back to article Cloud Printing from a Chromebook: We try it out on 8 inkjet all-in-ones

If you’re thinking of getting a new printer and already have Macs or Window PCs then selecting a model that will work isn’t exactly a challenge. But - what if you add a Chromebook to the mix? Increasingly popular and likely to be under the tree for many this Christmas, have you stopped to think about how you will print from one …

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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    A couple of things missing here, though...

    What about the network speed - and how much data has to come down the line for a colour picture? How long before a home ISP provider decides you've downloaded enough for the day, thank you very much?

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: A couple of things missing here, though...

      Er... this isn't 1999?

      A few JPEGs (colour or not!) aren't going to make much of a dent in your broadband allowance, assuming you even have a limit.

      And as for network speed, all the models here will have networking that is "fast enough" for printing.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: A couple of things missing here, though...

        I failed to make myself clear, for which I apologise.

        1) I don't know how the data is sent, but I would be surprised if it were 'just a jpeg'. Even for text, I can't see someone sending the text itself and expecting the printer to format it on their behalf. But I don't know, which is why I asked.

        2) As for the network speed - again, I don't know: are they connected wirelessly, through a phone-type system, through a local router, or what?

        1. Killing Time

          Re: A couple of things missing here, though...

          I have had a 'cloudy' HP All in One in place for about a year and use it with my Chromebook.

          The printer connects via your WiFi, you create an account with HP and your Chromebook works through the account. Bear in mind the print jobs are spooled through the account so there can be a short delay from pressing 'Print' to the doc appearing at the printer, not a showstopper for home use. Spooling through the account will hold the jobs so you can issue prints from remote places, turn the printer on when in the vicinity and they will print. Scanning documents is a bit of a drag as the printer effectively emails you a copy with a default document name and so you need to do some manipulation when you receive the scan, not a professional solution but OK for the occasional document. It will come.....

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: A couple of things missing here, though...

            might only be a JPEG picture but often the printers decide to spool the job in RAW. I know our epsons do (granted these are R1900 and aging R2400s). This soon turns a 3Mb JPEG into a 300Mb file.

            10 of those will put a dent into most "cheap" BT limits.

  2. Tom Wood

    What's with the subheading?

    We've got an Epson model (a year or two old and not tested here) and that will quite happily send scans to Google Drive accounts.

  3. Snorlax Silver badge

    Brother DCP-J4120DW

    "Print quality is fair, though characters can be a bit rough round the edges compared with the thermal inkjets from Canon and HP."

    I'd expect the print quality on a £140 inkjet to be better than "fair".

    How does the initial setup fare on these things? Does one need a CCNA or a BSc in Computing, or is it something granny can do?

    1. AJ MacLeod

      Re: Brother DCP-J4120DW

      Having set up hundreds of these devices I have found Brother's printers particularly hassle-free, whether cloudy, LAN or USB connections (they tend to have quite wide ranging device support too.) The worst I've found are some Canon models which can be atrocious.

      I have the almost-identical previous version of the cheaper Brother in this review and it couldn't have been easier to set up - it's happily scanning to and printing from Linux, Mac, Flickr etc.

      In general most of the newer versions of this type of AIO device are fairly easy to set up. Avoid like the plague any that don't have a proper control panel (i.e. just have one or two buttons and a info-display-only screen.) These usually rely on invariably rubbish software run from a Windows PC for initial setup (Mac / Linux / airprint etc support on these is usually hopeless.)

      Avoid those and you should be fine.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brother DCP-J4120DW

      Well, I know a granny who can do it easily.

  4. AMBxx Silver badge
    Windows

    Print speed

    I always smile about quoted print speeds - I don't care if I can print 10 or 20 pages a minute.

    But 2 minutes for a 5 page doc?!?!? No thanks. I'll stick to my cheapo £180 Dell with Windows.

  5. Cooker

    How did this become a thing?

    The could looks like a great replacement for a simple ethernet/usb cable for printing, next we should look at cloud connected mice and keyboards.

