Way back in the cold month of January, TUAW reviewed the Lantronix xPrintServer, a US$149.95 intelligent print server designed to put networked printers in reach of iOS devices. As noted in the review, the device worked great and is perfect for offices big or small, but it didn't work with USB printers. Now Lantronix is shipping the xPrintServer Home Edition, a $99.95 version that makes wireless iOS printing to USB and networked printers a lot easier.
Like the enterprise version (called the Network Edition), the Home Edition is a white box roughly the size of an iPhone but a bit thicker. On one end of the box are three ports -- one for power, one for an Ethernet connection, and another for a USB connection to a printer.
Setting the device up is a piece of cake. Since this is made for USB printers with no available networking capabilities, you plug a USB printer cable into the USB port on the xPrintServer and the other end into your printer or a USB hub. Next, you take an Ethernet cable and run it from the Ethernet port on the xPrintServer to your wireless router. Plug it in, let it recognize your printer (or printers), and it (they) become instantly available in the iOS printing dialog.
I know that the first question I'm going to hear is "Why would you spend a hundred bucks on this when you can buy Printopia for twenty?". The answer is that Printopia requires that you have a computer up and running all the time in order to print. While that's not a big deal in many offices, it can be an issue in homes with one or no computer.
Here's a perfect use case: my father has an old MacBook that is his usual computer, but I gave him an old first-generation iPad to try out. He likes it so much that he's made comments about wanting to make it his only computer. However, to print anything he needs to have the MacBook running, and on occasion he's actually had to boot up the laptop just to print from the iPad. The xPrintServer Home Edition would be perfect for him, as he could just plug it into his existing printer and be ready to go.
The chart below shows the difference in capabilities of the Network and Home Edition xPrintServers:
In a home or office environment with a few USB printers, a couple of network printers, and no need to restrict access to certain printers, the Home Edition is going to be perfect.
I tried the xPrintServer Home Edition and found it to be a snap to set up and use. Lantronix includes an Ethernet cable and a power adapter with regional adapter plugs, so if you already have a printer with a USB cable you're ready to go. For networked printers, just have to make sure that you're plugging the Ethernet cable (and the box) into the same subnet so that the xPrintServer can "see" all of the printers.
The total time for setup (less the time for me to find an open outlet near my wireless router) was about a minute. The xPrintServer takes that time to auto-discover all printers that are either directly connected via USB or on your network, and when the orange X in the word Lantronix begins pulsing, you're ready to go.
If you're ready to make the jump to a post-PC world, then you'll want to get an xPrintServer Home Edition for those situations where you still need to make a hard copy. It works with over 4,000 different models of printers, and could not be any easier to set up. If they're not doing so already, Apple needs to sell these in every Apple Store in the world.
- Incredibly easy setup
- Reduces the need to have a Mac or PC running constantly just to print from iOS to a printer
- A great way of sharing USB printers to iOS devices over a network
- Price is high for a consumer product; a $49.95 or less price point would make buying this device a no-brainer
Who is it for?
- Anyone who wants to print from an iOS device to a networked or USB printer, but doesn't want to keep a PC or Mac turned on all the time just to enable Printopia.