Plenty of us shout things at our printers. But what if yours heard you? Of midpriced all-in-one (AIO) printers, none is more cutting-edge—and attentive—than the HP Tango X ($199) and its less expensive sibling, the HP Tango ($149), among the first printers to support voice control. They are designed to work primarily with mobile devices—desktop PCs and laptops are an afterthought—and they have the unique distinction of letting you print snapshots from your smartphone for free, in a sense (more on that later). We tested the Tango X, which delivers print speeds, output, and running costs comparable to similarly priced competitors without all the smarts. All these things and more elevate the HP Tango X to our first Editors’ Choice in a budding category: the smart, or smart home, printer.
Let’s Talk Tango
When I took the Tango X out of its box, my 20-year-old daughter commented that it looked like it was made by Apple. I realized that, ever since I had first laid eyes on it a week or so earlier, I had been thinking the same thing. But it’s more Apple-
The only difference between the Tango and the $50-pricier Tango X is that the latter comes with a fabric “wrap” that folds around the printer, essentially disguising what it is. The wrap comes in colors dubbed Blue Woven and Gray Woven. The material feels like a hardcover book’s cover, upholstered in fabric. It folds around the top, front, and bottom of the printer, as shown below.
Why the wrapper? According to HP’s research, most home and apartment dwellers don’t want an unsightly printer mucking up the décor. The wrap does hide the printer attractively and, when open, provides a nice cloth runway on which printed pages can land. In my case, though, the Blue Woven wrap on my Tango X (a relatively neutral color) neither matched nor blended with my office and my living room. It isn’t gaudy or overstated, but it seems like a hit-or-miss add-on.
There is one drawback to the wrap’s design. On the section where printed pages land is a cloth loop, shown in the images above and below. A few times during testing, it interfered with printed pages as they emerged from the output slot. Occasionally, a page came out so fast that it butted up against that loop and stopped. The subsequent page then caught the edge of that page and curled upward, causing the next pages to slide in under the curled one, and so on, throwing pagination out of whack.
This didn’t happen all that often, though. And given that most Tango X print jobs will be short documents (10 pages or less), it isn’t the nuisance it would be on a higher-volume printer. Given, however, that the loop’s only purpose appears to be displaying the HP logo, the best fix would have been to nix it.
Aside from the two cloth wrap colors, you also get a choice among three color schemes on the printer body itself: Wisp Gray for the non-X Tango, and Wisp Gray Peral and Dark Gray Peral for the Tango X. The color is applied sparingly, just to the face, and that portion is visible only when the paper-input tray is open. Otherwise, the Tango and Tango X are white all around.
Without the wrap, and with the paper tray closed, the Tango X measures 3.6 by 15.3 by 9.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.5 pounds. With its lid open and ready for service, it’s about 7 inches taller and 2 inches deeper. Though it looks trimmer than most AIOs, as well as a few mobile AIOs, the Tango X’s footprint is only slightly smaller. HP’s own OfficeJet 250 Mobile All-in-One, for example, measures about the same with its trays closed, but it expands to a significantly larger 10.6 by 15 by 15.8 inches when open and ready for service. Note, too, that while the Tango printers use the same printhead as the OfficeJet 250 Mobile, the latter model is designed for travel. The Tangos aren’t, though their chassis
In contrast, the entry-level, well-under-$100 HP DeskJet 3755, once touted by HP as the world’s smallest AIO, is only slightly smaller and 2.6 pounds lighter than the Tangos. Several other Tango competitors, such as the Canon Pixma TR8520, the Pixma G4210, and the Brother MFC-J995DW INKvestment All-in-One, though, are (in one way or another) notably larger and heavier than the Tango, by several inches and at least 10 pounds.
Paper Handling and “Scanning”
Reflecting how lightweight it is, the Tango X is one of the least capable models mentioned here in terms of print volume and paper capacity.
Its paper tray, positioned at the back of the chassis (shown in the image below), holds only 50 sheets of paper, five envelopes, or 20 index cards or sheets of photo paper. Even though the Tango X has no scanner bed or
In the Tangos’ scan and copy processes, you, essentially, are the scanner’s moving parts, replacing the document feeder, the scanner bed, and the sensor that moves beneath the glass, capturing the page image. Smart App is, then, your scanner’s interface. Its home screen contains several tiles (Windows 10-like buttons) that initiate various “Scan to…” workflow profiles.
