Set Up and Ease of Use
As mentioned previously, the T120 allows you to connect via a standard USB cable or using your existing Wi-Fi network. Just plug in the power cord, insert the ink cartridges, select your Wi-Fi network using the wireless setup menu on the printer’s touchscreen, enter your Wi-Fi password and the printer is ready to go. Of course, you still need to install the HP software drivers and profiles for the best print quality from your PC.
The only minor headache we encountered when using the HP Designjet T120 came when printing over the Wi-Fi network with a massive image file. During one of our tests making a 24-inch print the T120 stopped about 1/5 of the way into printing the image, then it advanced the paper roll to where the image would have ended and cut the paper without finishing the print. We only ran into this problem one time and were unable to replicate the error so we’re not sure what caused it. All other attempts to print via Wi-Fi and connected via USB were trouble free.
Print Speed and Quality Tests
The HP Designjet T120 uses Dye-based color inks (C, M, Y) and a pigment-based black ink (K) with print heads that deliver a 1200 x 1200 dpi printing resolution. In terms of print speed, this large-format printer is reasonably fast for a printer in this class … you just have to remember it takes time to put ink on paper that’s 24 inches wide.
Exact print times will vary based on the print quality settings (Draft, Normal, or Best), the print media being used (more ink is used on premium glossy photo paper than on plain paper and the T120 has to pause at various times during the printing process to allow the ink to dry), and the image file itself (a white banner with block letters obviously takes less time to print than a 24-inch portrait).
We printed the same close up portrait of a girl on a white background using best image quality settings on both HP Bright White Inkjet Paper and HP Premium Satin Photo Paper. The print on HP Bright White Inkjet Paper was complete in less than 10 minutes while the print on HP Premium Satin Photo Paper took approximately 17 minutes.
Of course, at the end of the day the most important performance benchmark for a photo printer is the quality of the photos. What did we think of the print quality from the T120? In short: it depends on the paper.
We found a relatively alarming difference between the print results on HP Bright White Inkjet Paper and HP Premium Satin Photo Paper. The photo printed on HP Bright White Inkjet Paper suffered from a clear loss of edge detail, significant loss of shadow detail and colors (particularly skin tones) looked nothing like how they appeared on the computer screen. On the other hand, when we printed the same image on HP Premium Satin Photo Paper the results looked fantastic. The edge detail was crisp, you can see fine details even in the shadow areas of the print, and the colors look almost exactly as they appear on the computer screen.
The only conclusion we can draw from our tests is that the T120’s paper/ink profiles for HP Bright White Inkjet Paper are flawed. Yes, there are natural differences to how images look when printed on different media types, but the differences here are far beyond what we typically see just from printing on plain paper versus photo paper.
Bottom line, if you need to print photos using the T120 then we suggest you avoid using HP Bright White Inkjet Paper.
Ink Control Tests
The ink cartridges for the T120 are relatively large compared to a standard inkjet printer, but that ink will run out pretty quick if you’re mainly using this printer for photo printing … an obvious consequence when you consider how much ink has to be used when printing 24-inch photos. Each color cartridge has a 29 ml capacity but since the black cartridge is available as an 80 ml high capacity model it would have made more sense if HP offered 80 ml cartridges for all the colors.
We printed seven full color 24-inch prints on HP Bright White Inkjet Paper and HP Premium Satin Photo Paper at the highest image quality settings before one of the color cartridges showed a low level. In other words, if you’re mainly planning to use the T120 for printing large, 24-inch photos on roll paper then you need to invest in extra ink cartridges or a continuous ink system.
This illustrates the biggest problem with wide-format and large-format printers … standard ink cartridges (even high-capacity ones) aren’t ideal for producing massive prints. There are continuous ink flow systems available from third-party manufacturers, but it would be nice if more companies like HP would just admit ink cartridges aren’t the best solution for big printers and start offering an official continuous ink system using HP-approved inks.