Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

State of the Intrepid – Scan & Print

Primera Trio with its cover open.

Primera Trio with its cover open.

If there’s one thing I quietly agonized over while setting up the Intrepid, it was what to do about scanning and printing. There have been times when I’ve needed to receive PDF forms which can’t be edited on the computer, so they must be printed and filled out by hand (and perhaps signed) and then either be mailed, or scanned and emailed back. These tend to center around either medical forms, or such things as fishing licenses, which then need to be printed out and carried with me. This can be a problem in the boonies. The vexing thing is that printing and/or scanning isn’t a frequent thing, so once you figure it’s worth the money and all-important storage space, then you need to decide whether you really need both capabilities, and whether you really need to be able to handle letter-size sheets.

Naturally, I researched the usual compact printer solutions. They tended to be rather large, and my available space to stow them is very limited. Adding in the need for scanning complicated this further. In my experience, inkjet printers don’t do well with inactivity – the cartridges dry up and go gimpy, then it’s a battle with a wet paper towel. I looked at thermal transfer, dye-sublimation (sub dye) and laser printers as alternatives, and couldn’t get happy for one reason or another. I figured I’d stick with inkjet and carry a spare cartridge as the cost of doing business. Over the years, I’ve had serious issues with high-end HP and Epson units, while my Canon’s mid-line foibles have been limited to eating cartridges like there’s no tomorrow – even when seldom used.

Then I stumbled over an oddity outside the Big Three that seemed interesting. Built by a company mainly known for commercial CD printers/labelers, Primera decided to go after a niche market: printer/scanners intended for business travelers, people who make their living on the road. You know, consultants, sales people, delivery, contractors, you name it. Three things intrigued me about it, the first being its exceptionally small stowed size despite being able to scan and print letter-size sheets. Second, it’s price, which is reminiscent of commercial/business-grade equipment rather than consumer products. Read: expensive. Third, given this price level and their intended market, it may work and keep working. Business folks, well, if they can’t do what they do, they don’t eat. They get frustrated easily and do not tolerate any type of gizmo that threatens their livelihood, especially when they are walking the walk while out of reach of easy fixes. They literally can’t afford to spend time troubleshooting technical problems. I mulled this consideration over, albeit accepting the inherent mortality of inkjet cartridges.

Open for business and ready to go. No power cord required.

Open for business and ready to go. No power cord required.

I researched user comments on the Trio, and found polarized results. People either loved it or hated it, and the rest whined about it not being wireless or doing duplex printing. I’ve become suspicious of highly negative comments in my old age. Some people order products without bothering to read about features, capabilities, etc. Then they chastise it for not being what they were looking for. Some criticize it from afar, based on what they think they wouldn’t like about it. Others don’t bother with the manual or quick setup sheet that accompanies it, do what they’ve always done in the past, run into trouble, and return it without contacting the manufacturer’s Customer Service for help. The Primera Trio looked to be a bit quirky and not for people who toss the setup sheet, but its compelling features were just too enticing, and I decided to take the plunge and find out if it was what I hoped it was.

Once I got it, I went through everything with a religious fervor, but practically drew my breath when I opened the lid on the printer to look inside, where the cartridge, belts and plethora of rollers live. There was almost nothing in there! It looked like an empty frame. Surely something had been left out during assembly. With the instructions in front of me, I fed it the color cartridge that came with it, gave it a piece of paper in the tray, plugged in the USB cable to my laptop, and installed the application software. It worked, and worked well, which was almost confusing because I couldn’t see anything in there to enforce how the paper moved through. Likewise, scanning. I expected the sheet to feed off-kilter (that’s what I’m used to), but in it went, and offered to produce a JPEG picture file, PDF, or printed copy. Amazing.

The Primera Trio is a peculiar little beast. Its few lighted buttons include icons which I have yet to understand and remember, but I’ll get it eventually. Still, it’s dead simple to operate once you get rolling with it each time. I expected mediocre scan and print quality, but it rivals everything else I’ve used, but without the paper feed problems. All you do is follow the instructions. It actually does best when you don’t try to “help” it. It handles paper that’s been folded just fine, and getting a copy out of it is a one-button deal. My biggest surprise has been the survival of the used cartridge, as in not showing a hint of printing problems after months of storage in place.

Folded down, the Trio's flat profile makes it hard to believe that it's a full-function scanner/printer.

