind the front flap. As expected, two cartridges rather than four are used with HP indicating that the black cartridge has a cartridge yield of 120 pages, and the tri-colour one is good for 100 pages only. At under a tenner each, they offer moderate value for money.
Swap them for bigger cartridges and the average cartridge yield goes up to 480 and 330 pages respectively, a far better deal for cartridges costing £16.95. The printer is one of the many models that support HP’s Instant Ink plan where which embraces a subscription model, eschewing the traditional pay-as-you-go setup.
The cheapest tier allows you to print 600 pages per year for £23.88 which is ideal if you plan to churn out full-bleed colour prints – in that case it’s an absolute no-strings-attached bargain at 4p per page.
You get a free three-month trial worth at least £5.97 (or 150 pages) with your printer. Note that you will have to create an HP Connected account to activate that offer.
The input and output trays are deployed within seconds; the former can accommodate up to 60 sheets of paper while the latter can handle 20.
The printer is not a true plug-and-play affair, so getting the DeskJet 3720 ready to print required us to power it on, connect it to our Windows 10 machine, and fire up the installation software to get the most out of the device.
If you don’t have an optical drive, then download the software straight from HP’s website – the entire package is a nimble 110MB. The printer comes with an embedded web server that, according to HP, accesses and manages printer features over a wired/wireless connection.
Essentially, it is a website built into the printer that can be accessed by typing the printer IP address into a webserver.
We tried to find that elusive IP address but couldn’t do so. It’s also worth noting that having a webserver on your printer, one which also has access to your router’s settings, could be seen as slightly controversial, especially if vulnerabilities are found later.
Printing from a smartphone or tablet – and setting up the wireless connectivity – is easy thanks to the available web services and Wi-Fi direct complemented by HP’s own ePrint and AIO Printer Remote app solutions. Just make sure you remember to remove the USB cable when printing over Wi-Fi.
The printer can print at 1200 x 1200 dpi in black and up to 4800 x 1200 dpi on HP’s premium photo paper. Duplex printing is possible in manual mode and the 3720 has a low monthly duty cycle of 1,000 pages.
HP claims that this device can print at up to 19 pages per minute in black and 15 pages per minute in colour (draft mode) but real life testing shows that these are very optimistic numbers.
As for scanning, it can process only one page at a time through its document feeder, achieving 600 x 600 pixels, which is more than adequate for most tasks. Nine copies can be made of the original scan with speeds of four pages per minute (black) and 2.5 pages per minute (colour) promised by HP.
We printed a 14-page text document in just over 100 seconds which translates into approximately 8.2 pages per minute. We wouldn’t suggest using this MFP for anything but rough documents as the quality is sub-par.
Scanning a one-page leaflet (with a dash of colour) took around 50 seconds, a speed of 1.2 pages per minute. In both printing and scanning, there was visible banding in areas of solid colour as expected. What was surprising though is that the scanner lacks edge detection, which translates into ugly black lines.
Too many corners have been cut in order to reach a reasonable price point and the targeted physical form factor. Sure, HP’s DeskJet 3720 is light, well-designed and doesn’t take a lot of space, but the compromises that had to be made to achieve this may be seen as a bridge too far for many.
That said, it doesn’t have any competition if you’re looking for a cheap all-in-one printer that can be carried around frequently. With an appropriate inverter, you might even use it on the move, in any vehicle equipped with a cigarette lighter socket.
(*For the sake of clarity, it’s worth mentioning that HP’s claim of smallest AIO printer is for printers costing less than 223 Euros (around £190, $250, AU$325). There’s a good reason for that – if you’re ready to spend a bit more than that then the Primera Trio, at half the weight and a quarter of the size, nabs that trophy. It has the added benefit of being able to work with a battery).