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Security

Microsoft upgrades Office security by blocking VBA macros by default

There’s been a bit of back and forth since the change was originally announced, but this week Microsoft started rolling out an update to Microsoft Office that blocks the use of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros on downloaded documents.

Last month, Microsft was testing the new default setting when it suddenly rolled back the update, “temporarily while we make some additional changes to enhance usability.” Despite saying it was temporary, many experts worried that Microsoft might not go through with changing the default setting, leaving systems vulnerable to attacks. Google Threat Analysis Group leader Shane Huntley tweeted, “Blocking Office macros would do infinitely more to actually defend against real threats than all the threat intel blog posts.”

Now the new default setting is rolling out, but with updated language to alert users and administrators what options they have when they try to open a file and it’s blocked. This only applies if Windows, using the NTFS file system, notes it as downloaded from the internet and not a network drive or site that admins have marked as safe, and it isn’t changing anything on other platforms like Mac, Office on Android / iOS, or Office on the web.

Microsoft:

We’re resuming the rollout of this change in Current Channel. Based on our review of customer feedback, we’ve made updates to both our end user and our IT admin documentation to make clearer what options you have for different scenarios. For example, what to do if you have files on SharePoint or files on a network share. Please refer to the following documentation:

• For end users, A potentially dangerous macro has been blocked

• For IT admins, Macros from the internet will be blocked by default in Office

If you ever enabled or disabled the Block macros from running in Office files from the Internet policy, your organization will not be affected by this change.

While some people use the scripts to automate tasks, hackers have abused the feature with malicious macros for years, tricking people into downloading a file and running it to compromise their systems. Microsoft noted how administrators could use Group Policy settings in Office 2016 to block macros across their organization’s systems. Still, not everyone turned it on, and the attacks continued, allowing hackers to steal data or distribute ransomware.

Users who try to open files and are blocked will get a pop-up sending them to this page, explaining why they probably don’t need to open that document. It starts by running through several scenarios where someone might try to trick them into executing malware. If they really do need to see what’s inside the downloaded file, it goes on to explain ways to get access, which are all more complicated than what happened before, where users could usually enable macros by pressing one button in the warning banner.

This change may not always stop someone from opening up a malicious file, but it does provide several more layers of warnings before they can get there while still providing access for the people that say they absolutely need it.



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Computing

This Dell business laptop deal is a great bulk buy for your office

If you’re looking through the Dell laptop deals for a relatively cheap general-use laptop, the Latitude 3420 is on sale at Dell right now for just $699, down from the original $1,159 retail price, which is a nice little $460 discount. This makes it an excellent bulk purchase for a company that needs good productivity laptops.’

Why you should buy the Dell Latitude 3420 Laptop

Among the nicest things about the Latitude 3420 are the 14-inch FHD display and its weight of only 3.36 pounds, which makes it a smaller laptop and easier to put in a bag or carry around by hand. That’s handy for a work environment where a person may be taking the laptop home every night. The CPU is an 11th-generation i5-1135G7, a nice midtier CPU that can easily handle the majority of productivity tasks such as slideshows, tables, and word processor apps. It can also reasonable handle transcoding for streaming or playing video for meetings and presentations, which is a nice little plus. There’s also a 720p camera in the front for those who work remotely or often have online meetings, plus a workable microphone that should be enough for most calls and conversations.

RAM comes in at 8GB, which should be enough to have at least a few apps and browser tabs open at the same time — and assuming it isn’t being abused, it should be enough for most work needs. Storage is also good at 256GB, although you can always plug in an external hard drive through one of its three USB ports and still have space left over for a mouse or even a printer. Connectivity comes in the form of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, so it’s future-proofed and will allow for a great internet connection even at a distance. Finally, there’s Windows 10, although it also comes with a Windows 11 license if you want to go that route.