Folded down, the Trio’s flat profile makes it hard to believe that it’s a full-function scanner/printer.

One notable thing about the Trio is that it accepts one cartridge only. That can be a color cartridge or a dedicated grayscale cartridge, but if you want to change for some reason, you need to physically swap them and place the loser into what they call the “garage”, a protective clamshell that seals the cartridge and allows tucking it away in luggage without undue danger of leakage and stains. Business users will tend to stick with one cartridge type or the other, and it’s not much of an issue with me, either. Once the color cartridge dies, it’s grayscale for me.

Limitations? Cartridges are not available in retail stores, so you must find them online or buy directly from Primera online. They cost about the same as other brand factory carts at list price, and you are very unlikely to ever find refilled ones, so running the Trio ain’t particularly cheap. Then again, my Canon isn’t either, since although refilled units are available, they don’t last long and it requires five working cartridges in order to print anything. Another limitation isn’t a limitation within its target market, but only when consumers want it. They want wireless connectivity. WiFi is out, since if you’re sane, you don’t set up printers on the hotel’s or restaurant’s or customer’s networks, and bluetooth wireless can’t handle the rush of data that scans generate. So it’s reliable and fast USB cable for the Trio, and the cable supplied with it is just long enough for a side-by-side setup with your laptop. The last limitation is that the Trio does not copy freestanding – all you need do is push one button, but it needs the computer’s memory to accept and feed back the image to print. A quirk is that its installed cartridge must be rotated down out of the way of the folding lid when you’re all done. What makes this a quirk is that a locking lever over the cartridge must be put in just the right position to allow this, and it can be picky.

Tucked into its soft case with its USB cord, all you need is to add your own provision for storing a spare cartridge, the cartridge "garage", AC power cord, and quickstart instructions.

Tucked into its soft case with its USB cord, all you need is to add your own provision for storing a spare cartridge, the cartridge “garage”, AC power cord, and quickstart instructions.

A worthy option which I sprang for is an onboard lithium battery, good for 300 or so prints under optimum conditions. A lot of purchasers opt for this, since it allows matching a powercord-free laptop’s operation. Sometimes the last thing you want is to have to go hunting for an AC outlet just to print, scan, or copy a couple of pages. I don’t have a customer waiting, but when I want to print or scan and go onto something else, digging for power cords is not my fav activity. Obviously, the Trio comes with a 110V plug, and a badly overpriced 12V car adapter is also available. It is notable however, that the AC plug also recharges the battery in about 1-1/2 hours, and that the USB connection to the computer can also trickle charge the battery. That takes over 10 hours though, and only then if the printer is left off with the USB cable connected. This isn’t useless, since you can leave both overnight with only the laptop plugged in to power, and the Trio’s battery will be topped up by morning. At any rate, the usage flexibility of the Trio combined with a laptop is not unique, but is not at all common, either. That, and the Trio’s collapsed size make for a highly functional piece.

One other option I included was a stretchy, zippered soft carry case which has an external pocket to hold the USB cord. How you bring along a spare cartridge is your business. I would have felt more comfortable with a snug-fitting hard case, but oh well. Folded up, the Trio is not particularly delicate, so only reasonable care is needed when stowing. The main interest for me is to keep dust out of it and protect its glossy finish from handling scratches.

Summary? Expensive, but it’s a very good functional fit for me. As a “business solution” meant for reliable performance in space-challenged environments, it seems to work pretty well for road hogs with overpacked pop-up truck campers, too. I’m always convinced that the next time I want to print something, that its original color cartridge will no longer be operative, but so far, that just hasn’t panned out. It’s always a happy surprise. Print, scan and copy, anywhere, anytime – and quickly. I’m pleased with it.

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15 thoughts on “State of the Intrepid – Scan & Print

  1. Hey Doug! The lovely Sussn can’t live without technology. We have killed 3 printers in 4 years. I am not a techy, cowboy here my friend! LOL. However I do need to scan, copy, print, send etc occasionaly. She needs to much more often. This gadget sounds great to me. I just wonder about your use of the term, expensive? How much is it roughly???

    By the way I sm still stuck in frozen NC trying to get my sciatic nerve to calm down. Hope your lil health issue is behind you. We will get to Az soon hopefully.

    Happy trails, Bill

    • Bill, if you went direct to primeratrio.com instead of Amazon, it’s currently $330 for starters, which is a price reduction of about $100 less than what I paid.