    1. Tim Jenkins

      Re: How did this become a thing?

      ...a great replacement for a simple ethernet/usb cable...

      No way; I paid PC World £19.99 each for my 'network cable with gold-plated connections' and my 'high speed printer lead', and I'm damn well going to get my money's worth...

  6. Dr Dre
    Linux

    Easier and Cheaper

    You could just take the sensible approach - Raspberry Pi as a Cloud Print Server - takes a few moments to set up - very simple - and then you can print to anything - I've got a network connected Xerox 6600DN and a Canon 9200 connected to the Pi USB port - both work fine for Chrome Printing. If I want to edit and print high quality photographs I would use my Mint desktop for that sort of work - Chromebook screens are not colour calibrated for a start.

    1. Salts

      Re: Easier and Cheaper

      +1 on that

      easy setup instructions at:-

      http://blog.onslow-web.co.uk/?p=71

      Why buy a new printer, much easier to have a print server for the old one and the RPi is still available for other tasks. The RPi B+ uses about 3 watts therefore leaving it switched on is not a show stopper and as Dr Dre points out it works with all your printers on the network.

  7. jason 7

    Why do people need colour inkjets still?

    I visit a lot of customers. Most if not all have a colour inkjet sitting gathering dust in the corner. They often ask me "What do you recommend for printing?" I always say well if just printing get a £80 mono laserjet. Lasts longer and usually more robust!

    "But what about colour printing?" they ask.

    I then ask then when they last printed a colour photo or something that actually needed colour. I think only one of them ever had.

    Pizza Express vouchers are just as acceptable in black and white folks.

    I use a Dell 1260DN mono laser at home and it works fine with Chromebook and Android tablets/phones.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

      In a business environment unless you do photo/graphic work there's little need of inkjet printers, especially if you can afford a color laser for those tasks where color may be required.

      At home, inkjets may still be easier to manage (replacing ink is usually easier than replacing toner - not that the latter is difficult, but it could be a little more intimidating). While ink is more expensive, the smaller cartridges "looks" less expensive to replace, especially for people printing little.

      Then there are the *true* photo printers - I mean those like the Canon Pixma Pro or Epson Stylus Photo Rxxxx ones - which have 8+ inks dedicated to color and B/W photo prints on several professional photo papers, on 13" or 17" wide paper - maybe including roll paper. No laser can compete with these ones yet. And sure, these are not the printers you usually print to from a Chromebook or Android....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

        In an home context, I'm not infrequently printing photos and other documents from my Android Note 2 to my Epsom Stylus Photo. Works fine for what I want.

        Agreed, a business context is very different and I'm generally only after colour to print documents where there are complex colour coded project plans and architectural artifacts. They are not so much fun in grey scale.

      2. photobod

        Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

        Depends on the type of business you're in, so it's horses for courses. It's narrow minded in the extreme to believe that 'business' just means regular office work.

        For my business, I use colour lasers for producing short run, full colour brochures. I can get away with mono lasers for letters, postage labels, etc. I need large format inkjet for printing posters, large scale artwork (which equates more or less to custom wallpaper) and high quality photographic artworks up to 24x36in for point of sale. There is no practical substitute LFP tech for inkjet for those applications.

        Those are all connected via ethernet cables, hence a bit irrelevant to the article, but so was the 'you only need lasers for business' comment.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

          my canon ip4000 is still going strong. It has ink tanks with no chips so I simply unbung the plug, squirt ink in and im done. If you can get CISS cartridges for the chipped printers then again, these will be cheaper than colour lasers to run.

          for colour prints 90% are for the kids homework

    2. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

      If you have kids who print homework in colour, it's actually more cost effective to just give the teacher a £20 note

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

        My color printer also doubles as a scanner and copier. While it true it's not often used, it's handy to have when a color printing task comes up. I just bought the cheapest available HP from the corner store. It works fine including being supported in Linux.