All in all, the Latitude 3420 is a great business laptop that’s small, lightweight, and has some great specs that make it versatile for the workplace at a good budget. And at just $699 from Dell, it’s a good bulk purchase for a small or medium-size company. If you want something a bit more powerful and lightweight, there are some great Dell XPS deals to look at, although they’re generally more expensive, or you can look at our general laptop deals for something from another brand.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Why I still use use Microsoft Office instead of Google apps

You can find all sorts of comparisons if you search the internet for Microsoft Office versus Google apps. And these side-by-side comparisons are helpful if you’re deciding between the two productivity suites. If it comes to cost, many simply find Google’s free apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides the obvious choice. 

But if you’re like me and use these types of applications many, many times per day, or even for running a small business, you have to look at more than the price tag.

Here are the three main reasons that I choose to use and pay for Microsoft’s Office suite rather than use Google’s free apps.

Features

When it comes to the reasons we use these productivity applications, their features have to play an integral part. While Google does a good job at introducing new features regularly, its apps still miss several of the useful features that Microsoft provides. 

While there are too many features to compare and list, let’s look at a few that stand out in Microsoft’s applications that are either limited or not available in Google’s.

Microsoft Word versus Google Docs

Video insertion feature: If you create more than simple essays or articles, you’ll appreciate the option to easily insert videos into your Word documents. You can add a video from your computer, the stock collection, or an online source like YouTube. Docs lacks the ability to insert a video. 

Multiple viewing options: When you have a lengthy document, Word offers helpful ways to view that document. You can use vertical or side-to-side views and see multiple pages at once. You can also type, add, rearrange, cut, copy, and paste while using the multiple page view.

Mail merge, labels, and envelopes: As a full-featured word processor, Microsoft Word also gives you a mail merge feature (and helpful wizard tool) that you can use for physical pieces as well as emails. Plus, you can set up and print labels and envelopes, and connect postage software if needed.

Microsoft Excel versus Google Sheets

Excel sheet with a table and chart.

Data visualization options: For displaying data graphically, Excel offers many chart types that Sheets does not such as sunburst, funnel, surface, stock, and combo. In addition, you can create a chart template in Excel that you can save and reuse.

Tables, tables, tables: With Excel, you can easily convert data to a table which allows you to filter, sort, format, name for formula references, and manage as its own element within a sheet. Sheets does not offer a table feature, only a table chart which is limited in features.

What-if analysis tools: When you have a result you want to accomplish but aren’t sure of the best way to get there, you can use Excel’s What-If Analysis tools. With the Goal Seek, Scenario Manager, and Data Table features, you can easily see what you need to reach your financial goal.

Microsoft PowerPoint versus Google Slides

Summary slide in PowerPoint.

Audio and screen recording: You may want to narrate your presentation or capture your screen on a slide. In PowerPoint, you have both audio and screen recording options. Plus, Microsoft is implementing a live camera feed feature in the near future. Slides does not offer any recording options.

A summary slide: Like a table of contents in Word, a summary slide in PowerPoint contains images of slides you select that are directly linked. It’s more attractive than a textual table of contents in a visual presentation and makes navigating to other slides a breeze. Note: The feature is called Summary Zoom in PowerPoint.

Export options: Not every spot you want to present your slideshow can accommodate it. You might want to export your presentation as a video or even a GIF for a website or social media post. With PowerPoint, you can do this easily while Slides only offers image or document file types.

Overall features

Here are just a few additional features that Microsoft Office offers over Google’s suite.

  • Granular control over formatting for fonts, images, charts, and layouts.
  • A robust accessibility checker with recommendations and suggestions.
  • A large and versatile template collection for each application.

Offline access

Laptop on the beach from Pixabay.
Manueldesign20/Pixabay

No matter where you live or work, there’s bound to be a power or internet outage at some point. Because the Microsoft Office applications have desktop versions, that makes them the clear choice. Google’s applications are only available via the web. 

Knowing that you can work from anywhere, without an internet connection is also more attractive these days than it ever has been. Whether the beach, park, or a hotel that requires you to pay for internet, you can continue working with Microsoft Office’s desktop applications.

