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Versatile office inkjet printer challenges color lasers

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HP Officejet 8100 Pro ePrinter (image courtesy HP ©2012) HP Officejet 8100 Pro ePrinter (image courtesy HP ©2012)
Nest Learning Thermostat (image courtesy Nest Labs ©2012) Nest Learning Thermostat (image courtesy Nest Labs ©2012)
Nest Learning Thermostat (image courtesy Nest Labs ©2012) Nest Learning Thermostat (image courtesy Nest Labs ©2012)

If you've ever considered buying a color printer for your home office, you've probably heard that color laser printers have drawbacks. They produce great-looking documents, but forget about graphics. Anything but flat color looks awful, and the per-page cost is also pretty daunting.

What about an inkjet? You're probably thinking "no way!" After all, inkjets are slow and pages produced by an inkjet smudge when they get wet. You can forget about using a high-lighter pens or producing a professional-looking document. Inkjets are good for printing photographs, but not for turning out reports or proposals.

Well, all that might have been true in the past but not anymore. Consider the HP Officejet Pro 8100 ePrinter. Not only is it affordable and economical, but it's actually faster than HP's LaserJet Pro CP1525nw, a color laser printer that costs twice as much.

The 8100 Pro delivers print speeds up to 20 pages-per-minute (ppm) monochrome and 16 ppm color. The unit comes with a 250-sheet tray (a second tray is an option) and has a built-in duplexer, so you can actually print color at half the cost-per-page of a non-duplex capable color printer.

The printer connects to your network wirelessly or via a built-in Ethernet jack. You can also use a USB cable (included). In addition, the 8100 Pro supports Apple AirPrint for printing from iOS devices over WiFi as well as HP ePrint. With the latter, HP actually assigns the printer an email address so that you can print by sending documents, images, etc. as email attachments.

Granted, documents printed with an HP Officejet 8100 Pro won't surpass the quality of a color laser, but except with the smallest of fonts, the difference isn't dramatic. Additionally, when using HP Officejet inks, documents are fade-resistant and high-lighter smearing is minimal. Color PowerPoint handouts look great, and photos could easily be mistaken for "drugstore prints," provided you use the right paper.

Overall, the HP Officejet 8100 Pro is cheap to buy and cheap to own. The printer uses up to 50% less energy than lasers and consumes up to 50% less paper due to automatic two-sided printing.

Not bad for a printer that lists for $149.99 and is currently available on HP's website for $99.99 (after savings), including free standard shipping. An additional 250-sheet tray is $79.99. For more information about the HP Officejet 8100 Pro, visit HP.com.

'Genius' thermostat learns your routine to save $$$

Summer temperatures are setting records, so we all need to find ways to be smarter about energy use.

Installing a programmable thermostat sounds like a good move, but studies show that almost 90% of home owners ignore programmable thermostats once they're installed, mostly because the settings are hard to change. Thus, energy savings derived from installing a programmable thermostat are usually minimal.

To remedy this, Nest Labs has created the Nest Learning Thermostat. The unit learns from your behavior and personal preferences to create a custom heating and cooling schedule, keeping you comfortable when you're at home and conserving energy when you're away.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the annual energy bill for a typical single-family home is approximately $2,200, with heating and cooling (HVAC) accounting for approximately half of the bill.

The reluctance of consumers to adjust programmable thermostats, mentioned above, reportedly caused Energy Star to revoke its certification of all thermostats in 2009. Nest addresses this issue with a combination of sensors, algorithms, machine learning, and cloud computing.

The Nest Learning Thermostat learns behaviors, plus provides tips and information to make smart energy-saving choices. Simply rotate the outer ring to adjust the temperature. The display turns blue when cooling and red when heating. You can also connect to Nest via Wi-Fi to control it from your laptop, smart phone, or tablet.

The thermostat even senses when your home is unoccupied and adjusts the temperature accordingly. You can even connect to the device from your office computer or handheld device to make adjustments if you're headed home earlier than usual.

The Nest Learning Thermostat has a suggested retail price of $249.00 and comes with a complete installation kit. For more information, visit nest.com.

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