Review: HP's smallest laser printer - M140w + Linux set up


The fine folk at HP sent me one of their new Laser printers to review. The HP M140w is a small printer/scanner with built in WiFi. It's pretty good - but has an atrocious app - and works with Linux. So, what do you get for your £220?
Product shot of the printer showing its dimension.

Unboxing

Annoyingly, it doesn't come with a USB cable! I thought that was to save money - but they included a UK and EU power cable, so I think it's just to "encourage" using the WiFi. Even more annoyingly, it doesn't use USB-C - instead it's that awful square USB plug. Eugh!

A square USB port.

You'll notice that there's no mention of the type of USB port - nor any photos of it - on the HP site. Nor on the product packaging. Sneaky.

The unpacking experience really isn't very good. There's a dozen different flimsy bits of paper to tell you how to configure it, a big warning sheet telling you not to use 3rd party ink, and a big glossy brochure trying to upsell you on buying an ink subscription. This becomes a recurring theme. HP don't see you as someone who bought a printer - they see you as someone who is going to give them lots of money for ink.

The printer is secured with lots of packaging and tape - ostensibly for security. But mine had a panel which had popped out - either in transit or as a result of a poor Quality Control process.

A plastic panel which has popped out.

This doesn't feel like a premium experience. Very little thought has been given to first impressions.

But, hey ho, let's get on with printing, eh?

It's a boring mono laser printer. You send it a file, it comes out quickly and cleanly.

I have a Samsung ML-1210 which, I'm not kidding, is about 20 years old! This new HP has exactly the same resolution - 600x600. The HP is quicker and quieter. But it seems we've reached the plateau of print quality.

There really isn't anything to say. Black and white text comes out with the expected resolution. It doesn't crimp the paper. There is a (slightly hidden) stand to hold paper once it has been printed. It can do around 20 pages per minute.

Despite HP claiming this to be their "smallest" printer, that's only true when not in use. There's a flip out tray for the paper which effectively doubles its footprint.
With the paper tray open, the printer is much bigger.

Scan Quality

Again, it's 2022 and scan quality hasn't advanced much in the last decade - it's 600ppi. That said, the colour reproduction and fidelity are good. Again, it is quick and quiet.

There is a "photocopy" button on the control panel. Press it, and the scanner will scan a page and immediately print it out. I guess that's kind of useful?

There's also an "ID copy" button which is specifically for making copies of ID cards and passports. No, I've no idea either. Seems like a feature in search of a user.

The App

*sigh* Why can't printer manufacturers like HP write decent software? It's a mystery to me. The HP app is offensively bad. You will spend ages waiting at this screen.
Connecting to HP Services.
You need to use the app to set up WiFi. In doing so, it will beg you multiple times to buy more ink. Desperate!

Once set up, this is the sort of quality product you can expect.
App screenshot with cut off text.

Why doesn't it show the full name of the printer? Why is "Get Support" wrapped so badly? Why are some features unavailable - tapping on it doesn't tell you. Why - despite this being my only printer - is this listed as "2 of 2"?

Seriously, are there no software engineers or UI designers left at HP? It won't even tell you how much toner is left. Pretty crucial I'd've thought for selling more ink.

What's even worse is that you can't set most printer options from the app! You have to go to the web interface of the printer if you want to set it up properly! What's the point of the app then?!

Honestly, I've used a lot of bad apps but this is just pathetic. This is meant to be their core competency - but it looks atrocious and seems like nag-ware for constantly pleading with you to set up a subscription. Uninstall it the second you've finished configuring the printer.

Linux

First up, how easy is it to get working with Linux? The "about" page proudly lists it as Linux compatible. And the HPLIP page says the printer is compatible with HP's open source stack since v3.21.10. However, it does say it's only compatible with USB - not network printing.

I plugged in the USB cable and… it was instantly detected and printed without issue!
I opened up Gnome Simple Scan and… the scanner was instantly detected. A few seconds later I had a colour image scanned in.

I disconnected the USB, connected the device to WiFi and… everything just worked! WTF? I was looking forward to hours of fiddling in the terminal to get things working. What a disappointment 😉

Connectivity

The WiFi (2.4GHz only) is fast enough. It doesn't need gigabit speeds. Interestingly, there's also Bluetooth available and it is difficult to switch off! Luckily, it doesn't actually seem possible to pair a device to it. It only exists so the app can set up the printer. So it's just another broadcast beacon waiting to be hacked. If you log into the web console and dive around the settings, you'll eventually stumble on a way to disable it.

It does, however, support IPv6! Hurrah! It picked up an address from my router without issue.

A quick nmap showed:

PORT      STATE SERVICE
80/tcp    open  http
443/tcp   open  https
515/tcp   open  printer
631/tcp   open  ipp
3910/tcp  open  prnrequest
3911/tcp  open  prnstatus
8080/tcp  open  http-proxy
9100/tcp  open  jetdirect
53048/tcp open  unknown

Those allow for the web control panel, and standard network printing functions.

There's an adequate web interface.

A basic, and horrible looking, web interface.