Familiarity

A diagram of different Microsoft Office screens.

One final reason for sticking with Microsoft Office over Google’s apps is familiarity. It’s hard to get around the fact that familiarity ultimately plays heavily into my continuing loyalty to Office. Microsoft Word debuted on Windows in 1989, and I’m one who’s been using it since the 90s. The interface has changed over time, but never too much to make me look at other options.

Being comfortable with the applications you use is important. You want tools that you don’t have to stop and think about. You can simply click here, click there, and continue working. Familiarity with Microsoft Office’s applications is a true benefit.

All of this being said, I do use Google’s free apps in certain situations. After all, the sharing is super simple, the integration with other Google services is a perk, and places I work with use these tools because of the ease of access and price tag.

However, even after all these years, no matter which computer platform I use, I’ll remain a loyal Microsoft Office user. Yes, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will continue to be my go-to productivity tools with Google’s apps as solid second choices.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

This desktop PC and monitor combo is perfect for a home office

It’s rare that one of the best desktop computer deals is also one of the best desktop monitor deals, but today that’s the case, as Best Buy has bundled the Dell Inspiron compact desktop computer with a Dell 24-inch LED monitor, and priced the package at just $700. That’s a combined savings of $240, with a savings of $150 coming from the computer and a $90 savings on the monitor. Any offer that lets you take home a desktop computer and an HD monitor home for just $700 is worth pouncing on, and you won’t be the only one trying to do so, so click over to Best Buy now to claim this awesome bundle.

Dell has been one of the biggest names in computing for a long time, and it’s with good reason. It brings great value to a computer purchase, and with its performance capabilities, cool modern design, and expandability options, the Dell Inspiron compact desktop easily fits the Dell mold. It has a six-core Intel i5 processor, 12GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive as it’s spec’d for this deal, but it has the option to add more RAM and even more internal storage should that ever appeal to you. It’s also expandable externally, as it is able to connect to many devices through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and able to connect to devices such as monitors and hard drives with its many connectivity ports. It also has a built-in media reader for easy photo and video transfer.

When it comes to putting the Dell Inspiron compact desktop computer to work, it pairs perfectly with the Dell S2421NX 24-inch LED monitor that’s bundled in this deal. This is a great monitor for creatives and anyone who just likes to spread out at their desk with a little screen real estate, but it’s also great for gamers, as it has an impressive 75Hz refresh rate and a 4-millisecond response time. It features AMD FreeSync technology, which synchronizes the frame rate output between your graphics card and monitor. This dynamic refresh rate eliminates tearing, stuttering, and jerkiness, making for smoother gameplay, or smoother playback of fast-paced action, whether that may be come in the form of watching movies or editing your own.

When it comes to the best desktop computers and the best monitors, it’s rare to find two great options bundled together at such a low price. But right now at Best Buy, the Dell Inspiron compact desktop computer comes with a 24-inch Dell LED monitor, and you can have them both for just $700. It’s a $240 combined savings, and it’s also good reason to click over to Best Buy now.

Editors’ Choice




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Security

China-linked hackers are exploiting a new vulnerability in Microsoft Office

A newly discovered vulnerability in Microsoft Office is already being exploited by hackers linked to the Chinese government, according to threat analysis research from security firm Proofpoint.

Details shared by Proofpoint on Twitter suggest that a hacking group labeled TA413 was using the vulnerability (named “Follina” by researchers) in malicious Word documents purported to be sent from the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government in exile based in Dharamsala, India. The TA413 group is an APT, or “advanced persistent threat,” actor believed to be linked to the Chinese government and has previously been observed targeting the Tibetan exile community.

In general, Chinese hackers have a history of using software security flaws to target Tibetans. A report published by Citizen Lab in 2019 documented extensive targeting of Tibetan political figures with spyware, including through Android browser exploits and malicious links sent through WhatsApp. Browser extensions have also been weaponized for the purpose, with previous analysis from Proofpoint uncovering the use of a malicious Firefox add-on to spy on Tibetan activists.