        There's nothing saying that you only have to have one printer. My "default" printer is a cheap mono laser of course.

      2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

        I use an Epson photo printer that I have replaced the cartridges with a continuous flow ink system. Print costs with that system become very cheap.

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Why do people need colour inkjets still?

      Customer and in-house presentations, mockups of magazine adverts and leaflets. Many engineering drawings are much easier to understand when colour is used.

  8. Bassey

    Question for those in the know

    I have a 5-year-old HP WiFi printer that I got for £40 from WH Smiths. I've been able to print from Android for years because HP produce an Android app. It works flawlessly from £30 cheapy Android tablets through to a Sony Xperia Z1. I've never even bothered to work out "how" it works. It just does. Might be over the cloud from HP. Might be direct over the WiFi connection. Who cares?

    Do HP (and others) not produce similar apps for Chrome? I kind of just assumed they did. It pretty much defeats the point of buying a cheap Chromebook if you then have to go out and spend a fortune on a top of the range printer that, at best, might work slowly and poorly.

    1. Peter 26

      Re: Question for those in the know

      I did the exactly the same and bought a cheap HP ePrinter. I was a bit sad to see my old fancy canon printer with its photo quality DPI, and CD printing be moved to a box in the garage! But being able to print from anywhere sold it for me.

      How often do you print anything that needs high quality anyway, that's what the work colour laser printer is for? (Unless you're my Dad and print all your photos on full size A4 to show me when you visit... I did contemplate mentioning one of the many online printing services, but a voice in my head said "you do not want to go down that route".)

  9. David Nash Silver badge

    So have I understood correctly? If I have a Chromebook, attached to my home WiFi, and a printer, attached to the same WiFi in the same house, it will go via "the cloud", ie. out of my house, up to a Google server somewhere, then back down to my printer.

    Who thought that was a good idea? I guess Google get to find out what everyone is printing though...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      It looks the cloud frenzy is creating some very stupid products...

      Just gave a look to HP wifi AP cloud managed - you need to subscribe to HP service to manage your own APs from the cloud.... but what is really tragic is that there will be people who actually buy such prodyucts.

      And the security risks implied in transmitting everything you do back and forth network you have no control over are really high. Today, often what people need to print (besides holidays/babies/cats photos) are documents that for some reason needs to be in print, and often with sensitive informations.

      1. Killing Time

        Re: It looks the cloud frenzy is creating some very stupid products...

        If you actually use the internet for anything useful then it is pretty much the norm now that you will have multiple accounts,with numerous organisations and will likely be accruing them at an ever progressing rate. Why would a document bounced through a network to a printer account and back, be at any greater risk than any other document moving around the internet?

        Sounds like FUD to me unless you want to actually quantify the 'risk' rather than imply that the quantity of data transmitted directly corresponds to higher risk of compromise.

        I would argue that it doesn't, risk of compromise is directly related to the level of data security which includes multiple factors not least of which would be the level of encryption.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: It looks the cloud frenzy is creating some very stupid products...

          Because not every document needs to and does move around the Internet? A print spool may be at greater risk because you have really no way to protect it on your own - you just have to trust the system - and the owner of the system. Printing on the cloud gives the owner of the system a great deal of information which could be analyzed, unless your GC - sorry, it's no longer a Personal Computer, it's a Google Computer installed on your premises - can perform end-to-end encryption between the device and the printer. But that would mean that the device is able to spool in a format the printer can directly use, and thereby could talk to the printer directly without any cloud need. Otherwise if the transformation "happens" in the cloud, it means data are decrypted to be processed. And if they are decrypted to be printed, they can be also "analyzed"... and you can't know what they do with them.

          Sorry, there are a of documents - bank, medical, etc. - I would like to print without Google in the middle. Even if they come from the Internet, but with an end-to-end encryption between me and the document provider - without Google in the middle perusing at them....

          BTW: there's a lot of useful things you can do on a PC without ever sending a byte outside your local network...