Look, it isn't the prettiest pig in the poke, but it'll do. It seems fairly comprehensive - but isn't much to look at. It's clear that HP don't believe that sysadmins should have any kind of usability or aesthetic niceness.

There are lots of options to fiddle around with. It's confusingly laid out, but gets the job done.

Options showing how you can change the print quality.

It also lets you see the printer status - including exactly how much toner is left:

Screen showing the exact percentage of the toner cartridge remaining.
Hang on! If the web interface can show this, why can't the bloody app?!?!

It's reasonably secure, you'll need the password printed on the machine if you want to monkey about with it.
Pop up showing where the password can be found.

Do note, it has a self-signed https certificate. But that's normal for local network devices.

There was a firmware update waiting for me - it updated quickly, but gave no changelog. So I've no idea what bugs it fixed.

Firmware update warning.

You can also disable the HP Web Services. You'll still be able to print via your LAN, but you won't be able to print from the web. Unless you have a burning need to send documents home while you're out, I recommend disabling its connection to the HP mothership.

Pro Tip - if you look at the HTML source code of the admin pages, your eyes will start to bleed.

Downsides

There are a few negatives - they probably aren't dealbreakers, but you should be aware of them.

WiFi is 2.4GHz only. The speed of WiFi isn't that important, but when you're in a congested radio environment it is often useful to have everything on 5GHz.

No duplex - so no double-sided printing or scanning. There's also no document feeder for the scanner.

Although it is small, once you flip open the bin for paper, it does take up a fair bit of space.

It's really important to HP that you don't dare buy toner cartridges from someone other than them. They have a big fat disclaimer, and website warning you of the perils of using non-HP approved ink. Fuck those guys! They want £70 for a toner cartridge! That's a third of the cost of the printer. Despicable.

Oh, and even better, the ink is out of stock on the HP site. So even if you wanted to buy from them, you can't! I rang HP and they suggested buying from a 3rd party site - or subscribe to InstantInk™. They are desperate for recurring revenue. It would be great if the printer just automatically ordered a new toner when it was running low. But it could use my stored payment details for that rather than hooking me up to a subscription.

The toner cartridges are good for about 950 pages, so here's a quick breakdown of the costs if you subscribe:

Monthly CostCartridge Every _ MonthsCost Per CartridgeCost Per Page
£0.9995£94.05£0.10
£2.9919£56.81£0.06
£4.4910£42.66£0.04
£9.993£31.64£0.03
£22.491£30.52£0.03

Look, I get that HP wants to up its Average Revenue Per User and get some cashflow - but this is bonkers! Just let me pay on demand at a reasonable price rather than tying me in to a disempowering subscription.

Unless you consistently print the same amount each month - and a considerable volume at that - you're probably best off trying to buy the toner from eBay for about £40.

Verdict

If you need to print out lots of single-sided black-and-white documents, this is about as good as it gets. As long as you don't mind being gouged on the toner prices.

For the occasional bit of scanning, again, it's fine. But for anything more you'll probably want something with a page feeder.

The app is utter shite. Use it to set up the wireless config and then immediately delete it.

WiFi is a bit of a gimmick. But if you have a multi-computer household, it's nice to be able to print and scan from multiple machines.

Linux support is superb. The epitome of "it just works".

Basically, what I'm saying is that this is an entirely average printer. It's not much better than the laser printers of the early 2000s. Nor is it markedly different from the scanners of the same vintage.

But it is pretty small and quiet. Until you see the price of official toner cartridges. Then you will hear a very loud scream.


8 thoughts on “Review: HP's smallest laser printer - M140w + Linux set up

  1. says:

    Sounds rather like my experience with an HP LaserJet Pro M15W that I purchased last year, after my ancient Canon printer finally gave up the ghost. Thankfully I was able to bypass HP's software and set it up directly on Mac using AirPrint. It works, and for the amount of printing I do currently that's enough, but I'll definitely look elsewhere if I need to shop for something with more features in the future.

  2. Alex B says:

    Those Samsung ML-1210s are virtually bulletproof: I only replaced mine last year, after one of the roller springs became weak, resulting in printing that faded progressively towards the weakened side. I replaced it with a Brother HL-L8260CDW for £243.90 delivered. It's colour, and its TN-421/423xx toner cartridges can supposedly be fairly easily and cheaply refilled: about £83 for 6000 pages worth of black, and 4000 pages worth of CMY.

  3. Jan says:

    I loved my 1210! It developed an issue pulling the paper in, though, so I had to let it go 🙁

  4. tbf, instant ink has saved me a crap ton over the last 7 years, and you can adjust the subscription at will (out of term i'm on 10 pages for 99p) it generally works out about half the price I'd pay for general cartridges



  5. The interesting thing with the instant ink is that the price seems to be the same if you buy a small cart basic 30 quid inkjet, or a large laserjet (which should be cheaper to run) or officejet Pro. My OJ Pro takes 3k sheet XXL carts, which costs me 40 quid every 4 years



  6. SAF says:

    Not sure for the ID copy, but the photocopy feature is definitely nice to have. There are many cases where simply copying a paper document to another piece of paper without involving a computer or smartphone makes sense and is much quicker...

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