Review: 6 AirPrint solutions for iPhones and iPads

The best mobile printing options for large networks, small offices, and personal use

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EFI points out that some of these limitations can be overcome by configuring multiple drivers for the same printer. For example, by publishing two versions of your color printer -- one driver that defaults to color printing and one that defaults to black-and-white -- mobile users could simply select the appropriate version to get the print settings they want.

Easy to set up. PrintMe Mobile installs on a Windows machine that can be located anywhere in your network. However, if your central PrintMe Mobile server is on a different subnet than the Wi-Fi network hosting your mobile users, then you'll need to install an additional piece, called PrintMe Mobile Link, on a Windows box on that subnet. PrintMe Mobile Link works like a broker, publishing PrintMe Mobile's list of available printers to the local subnet, and when an iOS or Android device selects one of those printers, providing the printer's IP address so the mobile device can direct its print job.

PrintMe Mobile and PrintMe Mobile Link will run on Windows XP through Windows Server 2008 R2. I installed PrintMe Mobile 2.2 on Windows 7 and followed EFI's step-by-step wizard to a successful setup in about 30 or 40 minutes. I spent most of that time installing the drivers for the printers I wanted to publish.

Kudos to EFI for the clear and well-organized documentation and straightforward setup wizard. The installation and setup guide tell you everything you need to know. Two things you need to keep in mind: First, .Net is required, and it must be installed before PrintMe Mobile. Second, to allow Android users to print Microsoft Office documents, you must install Office 2007 or Office 2010 on your PrintMe Mobile server.

Why Microsoft Office? It seems that Office includes a PDF generator that PrintMe Mobile uses to convert Office documents for printing -- but only for docs printed from Android devices. Because iOS converts documents to PDF for printing itself (it's how iOS prints without print drivers), installing Office isn't necessary if you're supporting only iOS users. As you might guess, installing Office will also be necessary if you want to draw on PrintMe Mobile's email-to-print capability.

Easy to manage. The heart of PrintMe Mobile is an elegant Web-based dashboard where you publish your printers, enable authentication (or not), and view logs on all printer and administrative activity. It's a very clean GUI that couldn't be easier to use. All the print drivers installed on the system show up in a list. To publish a printer to your wireless networks, just click a check box. To enable email printing to the printer (assuming it has an email address), just click another check box. A third check box enables authentication, either through Active Directory or through local user accounts on the PrintMe Mobile host.

Mobile printing is still young, and you can expect glitches. The first PrintMe Mobile for Android client I tested (version 2.1) displayed not only the printers I published, but every Bonjour-enabled printer in the building. Version 2.2 of the Android client fixed this bug, but it doesn't overcome other limitations of AirPrint. Blame Apple or blame EFI, but workarounds (such as multiple drivers for that color printer) and compromises (printing 20 pages when the user needs only five) come with the territory.

On the server side, EFI's PrintMe Mobile is a polished, enterprise-class product that doesn't require an enterprise-class administrator to install and maintain. While it's easy enough for almost anyone to adopt, it does require a dedicated Windows instance for every subnet you want to support, and some of its capabilities will be overkill for smaller shops. Then there's the enterprise-class price, which starts at $510 per printer (two printers) and runs to $100 per printer for volume customers. There are no restrictions on the number of mobile users or mobile devices.

--Doug Dineley

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