Sunday, May 04, 2008
HP Tech Support
A popular rant throughout the blogosphere is about technical support, typically about how service is terrible because it has been outsourced to India. Today I actually had an excellent experience with technical support, so I thought I'd give a shout-out to HP.
At my home I typically have a multi function printer hooked up to my main desk machine. I also have a laptop that I use for blogging out on the porch (in the 20 or so nice days each year in Chicago). For years I have had the HP multi-function machines, but I have been getting more and more irked about 1) the high cost of replacement ink cartridges 2) the monstrous size and characteristics of the drivers that HP typically installs on your machine even to do the simplest tasks. One time the installation of HP software so mangled a laptop that I had to wipe it and start over (to be fair the laptop wasn't in the greatest of shape but this clearly pushed it over the edge).
So I headed over to Office Depot, figuring I'd get a Canon this time. Canon machines were supposed to have cheaper ink and I thought it was time for a change. Even though they had a lot of the Chinese-made "Brother" machines, all of the online reviews of their products were so negative that I concluded I should steer clear of them.
However, when I arrived, I saw this new HP Officejet J6480 all in one printer. The cool feature of this printer is that it was totally wireless, meaning that you could just have it plugged in somewhere within range of your wireless router and then other machines could connect to it. There have been networked printers for a while but they typically needed to be "plugged in" directly to your router via Ethernet and for a variety of reasons at my place that is either impractical or was deemed "ugly" by the zen master of this abode.
I hooked it up and truly, it is completely wireless. It is sitting on my shelf and there is no USB connecting it to my computer, and 2 machines can access it (my desktop, connected wirelessly, and my laptop). I find this technology to be very cool for under $200 dollars.
Connecting my laptop, however, was a challenge. I used the "find network printer" option which kind of worked (I thought I could see the printer) but it never could print a test page. So I grudgingly called HP tech support, expecting the worst, but had a great experience. The guy (from India, of course), worked with me for a while, and then had me install something so he could take remote control of my laptop (there's nothing on there, so I wasn't that worried) and got the situation resolved. In the end it basically consisted of installing the full drivers off the CD rather than using the "find printer" option, which I avoided because it takes 1/2 an hour and installs a bunch of HP stuff I don't need on my laptop, but if that was what was needed to make it work, fine. The guy stayed with me for over 45 minutes, on a 1-800 line, and was very patient. I was impressed.
Whether or not it ultimately will be a good idea to have a totally wireless printer is an open question. I rebooted everything (including turning on and off the printer) and it all still worked, but I expect that somewhere down the road I'll have problems. The machine is better constructed than my last one, and I particularly like the setup menu which lets you print out all the networking and setup vitals and auto-configures the cartridges.
If you've been suffering with a crappy printer like I have it probably is time to get out and buy a new one. This one seems to be a good choice, and it possibly could replace multiple printers around your house or place of business. Since it isn't a laser printer (with lower cost / unit) I wouldn't recommend it for heavy volume printing but it does scan, copy and print nicely (it also faxes, but I haven't set that up yet and use that function rarely). For 200 bucks seems like a good deal, and black and white and color cartridges were $25 for a spare set.