          1. Killing Time

            Re: It looks the cloud frenzy is creating some very stupid products...

            "BTW: there's a lot of useful things you can do on a PC without ever sending a byte outside your local network..."

            Yes I know, been doing it for a while now... but why even take the risk of a local network, if you want to ensure absolute minimal risk why bother networking at all? For me its because the convenience outweighs the risk based on my personal technical assessment, which includes a whole host of factors including the sensitivity and impact of the data I am allowing to be networked.

            I am happy with that, as I assume you are within the confines of your local network.......

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Print Drivers

      It's a much better idea than requiring your printer manufacturer to provide a Chrome OS print driver for every one of their printers!

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: Print Drivers

        > It's a much better idea than requiring your printer manufacturer to provide a Chrome OS print driver for every one of their printers!

        It's just x86 Linux. They could probably just ship their Linux driver assuming they have one or just let the community handle it. That's even assuming that what CUPS needs to support your particular printer even counts as a "driver" in the conventional sense.

        The same "driver" source could handle Linux, MacOS, iPhones, Android, Chrome, Solaris and AIX.

      2. Pseu Donyme

        Re: Print Drivers

        >It's a much better idea than ....

        Um .... no: I would assume that compatible printers implement a common network interface (a built-in driver, if you will), if so, this same inferface could be used to print locally over wi-fi. The reason for doing it via cloud is - no doubt - because that makes it easier for Google to snoop on you (to better target ads (to better please their paying customers - i.e. advertisers - with an improved product i.e. you, or, more precisely a more detailed profile on you)).

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: Print Drivers

          "The reason for doing it via cloud is - no doubt - because that makes it easier for Google to snoop on you (to better target ads (to better please their paying customers - i.e. advertisers - with an improved product i.e. you, or, more precisely a more detailed profile on you))."

          Google's printing related wet dream is when it'll work like this:

          You print something via Google's cloud printing service. The document wings its way from your computer over the intertubes to Google's system, where a little bit of processing is carried out, then it comes back to your network and hits your printer - and out pops your print out, complete with suitably targeted adverts. (Perhaps, to avoid frelling up your formatting, on a subsequent page or whatever.)

    3. midcapwarrior

      you do understand it's a cloud operating system

      "Who thought that was a good idea? I guess Google get to find out what everyone is printing though"

      Since it's not on your PC it's not going out of your house. It's not in your house.

      If privacy is your concern then you shouldn't have selected a google device.

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: you do understand it's a cloud operating system

        Thanks for the clarification...I don't have a Chromebook, it was a hypothetical question in trying to understand what was going on. I had naiively imagined a Chromebook as being like a bigger Android phone, where files can be held locally.

        But apparently "cloud OS" means nothing is local and printers clearly have to be fed from Google's servers..er I mean "the cloud"?

        I can't see myself buying into that for a while then.

        By the way, how does your print job get through the firewall in the home router?

  10. returnmyjedi

    I've got the Canon MX925 at home and it truly is an obnoxious lump of plastic. Thanks to done weird design quirk every couple of months I have to take an alcohol doused cotton bud to it's innards and give it a good scrub to get it to connect wirelessly to anything. The fact that I've owned it for a couple of years and the internet tells me it's still an issue means my twenty years of loyal Canon ownership (since I bought the BJ10e because I was a teenager and the name was HILARIOUS) will soon end.

    1. jason 7

      Wi-fi and printers....

      I now tell customers I do not support wi-fi printers.Yes I'd tell them what to do and show them but folks still like having their backsides wiped for them.

      I got fed up getting called out to drive across the city to spend two minutes typing the WEP key back into the printer to connect it and then charging them £40 for the pleasure.

      Especially when the printer cost £30.

      I do have scruples. Like I said, get a mono laser with a Ethernet port and be done with it. Inkjets are toys.

      1. returnmyjedi

        Re: Wi-fi and printers....

