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LAN & WAN Reviews

Introduction

Lantronix XPrintServer

At a Glance
Product Lantronix xPrintServer Home Edition [XPS1002HM-01-S]
Summary Hardware print server to enable printing from iOS devices to USB or network printers
Pros • Supports up to 2 Network printers
• Supports up to 8 USB printers (USB hub required)
• Printer support for over 4000 printer models
• Autoscan discovers printers and downloads drivers automatically
• Good phone support with limited wait time
Cons • Limited control of print functions from iOS device
• Difficult to add unsupported printers
• Kodak AIO printers not supported

I’m a relatively new owner of an iPad.  I’ve come to learn that some tasks are quite simple on an iOS device, and other tasks are almost impossible, or frustrating at the minimum.  The lack of access to the iOS file system, readily available on an Android device, makes me crazy, but that’s fodder for a rant at another time. 

What I have found surprising is that printing from an iOS device can be an equally challenging and frustrating experience. Printing shouldn’t be difficult, but as I discovered, it usually is.  From what I’ve learned, you only have a few choices if you want to print from an iOS device:

  • Buy an AirPrint compatible printer.  If you’re in the market for a new printer anyway and need to print from an iOS device, you’d be crazy not to look into one that has AirPrint capabilities.  But there aren’t too many printers that have that built in.  I checked Apple’s web site and there were only 15 AirPrint-capable printers listed.
  • Buy print server software and install it on one of your computers that’s on the same network as your iOS device.  This has the disadvantage of needing a computer turned on with the software always loaded when you want to print.  I tried a couple of software-based solutions and found them disappointing.
  • Email a document from your iOS device to yourself and then print it from your desktop.  That sort of takes the convenience factor out of your portable device, doesn’t it?
  • Email a document to an EPrint-enabled printer

I had just about resigned myself to not printing from my iPad until I attended a recent press event in New York City.  There, I discovered the Lantronix xPrintServer products.  The xPrintServer that I am reviewing today is a small hardware-based print server that promises plug and play print functionality for iOS devices. Was this the solution I was looking for?

Product Tour and Setup

There are actually two xPrintServer models, the Home Edition and the recently re-launched Office Edition.  For this review, I’ll be looking at the Home Edition.  Both products ship in the same white plastic case – the difference is in the firmware, the number of supported network printers and enterprise management features.

Lantronix xPrintServer Product Comparison 
Lantronix xPrintServer Product Comparison
On one end of the case, there’s a power jack, an Ethernet port and a single USB 2.0 port.   If you want to attach more than a single USB printer to the xPrintServer, you can use a USB hub.  While the Home Edition is limited to two network printers, the Office Edition will support an unlimited number of printers.  However, for performance reasons, Lantronix recommends that you limit network printers to 5-10 per device.  The “X” in the Lantronix logo on the case front doubles as a indicator that shows the device status with different flashing patterns.

Setup of the xPrintServer is very simple.  The figure below shows that you can either print to a network printer (connected wired or wirelessly) or to an attached USB printer.  The quick start guide walks you through the steps required for your device to print to a USB printer plugged into the xPrintServer.  For Window-based computers, you’ll need to download and install Bonjour from Apple.  More detailed instructions are available in the user guide that you can download from Lantronix.  Of course, for network printers, you’ve probably already installed the native print drivers for your printer on your computer, so no additional configuration changes are required.

XprtintServer Home Edition Setup

XprtintServer Home Edition Setup

When you connect the xPrint server to your network, and optionally to a USB printer and plug it in, the device auto discovers all of the printers on your local network as well as the attached USB printer.  Your network will need to have an active internet connection, because the xPrintServer automatically downloads and installs print drivers for each discovered printer.  If all goes well, you’ll be printing from your iPad in a matter of minutes.  On your iOS device, within your current application, just select the “arrow” or whatever icon the app uses for export.  Select “Print” and a list of available discovered printers should appear.

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