The Microsoft Word vulnerability first began to receive widespread attention on May 27th, when a security research group known as Nao Sec took to Twitter to discuss a sample submitted to the online malware scanning service VirusTotal. Nao Sec’s tweet flagged the malicious code as being delivered through Microsoft Word documents, which were ultimately used to execute commands through PowerShell, a powerful system administration tool for Windows.

In a blog post published on May 29th, researcher Kevin Beaumont shared further details of the vulnerability. Per Beaumont’s analysis, the vulnerability let a maliciously crafted Word document load HTML files from a remote webserver and then execute PowerShell commands by hijacking the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT), a program that usually collects information about crashes and other problems with Microsoft applications.

Microsoft has now acknowledged the vulnerability, officially titled CVE-2022-30190, although there are reports that earlier attempts to notify Microsoft of the same bug were dismissed.

According to Microsoft’s own security response blog, an attacker able to exploit the vulnerability could install programs, access, modify, or delete data, and even create new user accounts on a compromised system. So far, Microsoft has not issued an official patch but offered mitigation measures for the vulnerability that involve manually disabling the URL loading feature of the MSDT tool.

Due to the widespread use of Microsoft Office and related products, the potential attack surface for the vulnerability is large. Current analysis suggests that Follina affects Office 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021, Office ProPlus, and Office 365; and, as of Tuesday, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency was urging system administrators to implement Microsoft’s guidance for mitigating exploitation.



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Computing

Microsoft Office Black Friday Deal 2021: Cheapest Price Today

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Computers and TVs aren’t the only thing on sale during the holiday shopping season — you can also pick up in-demand software like a Microsoft Office Black Friday deal. After all, what good is your new office computer if you don’t have the programs to take full advantage of it? All over major retailers such as Amazon, you’ll find the best Black Friday deals for office programs, creative editing tools, and video games. If you plan to make a computer upgrade around this time of the year, definitely consider picking up some installers for essential software as well.

Microsoft Office Black Friday Deal: Cheapest price today

If there’s one software suite that most students, professionals, and small-business owners can’t live without, it’s Microsoft Office. This pack of office programs is indispensable for most computer users — but the recurring license to the subscription-based Office 365 can be pretty pricey. Lucky for you, you can pick up a lifetime license of Microsoft Office Home & Student right now on Amazon for just $125, which is a $25 discount on the original price of $150. That’s a steal for permanent access to these programs. It’s compatible with both Windows and Mac, too!

Microsoft Office Home & Student 2021 is a lifetime purchase software suite that contains the latest versions of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Even though Microsoft Office and Google Docs have similar functionality, Office remains the best productivity suite available on a computer. While Microsoft has largely moved to a subscription-based model for its Office programs, the lifetime access key can save you tons of money in the long run, especially with this discount. You can install it permanently on any single device running Windows or macOS.

This is an especially great deal if you’re a small-business owner, a self-employed professional, or a student. The newest version of Word comes with tons of sleek templates for formal letters, resumes, and brochures that help make your documents look clean and modern. There’s also a fully-featured PowerPoint, with templates designed for any use case, from class projects to pitches with business partners. The installation and activation process is easy and painless, and if you run into any issues, you get 60 days of Microsoft support included.

No matter what you do with your computer, everyone should have Office installed. If you’re looking to be more productive, you can get this lifetime license to Microsoft Office Home & Student 2021 right now on Amazon for just $125. That’s $25, or 17%, off the original price of $150. Hit the “Buy Now” button to pick up an installer and get your shiny new Microsoft Office apps running right away!

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Choice




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AI

VergeSense secures $60M to help businesses monitor office usage during the pandemic

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VergeSense, a San Francisco, California-based company developing technologies to track physical office usage, today announced that it raised $60 million in a series C round led by Scale Venture Partners. According to CEO Dan Ryan, the proceeds will be used to help support R&D and growth as VergeSense looks to expand its international customer base.

