Hands-on with HP’s see-through Envy 120 scanner, printer and photocopier

Scanners, printers, and multifunctions have a tendency to be forgotten about these days, what with emailing so prevalent, but many of us still need these gadgets to do the basics.

Activities like printing off documents or scanning in photos won’t just go away, and many of us still even need the humble photocopier, even if taking a photo of documents with a smartphone will suffice for others.

Often these gadgets aren’t the most attractive of things, though HP seems to have found a nice middle ground with the Envy 120.

We’ll start with the look, and here on HP’s new flagship multifunction, it’s a relatively professional design, with a minimalistic matte black chassis in every place but the front and the top.

At the front, it’s glossy black all over, with a small touchscreen for you to use when you’re working out what to do, while up top, there’s a big sheet of glass that you can look through and scan products face up with.

That last bit is the most interesting part of the design, because normally multifunctions require you to lift up this heavy cumbersome piece of plastic, place your papers face down, and then close it up. In HP Envy 120, you just leave it facing you and close the lid, making it virtually impossible for anyone to not work out how to do.

Switching it on is simple – a power button on the front allows this – and then the entire unit springs to life. The front glossy black panel springs up automatically, the touchscreen lights up ready for you to play with it, and if you need to load more paper in ahead of some expected printing, you can simply hit the eject button and some electronic parts will slowly push out the paper tray.

With parts that move for you, the HP Envy 120 already makes itself feel like a special box, worthy of a premium tag, so what does it do?

Printing is an obvious thing, and this is possible through either the traditional USB plug, wireless connectivity, or by applying a special HP-assigned email address and sending emails directly to the printer from anywhere in the world, which works better than you’d expect.

Printing from an iPad.

There are also HP’s included apps which allow you to connect with services from Dreamworks, Disney, Paddington Bear, and others to print off special things, such as colouring book pages for the kids, or news direct from organisations, or crosswords, menus, and even instructions for paper aeroplanes.

One thing we get from using the web connected apps is that it’s nice to see that you can still have fun with a printer and a sheet of paper.

Select the sheet you want from Disney, and a few minutes later, you get an official colouring book page. Here's Ariel.

It can take a few minutes for these printouts to happen, and we found that some of them took a little longer to download than it should have (some as long as ten minutes), though that could easily be an overly used work connection here at GadgetGuy.

Scanning and copying are the next big features, and rather than go with the traditional face down technology we normally see, HP is letting you peer into the scanner and see it in action.

A big piece of glass covers the Envy 120. A very reflective piece of glass.

Here is a tray of glass looking straight at the scanning bed, with the scanning technology wedged in between the two sheets of glass that make up the tray.

Scanning and copying is easy, and you just put your item in face up, close the tray, and then select what you’re doing on the small touchscreen, previewing the image first, and then selecting whether you’d like a monochromatic or colour print out.

Once you select, you’ll have your print barely a minute later, with the image quality show up as reasonably colour accurate, if not a little dark.

In between the sheets of glass that make up the Envy's cover is a scanner that pops out when it needs to, well, scan.

Overall, it’s an impressive little unit, though it won’t be for people who do a lot of printing. One thing we’re critical of is the paper tray, which while very heavy and well built, is positively tiny. If you can hold more than 100 sheets of paper in here, you won’t be able to hold much more.

At $329 recommended retail price, the HP Envy 120 also comes with a fairly high price tag, though given the design, we suspect this will be a multifunction for someone that wants a good looking multifunction, rather than one that looks like your regular printer.