        If I had my way they'd be a wired monotone laser printer sat at home, bit alas the missus likes to print off pictures of the sprog and for some reason can't just use Snappy Snaps like any sane person would.

        (if she's reading this, it's not me: my account's been hacked)

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Re: Wi-fi and printers....

          My inkjet has WiFi, however I connect it via ethernet. Why? I do it because it sits right next to the router, ethernet is far more stable and it means there's one less source of interference in the house with practically everything wanting to use the 2.4GHz band.

      2. AJ MacLeod

        Re: Wi-fi and printers....

        I regularly have to do the same... Unfortunately people invariably just buy the first thing that they see in Tesco or wherever (usually some horrific bottom-end Canon monstrosity) and then realise they can't set it up themselves and end up spending in total what they could have bought a decent printer for. It's even more annoying when they phone back a day/week/month later once the stupid thing has lost its settings again for no good reason.

        I'm afraid that most people are convinced that they want to be able to print in colour at home, no matter how rarely - and the one thing worse than a cheap inkjet printer is a cheap colour laser!

  11. Alan Bourke

    MUST WE FLING THIS CLOUD FILTH

    AT OUR POP KIDS?

  12. The Eee 701 Paddock
    Linux

    Synology NAS and GCP

    Just in case it's of any interest: Synology's NAS boxes can act as a Google Cloud Print (and AirPrint) "gateway" for older printers (either network, or connected directly to the Syno).

    I can now print to our venerable HP LaserJet 4100TN via GCP or AP, although GCP seems to be a bit hit-and-miss when out of the house (in terms of whether it works or not). I suspect the problem is more likely to be down to the GCP add-on for CUPS on my Linux netbook, than the Syno, but if I ever really need GCP to work for when I'm away, I'll take a good look at the problem...

  13. JEDIDIAH
    Devil

    Utter nonsense.

    This nonsense is why I put Ubuntu on my Chromebook. Throwing things out the the cloud is completely unnecessary as CUPS is perfectly adequate for the task and can run on any Unix variant including the ones from Google and Apple.

  14. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Boffin

    Why choose such a stupid Brother printer to compare?

    A better choice against the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5620 would be the DCP-9020CDW. It's A4 with duplex. The ADF does 35 sheets. It too supports the various cloud print systems. And can be had for around £230 online.

    I have the non-scanner version (HL-3150CDW) and it's pretty good - nice crisp output, reasonable colour.

    I would never buy another inkjet for home use - the intermittent usage pattern leads to dry heads, and loads of ink being wasted on cleaning cycles. Having bought this colour laser in slight trepidation, I've been relieved to find that the colour output is easily good enough for School projects and the like.

  15. RealGene

    Is CUPS too much for you?

    I have a tiny, underpowered microATX box (free from a trade show years back. Installed linux, added all my networked printers, and let the CUPS server impersonate AirPrint.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #fail

    I bought a brand new Samsung colour desktop laser for less than all of these, with Wifi, google cloud print enabled, and no problems prining quality from my Chromebook.

    Sounds like you are not only doing something wrong, you are also shopping at the wrong place.

    Enjoy your endless inkjet nozzle purging....

    1. AJ MacLeod

      Re: #fail

      If my experience of cheap Samsung colour lasers is anything to go by I'd be a little more circumspect with the fail tag... In the offchance it doesn't sap your desire to continue breathing with its continually worsening and eventually terminal paper feed problems, the price of replacing the consumables will send it straight to landfill. Chances are that the toner will outlast the paper feed mechanism though!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Er... WTF?

    Is it just me or doesn't it strike every one as it being thoroughly idiotic to send your print jobs through your internet connection, to a server under someone else's control, have it sent back through the internet, only to land on the printer in your living room?

    Besides the time it takes to do all of this, what about the fact of your data (nudies of the wife, perhaps?) being parked on HP's servers?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EOL

    I really want to buy in to chrome but the official legal known EOL for devices kills me:

    http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/eol.html

    seriously google you need fix that if you want us business customers.

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