As some workers return to the office, often in hybrid work arrangements, a growing number of companies are investing in technologies to monitor office space usage for health and logistics reasons. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, most executives (68%) believe that people should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain “a distinctive company culture” — at least once the pandemic is no longer a concern. But as analysts at McKinsey note, organizations will need to reimagine and redesign their existing spaces now to meet pandemic-era needs, like managing which employees can come into the office, when they can enter and take their places, how often the office is cleaned, and whether the airflow is sufficient.

Founded in 2017 by Ryan and Kelby Green, VergeSense leverages AI including computer vision to help businesses understand how their office spaces are being used. The startup’s “sensor-as-a-system” platform consists of sensor hardware coupled with a cloud platform for pretraining machine learning models that run on the hardware, process data, and report occupancy metrics back to VergeSense’s cloud.

Building analytics

VergeSense collects data via wired and battery-powered wireless optical sensors that count people and recognize objects, using a passive infrared sensor to detect motion. A convolutional neural network and “several patented deep learning algorithms,” all running on-sensor, spot people and objects like bags, chairs, laptops, coats, and more.

VergeSense

Above: One of VergeSense’s tracking sensors.

The sensors create a mesh network to communicate with each other and feed data to workplace management systems, space reservation systems, and other digital workplace tools. VergeSense’s software provides a view into office utilization across campuses, buildings, floors, rooms, and individual desks, helping employees find and reserve an available seat in real time.

VergeSense says that it collects millions of data points across over 40 million square feet in more than 29 countries every day.

In response to questions about how VergeSense preserves the privacy of the workers that its sensors track, the company says that it processes only low-resolution imagery from the sensors and doesn’t capture any personally identifiable information. Raw data captures are destroyed on-device, and metadata is based on an assigned number as opposed to tied to “geographically identifiable information.”

Space management

Rent, capital costs, facilities operations, maintenance, and management make real estate the largest cost category outside of compensation for many organizations. According to McKinsey, real estate often amounts to 10% to 20% of total personnel-driven expenditures.

VergeSense pitches its platform as a way to make sure office resources are being used effectively by collecting data on movement of people throughout spaces, where people are congregating, and the condition of each space. With vacancy rates expected to climb over the next two to five years — Morgan Stanley forecasts that rates in New York will reach 10% to 12% — it’s VergeSense’s assertion that companies will need to make data-driven decisions about how to use a mix of owned spaces, standard leases, flexible leases, flex spaces, and co-working spaces.

VergeSense

Above: A screenshot from the VergeSense dashboard.

Of course, VergeSense isn’t the only company vying for a slice of the nascent office analytics market. London-based OpenSensors is developing technology that measures air quality and space occupancy, tapping sensors that can be placed on desks to monitor motion and heat. Infogrid offers similar AI-powered, usage-tracking sensor and software technologies, as does Kleiner Perkins-backed Density.

But VergeSense has managed to secure several high-profile clients including Quicken Loans, Cisco, BP, Fresenius, RBC, Rapid7, and Autodesk. The startup recently inked an agreement with JLL, a commercial real estate services company in the U.K., to resell VergeSense solutions to JLL’s customers. And in September, VergeSense reported that annual recurring revenue grew 400% from Q2 2020 to Q2 2021.

“When the hybrid work model hit its stride, we were standing ready to assist with the data organizations need to power a frictionless digital workplace. Our rapid growth means faster product innovation to address timely hybrid work use cases,” Ran said in a statement. “We are energized to grow our footprint and expand our offering to serve our customers both now and well into the future.”

To date, VergeSense has raised over $82 million in venture capital.

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Computing

Amazon is Having a FLASH SALE on Microsoft Office Today

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Microsoft Office: You know it, you use it, you need it. The world’s most ubiquitous software for getting stuff done is available at a discounted price during this Flash Sale going on at Amazon today. Some of the best Black Friday deals are already kicking off, and as expected Amazon is leading the retail industry with major markdowns happening now. Right now, you can get a 12-month subscription to Microsoft 365 Personal for $59, a one-time download of Microsoft Office Home and Student for just $125, or the deluxe Microsoft Office Home and Business 2021 for $220. Whether you’re using Word to write your novel, Excel to track your small business earnings, or Teams and Outlook to manage your employees, the Microsoft Office suite of programs is essential to everything you want to do. Check out these Amazon Black Friday deals for more savings on the tech you need.

Microsoft 365 Personal 12-Month Subscription — $59 per year

If you’re looking for the Microsoft Office Suite for yourself, then this budget-friendly version is perfect. Available through Amazon, this is a download that comes with a 12-month subscription to all of the Microsoft apps you need for your home, education, and business needs. For just $59, you’ll get access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more. This subscription will auto-renew, so you don’t have to worry about losing access to your documents during a lapse. Built-in security features help protect your data and information. Use your Microsoft apps across your devices, including your phone, iPad, laptop, and others.

Buy Now

Microsoft Office Home and Student 2021 — $125, was $150

Microsoft Office home and student apps and options.

Got more to do than the average user? You’ll want to check out the next tier up for Office users. Right now, you can get the one-time download of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2021 for just $125, marked down $25 from its regular price of $150. This download includes a download to one PC or Mac computer and provides the user access to all of Microsoft’s best products for small businesses, homeowners, and students alike. If you fall into more than one of those categories, even better. There’s nothing like having all of the tools you need together in one place and compatible with each other. Whether you’re accessing your apps from your smartphone, laptop, or tablet, you’ll be able to create documents, spreadsheets, and more to manage everything in your life.

Buy Now

Microsoft Office Home and Business 2021 — $220, was $250

Microsoft office home and business 2021 cover and options.

If your business is growing, you know that you need the right tools to stay on top of things and keep succeeding. Microsoft Office for Home and Business is one of the best software programs out there to help you keep everything organized and flowing smoothly. On sale right now at Amazon for just $219, you’ll save $30 off the regular price of $250 when you get it today. This is a one-time download for a single PC or Mac, so you’ll need to purchase multiple copies if you plan on installing them on multiple machines. You’ll get access to all of the essential apps for managing your home and business, including the 2021 versions of PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and Word. Use the Microsoft Office Suite to plan your monthly budget and weekly meals, track your business earnings, create invoices and documents, prepare presentations, and more.

Buy Now

More Microsoft Office deals

Looking for something a little different? There are even more great Microsoft Office deals going on today. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones for you below.


Have a busy family, or just need several copies of Microsoft 365 for your office? This 365 package gets you digital keys for up to 6 people for 12 months. Works with both PC and Mac.

more


Lifetime activation key for Microsoft Office Home & Business 2021 for Windows 10. Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

more


Pair your Microsoft 365 with virus and VPN protection while saving some cash with this Nortion 360 bundle deal.

more


If you want a basic Microsoft Office 2021 suite, this is the best price going right now on the latest version of core Office apps including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

more


Packed with all the classic apps for professionals, the Microsoft Office Professional 2019 also comes with access to Outlook, Publisher, and Access for one PC.

more


This Microsoft 365 Family bundle doesn’t just give you Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more, it also keeps you covered from viruses and malware with AVG Internet Security 2021.

more

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

HP Envy Inspire 7900e Review: A Versatile Office Printer

“The HP Envy Inspire is an excellent home office printer for the hybrid work world.”

Pros

  • Strong photo-printing performance
  • New Quiet Mode for near-silent printing
  • Companion app packed with features
  • Versatile workhorse for home office or home use
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Boxy shape is uninspiring in the home
  • No USB port for printing from flash drives

A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable to think that we would still be as reliant on the printed document as we are today. But the reality of remote work changed that.

HP’s new Envy Inspire series has the distinction of being the first printer that was designed by engineers living under quarantine for everyone who has to live, study, and work from home during the pandemic. