Sunday, May 8, 2011

HP OfficeJet Pro L7780 All-in-One Review

I got an HP OfficeJet Pro L7780 All-in-One multifunction combination printer-scanner-fax-copier machine for a great price.  Somebody had bought it from Staples and then returned it, and for some reason Staples was now unloading it without the box.  I bought it, hoping maybe to use it for some scanning but mostly just planning to resell it as virtually new.

Then I proceeded to lug it around, as I moved to one apartment and then another, over a period of almost two years.  Its ink pretty much dried out -- it was still able to print a page, but it wasn't pretty.  Otherwise, though, it was essentially a new printer, worth a fair amount of money.  And I was willing to sell it, as long as I was satisfied that I should instead keep a smaller, possibly less functional Brother laser multifunction device that I'd been using for my printing and such.  I was pleased to see that ink for this thing was cheap, and it could do color.  So even though the HP was an inkjet rather than a laser, there was that possibility of selling the Brother instead.

Now the time had come to decide what to do with this thing.  HP made it just about as difficult as possible to use it.  They included a couple of CDs with it, one for the Mac and one for Windows 2000/XP, but I was using Windows 7.  Besides, I figured the software had surely been upgraded by now.  So I went to HP's website and downloaded the 32-bit Windows 7 software.

I installed that software.  It did not give me what I would have expected.  Browsing the icons in the Start Menu, I saw that I had links to the HP Solution Center, which was apparently a hardware troubleshooter, and to things like HP Update and Shop for HP Supplies.  There was also a read-me file, but it seemed to be oriented toward specific issues and did not lead to general-purpose software.  I did not have a link to any setup program or manual, and the provided link to the Product Support Website led to the page for the HP L7500, a different device.  I gave myself a corrected link to the correct webpage, and looked around to see what I could find there.  They had several downloads.  These included the Chinglish-named "Full Feature Software and Driver," a Home Network Diagnostic Utility, a Scan Diagnostic Utility, a Print Diagnostic Utility, a Hardware Diagnostic Utility, and a Windows 7 Printer Install Wizard.

At this moment, I was looking specifically for software that would allow me to configure the scanner (e.g., paper size, DPI, color/grayscale/B&W).  I had experimented with the confusingly named control panel on the machine (as distinct from the Windows 7 Control Panel) but had not ultimately been able to get the machine to scan from there.  So I ran the Scan Diagnostic Utility.  It asked me, "Which device do you want to use?" and gave me a choice between the Brother and the HP.  I also got a Chinglish error message that had been popping up now and then, which I assumed to be related to the HP and not the Brother:

Scanner not responding
Scanner is not responding.
If you see any confirmation dialog, please proceed with scan.  If no dialog is displayed you can try cycle the power of your device and restart Diagnostic Utility
I selected the HP and clicked Properties. I heard the HP adjust itself. There didn't seem to be anything I wanted to change in Properties, however, so I clicked OK.  Now I briefly saw a dialog that said "Scanning" and then the machine proceeded to scan.  The utility reported, "Scanning using WIA is working properly."  It was working; it just wasn't working for me.  The utility did not go on to test things I was curious about, including "Front Panel."  So I killed it.

As noted, I had tried using the machine's control panel, thinking that maybe I could just press its Scan button and scan that way.  I started with the Scan > Menu button.  It gave me a choice between "Scan and Reprint" or "Scan to Memory Device."  I didn't want to print what I was scanning, so I tried the latter.  I changed various settings and then pushed the Start Scan button.  The first time around, it had said, "Memory device was not found."  My search on that error led to the advice to make changes on the control panel.  I had plugged a USB drive into its USB port, but this had not solved the problem.  This time, however, it went ahead and scanned, and it saved the scan on the USB jump drive.  So this was good.

I still wanted to change the settings on the scanner.  Following the read-me, I went back to HP Solution Center > Settings > Scan Settings, hoping that I would now have better luck with it than I had had before running the diagnostic utility.  I went into Scan Settings > Scan Picture Settings.  This gave me an error:
Destination Component has stopped working.
Windows can check online for a solution to the problem.
I chose the "Check online for a solution and close the program" option instead of just "Close the program."  I got an error:
A required software component was not found or was improperly installed.  Reinstall the HP Photosmart software that came with the device, and try scanning again.
This was possibly the third time I had installed that software.  This time, I decided to uninstall it first and then reinstall.  At first, I started to uninstall manually, from Control Panel.  Then I remembered there was an uninstaller.  I ran that.  It went smoothly.  It wanted to reboot again.  Then it was done.  Now I reinstalled the software.  I went back to the HP Solution Center.  It gave me the same "Destination Component has stopped working" error message.  I also got the "Memory device was not found" error when I tried scanning from the panel.  I ran the scanning diagnostic utility again.  This time it checked all items, all the way down to the last one, Front Panel, where it said this:
The HP Scan Diagnostic Utility has detected some issues with the printer Front Panel settings.  Click 'Fix' to resolve these issues.
I did exactly what they suggested.  Now I got a new error:
The Utility could not fix this issue.  Turn the product off, turn it on again, and then click Restart Computer.  If the issue persists, you should uninstall, and then reinstall the product software.  Remove the software by clicking Uninstall Software.  Reinstall the software with the product CD or by downloading the most current Full Feature Software from the HP Web site (Recommended).
I turned off and back on and restarted the computer and re-ran the scanner utility.  Same error message.  Couldn't think of a solution, so I tried just actually scanning from the Front Panel.  It scanned.  I clicked on Retest, there in the scanner utility's dialog.  Same error.  I closed out of the utility and went back to the HP Solution Center.  Still couldn't adjust Scan Settings > Scan Picture Settings there.  I tried Scan Settings > Document Settings:  same errors as above.  I was, however, able to go into Scan Settings > Scan Preferences.

The default Text scan quality was great.  I decided to just go ahead and do some scanning and see how things developed.  It scanned just fine to the USB drive.  It was slow and noisy compared to the Brother device, however.  I basically had my answer.  I was not looking for a large device, nor for an opportunity to spend hours making its software work for me.  There were probably other people out there who loved HP, or whose systems would work very well with it.  But for me, rather than move the thing again, it was time to sell.