No Food for Thought

HP LaserJet Pro M227fdn (Debian GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows)

admin Sunday March 31, 2019

After giving up on my Epson WF-3620 all-in-one, I had gone through a sixth consecutive defective inkjet printer. 6 printers of 3 different models, from 2 manufacturers, in 2½ years. Going through such an ordeal is much less fun than looking back at it. Fearing loss of even more of my time and mental sanity by getting a seventh printer which would also fail near-instantly, I reviewed our needs and choices. Although I had always avoided laser because we print little (most of our usage is non-business), I decided to drop inkjet printers altogether and chose to replace with a laser all-in-one. After realizing that color laser printers were too massive, I decided to go with a monochrome HP all-in-one. After I gave up trying to add a M227fdw to my cart, I called HP and was told by an agent that was because HP had no such device in stock...

I then decided to go with a slightly less flexible but immediately available and considerably cheaper M227fdn (no touchscreen, no front USB port, no wireless). I thought I was lucky, since Debian stretch offers the very first hplip version which supports the M227 series. Setting up the printer was indeed easy after I remembered I needed to install the hplip package. I was impressed by printing speed.

Things got considerably worst with the scanner, which I connected via USB. I tried launching Skanlite, which refused to open with an error message. When I tried launching from the command line, it whined:

skanlite wrote:
sane_open(" "hpaio:/usb/HP_LaserJet_MFP_M227-M231?serial=VNB3J02222" ", &handle) failed! status = Error during device I/O

With such a helpful error message, I decided to try Simple Scan, which opened, but failed when asked to scan, complaining it was "unable to connect to scanner". After searching the web significantly, I was lucky enough to find the solution, given by another poor LaserJet user. The solution is to install hplip-gui, launch HP Toolbox, and install a proprietary plugin for that scanner (UPDATE: I can't get figure out how to do this in Ubuntu 19.04. I ran $ hp-plugin -i; instead.). While that solution does fix the problem, if the M227fdn does require a proprietary plugin to scan, it's easy to consider HP Linux Imaging and Printing's table of supported printer models, which lists the M227fdn as having "Full" support and as having "Scan to PC", as fraudulently misleading.

The LaserJet has a relatively powerful web interface, but reports cannot be viewed, only printed. Inexcusably, the 10 reports offered, including the usage report, can only be directly printed on the LaserJet, even with firmware 20180510. If you want to see how many pages you actually printed before buying a new cartridge, you can thankfully use Supplies Status in the Home tab. That will also give you the total number of pages printed (in fact, the number printed with your drum, which should support about 18400).

I thought setting up the scanner on Windows would be easy, but I was overestimating HP once again. After installing HP's software, I was somewhat able to scan using Microsoft's built-in utility, but I could not see a user-friendly application from HP. I tried the menu entry "HP TWAIN Administration". It is not clear whether that application is purely administrative or if it's supposed to allow scanning directly. The home screen says to click on "Numériser" ("Scan" in French), but there is no such button. The name suggests it's just an administrative tool, but I could not find where the presets controlled there show up.

So I went to the manual and found that after installing the software on Windows, there should be an "HP Scan" shortcut in the Start menu. Unfortunately, even though I installed 2 different versions of the software on 2 Windows 10 installs, none had such a shortcut.

Thankfully, I then noticed that in one session, HP did install an application called "HP Smart", which does allow easy scanning (among other things), and which works. Yet, it wasn't installed on the PC on which I used the latest installer, and it apparently only installs for the current session (you have to repeat for each user!).
A big applause for HP for such a failure... how Smart is that? It's HP Smart.

But, after all this time wasted, it seems to do the job. So here's hoping I didn't get a seventh consecutive defective HP all-in-one, and that this will be my last post about printers for a very long time...

Update 2019-01-02: After trying to copy a document, I must say this printer's interface is crap. I knew it would be less intuitive than a touchscreen, but having to use 4 different buttons to launch a copy, only 1 of which is labeled, caused 2 adults together to fail to copy a document until we gave up and consulted the user guide.

Update 2019-03-02: We printed 1979 pages on the original cartridge, but the output was starting to get gray rather than black. The web interface didn't show any fill percentage anymore (although a bar suggested 1% left). It had been several weeks since the printer started whining about low toner though, so I just adjusted the low toner threshold from the factory default 7% to 4% in the web interface's System tab (Supply Settings), since it's apparently quite annoying on Microsoft Windows. Changing the cartridge is not as easy as it was with previous printers, but it's straightforward enough once you know you just need to follow the pictograms, letting the printer figure out automatically it needs to initialize the cartridge.

Update 2021-01-27: Although printers apparently still stuck, this one has now lasted longer than the combined duration of my 5 previous printers. I am not going back to inkjet.

Update 2022-12-11: Although the M227fdn I purchased in March 2018 still works fine, I purchased a M227fdw in June 2020. Even if they have considerable flaws and the M227fdw has had a moderate print quality issue, I have now operated M227-s for more than 7 printer-years and still have 0 complete breakage, which should be well enough to conclude the HP M227 series is vastly superior to inkjet printers in terms of reliability for my use case!biggrin

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