The preset profiles include Scan to Email, Scan to Copy, and so on, and you can edit existing profiles or create new ones. After
HP rates the printer for an effete maximum monthly duty cycle of 500 pages, with a
Connectivity consists of dual-band Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct. The Tango X has no USB port or other means of connecting by cable to anything apart from its AC outlet. Beyond the Wi-Fi, your phone can transmit traffic to the Tango X via the same cellular network it uses for calls, texting, and the like. From an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, you can contact the printer from anywhere via the HP Smart App. If you need to print from a desktop PC or laptop, you can download Windows drivers from HP’s site, but you’ll still want to do the initial setup with Smart App.
If This, Then Print
Nowadays, everything from your microwave to your TV is smart, and as smart home technology advances, the actual meaning of the term “smart home” evolves. The Tango X is “smart” primarily because it supports voice-activated printing. That doesn’t mean that you can simply set it up, turn it on, and start talking to it. It has to be on the same Wi-Fi network as a supported smart home user interface device. Currently, the Tango and Tango X support Amazon’s Alexa devices, Google Home, and Windows’ Cortana.
I should note here that the Tango and Tango X are not the first
Much of the behind-the-scenes Internet of Things (IoT) action is handled by relatively simple If This Then That (IFTTT) scripting. HP provides several rudimentary scripts for voice-activated printing tasks, and you can find gobs of customizable scripts on the Internet. (For an introduction to this automation, check out How to Control Your Smart Home With IFTTT.)
IFTTT is versatile, but you can’t use it to make a printer or any smart device do something it isn’t capable of. The Tango X, for example, can’t order a pizza, though some smart devices can. The Tango X prints and scans and makes copies—sort of—as well as sends notifications to your smartphone or email, sends scanned documents to the cloud, and so on. Basically, if the Tango X can do it, you can use IFTTT to not only tell the Tango X to do
HP’s Smart App allows you to print to virtually any HP printer, not just the Tangos, from mobile devices locally and remotely. When connected to a Tango printer, though, HP Smart App downloads additional files and configures itself to support Tango’s unique features, such as the ability to scan and copy from your smartphone mentioned earlier. The Tango X and the HP Smart App also send you notifications, including print-job completion, ink
The Tango X is also the first home printer I know of with a sensor that approximates the input tray’s paper level (not the exact number of sheets, mind you) and sends that data to Smart App. In fact, you can do just about everything remotely from your phone via your cell provider’s connection that you can do locally.
Note that nearly all of HP’s printers, as well as most competing models, are capable of printing remotely, via email attachments or other such arrangements via mobile apps similar to HP Smart App. The difference here is that, with more conventional methods, you get little or no status feedback and control over your printer, which in part is what gives the Tango “smart” status.
Low-Volume, Entry-Level Print Speeds
As cool as the Tango X is, it’s one of the slower $200 printers I’ve tested. As its 50-sheet input tray and low page-per-minute (ppm) speed rating
I tested the Tango X over Wi-Fi (again, no wired interfaces are available on it) from our standard Intel Core i5-equipped testbed PC running Windows 10 Professional. Now, most users will print to the Tango X from a smartphone or tablet, but since PCMag historically tests printers using wired connections, and, since Tango comes sans USB and Ethernet ports, I chose to benchmark it this way to keep the regimen as comparable as possible.
I also printed several test documents from a few different mobile devices, though. I discovered
The Tango X printed my 12-page monochrome Microsoft Word text document at the rate of 9.6ppm, somewhat slower than HP’s rating. Canon’s Pixma TR8520, in contrast, printed the same 12 pages at 12.8ppm, and Brother’s MFC-J995DW managed 10.5ppm. The slowest text document printers in this group were Canon’s bulk-ink Pixma G4210 and HP’s petite, low-end DeskJet 3755, which churned at 8.3ppm and 4.3ppm, respectively.
