Over and over, TabTimes is hearing from more and more businesses and users that want to be able to print from their iPads. Surprisingly, it’s not that straightforward.
Yes, AirPrint-compatible printers allow you to do this. So does Google CloudPrint–although it takes some wrangling. But given the large number of non-AirPrint legacy printers in offices and homes around the world, and the level of content creation being performed on tablets these days, we found ourselves puzzled at the dearth of network printing solutions for tablet devices.
Lantronix is a hardware manufacturer that made a name for itself with a series of network print servers in the 1990s. When we heard that the company had recently released a network device that it said enabled easy, auto-configured printing from iOS devices to printers on the same network, we couldn’t wait to put it through its paces. Was the xPrintServer the answer?
Thankfully, the answer is yes. We could say a lot of things about the xPrintServer, but the most important thing you need to know is a very simple two-word sentence: It works.
You connect the xPrintServer to your network (be it office or home), plug in the power, and the device, which is about the same size as an iPhone, but twice as thick, automatically recognizes and provisions all the printers on that network.
From here, you simply use an iPad’s or iPhone’s built-in Print function (the same button as “Share” in iOS) to identify, connect to, and print to the printer of your choice.
xPrintServer test results
We tested the xPrintServer in our small San Francisco office, which has three different network-attached printers to a single network access point via three different network switches. We also tested the xPrintServer in two other environments—a medium-sized bike shop with two printers, and a medium-sized non-profit office with seven printers connected to multiple switches and Wi-Fi repeaters.
In all cases, the xPrintServer worked flawlessly in detecting network printers and allowing our iOS devices to print to them. Print speeds were also surprisingly snappy; we didn't notice any discernable difference when printing text pages between this solution and a desktop or laptop computer. Larger and more image-intensive print jobs did create a little slowdown, but it wasn't too bad. Most importantly, we didn't see a single job failure.
Based on Lantronix’ Supported Printer List, it appears that the device supports pretty much every printer from every major manufacturer on the planet. The only types of printers it does not support are those which are attached to a computer solely via USB cable.
The only other potential flaw for larger organizations is that the xPrintServer only automatically detects printers that are located on the same subnet of a network. Thankfully, you can access the device via a web-based admin interface and manually configure access to these printers in no time.
Theoretically, you could connect a large number of printers to the xPrintServer, but for ideal print spooling, Lantronix recommends that you connect no more than 10 printers to each device.
At $150, this is an indispensable device for independent, small and large organizations alike.