Hands-On With HP’s Photosmart eStation Printer And Its Detachable Android Tablet (Video)

HP announced a slew of printers today, including one under the style-conscious Envy brand that’s meant to complement the company’s laptops by the same name. But the one that grabbed our attention was the Photosmart eStation, a $399 all-in-one with a detachable¬† 7-inch Android tablet.

You might be wondering why HP would release a device with an Android tablet when it recently bought Palm. The answer is simple: the eStation was already far enough along in development when HP acquired Palm that it made sense to stay the course. Future products, though, will use Palm’s webOS.

On the one hand, the eStation seems like a good deal: for the money, you get a printer that prints, copies, and scans, as well as a 7-inch Android 2.1 tablet that promises four to six hours of battery life. It runs on a Freescale i.MX 51 processor, whose performance was hard to gauge on a not-final unit. Bonus: when the tablet is resting in its cradle attached to the printer, it doubles as a digital photo frame.

On the other hand, it’s not really a tablet.

It’s thicker than anything billed as a tablet. More importantly, it’s missing Android Market, and the only apps you can use are ones that HP has curated for its users. Specifically, all of the apps on the device have been optimized for printing. Whether it’s a stocks, news, or Facebook app, users have to be able to print content from it.

While that lends the tablet-and-printer combination more cohesiveness than people originally thought back when this was a rumored product, it also becomes disingenuous to say that users get a full tablet experience with the purchase of this printer.

Check out our gallery of hands-on photos, as well as our walk-through video.

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