Continuing my benchmark tests, I then printed several colorful graphics- and photo-laden PDFs, some Excel spreadsheets and full-page charts and graphs, and few full-page PowerPoint handouts. I then combined those results with the scores from the previous 12-page text document test. The Tango X churned at a very sluggish 1.8ppm, which, barring the HP DeskJet 3375’s 1.4ppm, is the slowest page rate I’ve recorded since mid-2016, the starting point of the current PC Labs testing methodology. To compare: The Pixma TR8520 churned at 4.7ppm, the Pixma G4210 managed 4.5ppm, and the MFC-J995DW took the lead at 7.7ppm.
When printing our highly detailed and colorful 4-by-6-inch test snapshots, the Tango X’s time of 59 seconds brought up the rear, with HP’s other AIO in this bunch coming in second to last, at 46 seconds. Still, the Tango’s photo output quality is more than respectable, so 59 seconds isn’t unreasonable. Let’s get into that next.
Hey Tango, Nice Shot
Poor print quality is not an issue with inkjet printers nowadays, be they entry-level printers or $500-plus models. The Tango X performs where it counts. Text prints clearly and is well-shaped at common point sizes (8 to 24 points). Even tiny fonts that, for some folks, require magnification to read proved highly legible in test prints. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the Tango X’s text output for both internal and external business documents.
The same can be said about the PDF, Excel, and PowerPoint documents I printed. I noted some very minor banding here and there. (Few users would notice it, without looking specifically for flaws.) Where the Tango X shines, though, is in printing photographs. It’s only a four-ink printer, which limits its color range and
The only drawback is that, while it can print borderless photos, those are limited to 5-by-7-inch snapshots, tops. The two Canon Pixma models and the Brother AIO discussed here print borderless pages up to letter-size (8.5 by 11 inches). Often, borderless finishing (called “bleeds” in the printing and document-design worlds) can mean the difference between a good-looking photo or document and a high-impact, professional-looking work of art.
The Only Way to Tango: Instant Ink
Even if you print 100 pages a month or less with the Tango X (or most other HP home inkjets, for that matter), buying ink off the shelf—at a whopping 6.3 cents per monochrome page and 16.5 cents per color print—just doesn’t make fiscal sense. HP’s Instant Ink program is a near-necessity for this printer to be a worthy buy.
With Instant Ink, you pay a modest monthly fee, and the printer monitors your ink levels and sends you new cartridges as needed. When you opt for the highest subscription level (300 pages per month at $9.99 a month), printing will run you about 3.5 cents for both monochrome and color pages, photos included.
When writing about HP inkjets, at this point I usually emphasize that this 3.5-cent cost per photo—no matter what dimensions, up to letter-size—is a superb bargain. That’s still the case with the Tango X (and the Tango), except that HP has thrown in an additional incentive for people who take a lot of photos with their smartphones: Every 5-by-7-inch (or smaller) photo that you print from your smartphone is free. No matter how many you print, your smartphone snapshots won’t count against your Instant Ink page subscription, and HP will keep you supplied. (Of course, you still have to provide the photo paper.)
You can also print photos larger than 5 by 7 inches (though they won’t come out borderless), and they will still run you about 3.5 cents, depending on your HP subscription level. If you print a lot of
That’s about what Canon’s bulk-ink Pixma G4120 will cost you per page—around 0.3 cent for black pages, and just under a cent for color prints. Brother’s MFC-J995DW, one of that company’s
If you don’t print many pages each month, running costs may not be a critical concern. But families and home offices that print a lot of snapshots could spend considerably less on ink with the Tango line. (HP does note that the free smartphone-photo deal under Instant Ink is not allowed for business use.)
The Birth of a New Printer Class
If you’ve already gone in on smart home technology and are impressed with voice-activated gadgets, passing your commands from one smart device to the next, the Tango X (or its unwrapped sibling) seems like the next logical step if you need a basic printer. At this point in smart home evolution, the productivity and convenience gains are mostly marginal, perhaps more gee-whiz than practical. But with the Tango’s support for IFTTT and a little creativity on your part, you can increase your smart printer’s capabilities beyond the simple scripts that HP provides.
As the first smart
But for now, if the prospect of unlimited free smartphone-sourced photos, low-cost documents via Instant Ink, and excellent overall output are appealing, you should seriously consider the voice-activated Tango X. It’s a strong first effort in an emerging field.