      A bad sciatic nerve is a crippler, isn’t it? I had it for a relatively brief time, and that was plenty! Sorry to hear about yours and hoping for the best for you.

  2. Works good & lasts a long time… if you don’t mind the $400+ price tag & have a shortage of space it looks like you found it!
    I appreciate the equipment reviews, thanks!

    • Even with the price reduction on Primera’s site, it’s still a big bite of one’s budget. If one doesn’t have the storage issues I have, the field of choice widens a bit.

  3. Dennis on said:

    Thanks for this post. I was just looking at portable printer solutions this morning for taking along on a PanAm Hwy camper trip we’ll be doing in the future.

    • Now that’s an ambitious highway! I see your trip as equally ambitious.

    • Dennis, I just got an email from the upcoming 2017 Overland Expo West with the following included, if it will help you with your plans. Hopefully, the links will work…

      “In 2012, Arizona natives Jeff & Monica Yaeger of Overland The World decided that they wanted more adventure and culture in their lives. They were ready for the road less traveled, so they cooked up an idea to drive the PanAmerican Highway with their Toyota Land Cruiser.

      Monica & Jeff attended Overland Expo to learn and gear up and then hit the PanAmerican Highway, driving from the top of Alaska to Panama. In 2016, they shipped their Land Cruiser to South America and traveled from Colombia to the tip of Argentina, documenting their journey on Instagram.

      Jeff and Monica will be at Overland Expo 2017 WEST as instructors this year, teaching you how to Build DIY Cargo and Sleeping Systems for Your Vehicle as well as hosting a slideshow of their journey, 30,000 Miles Through South America. Make sure to come say hello!”

  4. Doug I love you pardner! You r willing to be the guinea pig! LOL. I am going to show the Lovely Susan this post of yours. I presume the base does not include the battery. She will have to research all about it, she is that way u know. Doesn’t take long to pUT 400 into a bunch of sorry printers. Oh how fast does it print?

    Never had a sciatic nerve issue b4 Doug. It flared up in July and is just now getting bearable. Used Doctors, drugs, prayer, consults with specialists and finally found relief with a alternate healing chiropractor. He recome dedicated Boswelia and Tumeric. It or the combo most likely is working!

    Safe travels pardner, Bill

    • Love is a many splendored thing, Bill. True enough, the printer does not normally come with a battery or a case. I used to work at a hardware store where a brand name color printer (alone) could be had for about $35. It was cheaper to buy a new printer than it was to replace the cartridges. So the Trio printer/scanner evoked that memory, but it’s apples and oranges. I’m never more than a few feet from a power source, so I can’t really justify my onboard battery. That’s more of a laziness thing.

  5. Linda Sand on said:

    We bought an HP printer when we hit the road back in 2008 and it still works but does not have scanning capabilities. I am tempted by your unit. But our printer does does have a fold out rack that lets you insert a pile of paper for multi-page printing. Yours looks like single sheet feed?

    • Yes and no, Linda. The printer entry (that flat fold-down piece) will hold perhaps up to ten sheets, while the scanner entry is in front and is fed one sheet at a time, though if I recall right it will wait for you without your having to let it know that another sheet is coming.

  6. John Worzalla on said:

    Doug — hope all is going well in AZ and glad you are still adding posts to your blog. Although I am not an RV’er, I understand the importance of space considerations you and other RV’ers have, so good to know the Primera may be a fine choice for those with limited space. However, for those who have room, I have had good luck with HP inkjet printers, both at home and formerly at work (not so much with Canon printers). I am using an HP 8615 OfficeJet Pro All-In-One that does printing, scanning, faxing — purchased in 2015 at Costco for $90. It has 250 page capacity and has worked great. Also cost of cartidges is reasonable when using the high capacity replacement cartridges (XL951 in my case). I have never had a problem with a cartridges drying out even if the printer is not used for several weeks or a month or two. HP8615 is probably no longer available, but a more recent HP All-In-One model might be a good choice for those who do not have space limitations. – – Binx

  7. I’ll keep this in mind. I keep flirting with getting a printer.
    I currently scan and create PDFs with my phone and when I just have to print I go to a public library.

    • Go with what works for you, I say. Breaking camp to locate a town with a public printer is not on my hot list, but that’s just me. If you’re town-centered though, you’re probably better off avoiding the expense and letting someone else feed their printer cartridges or toner. One less gizmo to pack and maintain.

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