HP Tango full review
HP’s new Tango printer is a curious beast – not least because HP claims that it’s the ‘world’s first smart home printer’, thanks to its ability to work with both Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. So, if you have a shopping list on your smartphone then you can use an Amazon Echo speaker or the Alexa app on your smartphone to say “Alexa, tell my HP printer to print my shopping list” and similar things.
To be honest, that seems more of a gimmick than a really useful innovation for a printer, but the Tango has more attractive features as well. It’s neatly designed and well suited for use at home, and HP even dangles the tempting possibility of free photo prints for Instagram junkies if you're not using an instant camera.
In other respects, though, it’s actually pretty limited, and its starting price of £129/$149 is relatively high for a home printer, so you’ll need to think carefully about whether the Tango meets your personal needs before buying. Check out best printers chart to see a full range.
Features & Design
The Tango isn’t much to look at, consisting of little more than a rectangular slab of white and grey plastic. There’s no LCD control screen at all, as you’re expected to control the printer from HP’s Smart app on your Android or iOS mobile devices most of the time.
It’s admirably compact, though, measuring just 389mm wide, 246mm deep and 91mm high, so it’ll fit even onto a small desk or a shelf if you’re a bit tight for space at home. The top cover folds out to act as the input tray, and holds 50 sheets of A4 paper, or 20 sheets of photo paper, and the basic version of the Tango also includes a small output tray that you can attach to the front of the printer.
However, there’s a second model called the Tango X, which costs £180/$199, and replaces the output tray with a wrap-around protective linen cover. So it can even look pretty stylish and trendy sitting on a shelf.
The Tango weighs 3.4kg, and its compact design means that you could easily slip it into a backpack and carry it to a friend’s house if you want to spend an evening experimenting with Instagram filters.
The compact design does have its drawbacks, though. The Tango doesn’t include a scanner, and although it supports dual-band Wi-Fi it doesn’t even have a USB port for quickly connecting it to a PC or Mac. In fact, HP’s web site states that the Tango “is designed exclusively for mobile devices”, as it requires the Smart app to handle the initial set-up and installation.
The Smart app can also use your smartphone camera to provide limited scanning and copying features. That’s a little misleading, though, as it only took us a couple of minutes on HP’s web site to locate driver software for Windows and Macs, so you can still use it with a computer if you need to.
Even so, the lack of a USB port, memory card slot, or even a simple control screen are disappointing in a printer costing well over £100, and this does mean that the Tango’s focus is very much on mobile devices, with only the occasional letter or other document printed from a computer. The HP app doesn’t give you much help setting up the Alexa or Google voice controls either, so you’ll probably need to head off to HP’s web site to track down the FAQ pages if you want to show off the Tango’s voice controls to your friends.
The Tango isn’t particularly fast for a printer in this price range. HP quotes speeds of up to 11 pages per minute for plain black text, 8ppm for colour documents, and 37 seconds for a 10x15cm postcard print.
However, our tests produced more modest results, at around 7ppm for text documents, 5ppm for colour, and a rather leisurely 70 seconds for postcards.
Print quality isn’t disappointing though, with smooth, sharp text that can give a laser printer a run for its money, and bright, colourful graphics and photos. It’ll do the job, then, as long as you’re not in too much of a rush.
This is where things get a bit complicated, as you can either buy replacement ink cartridges whenever you need them, or sign up for HP’s Instant Ink subscription scheme.
In the past, we’ve not been too impressed by the Instant Ink scheme, as its flat-rate printing costs were good for colour and photo output, but actually quite expensive for simple text documents. However, the Tango throws in an extra option that might make it a good choice for people who like to print a lot of photos - see below.
There are two ‘setup cartridges’ provided with the Tango – a black cartridge that lasts for a mere 125 pages, and a ‘tri-colour’ cartridge that contains cyan, magenta and yellow inks, and lasts for just 110 pages. It won’t be long, therefore, before you find yourself forking out for replacement cartridges.
When bought direct from HP, the standard-size black cartridges cost £13.49 and last for 200 pages, while the standard-size colour cartridge costs £17.09 and lasts for 165 pages. Those costs work out at around 6.5p per page for mono printing – which is well above average for an inkjet printer – and a just-about-acceptable 10.4p for colour printing.
HP also sells high-yield XL-size cartridges, although the black XL cartridge still works out relatively expensive at 4.5p per page. The XL colour cartridge is much better, though, working out at a competitive 7.6p per page, so it’s clear that the Tango is very much designed for printing photos and colour graphics, rather than boring old office documents.
The other option for buying replacement inks for the Tango is to sign up for HP’s Instant Ink subscriptions. There are three subscription prices, starting at £1.99 per month, which allows you to print 50 pages per month with a flat-rate cost of just under 4p per page, regardless of whether those pages are mono or colour.
Whenever the printer starts to run low on ink the HP Smart app will automatically order new inks to be sent in the post, with the cost of the inks included in your monthly subscription.
The other subscription options cost £3.49 per month for 100 pages (3.49p per page) and £7.99 per month for 300 pages (2.7p per page – but watch out for the extra costs that start running up if you go over your monthly page limit).
In the past, we’ve criticized the Instant Ink schemes as they’re good value for printing colour graphics and photos, but less attractive for simple text documents. However, the Tango throws in an extra bonus, as photo prints up to 13x18cm that are printed from the HP Smart app on an Android or iOS device are free, and don’t count towards your monthly allocation of pages.
In effect, this means that you can print unlimited postcards (10x15cm) and other small-format photos from your mobile devices – but not Macs and PCs – completely free of charge (although the small print on HP’s web site does state that it can withdraw that offer with 30 days notice).
The HP Tango might not be the fastest or cheapest printer around, and it doesn't have the usual things you'd expect like a screen, card reader and USB port.
However, the target market is unlikely to care because this smart printer is aimed at those wanting to print from mobile phones or even using their voice via smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. For this, the Tango is brilliant and provides high quality results.
It's good looking though so you won't want to hide it away and the Instant Ink scheme that offers free printing makes it even more tempting.
HP Tango: Specs
- A4 inkjet printer with 1200x1200dpi resolution
- Supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant voice controls
- 50-sheet A4 tray, 20-sheet photo tray
- Connectivity – Wi-Fi, with Apple AirPrint, HP Smart app (iOS/Android)
- Dimensions – 389x246x91mm, 3.4kg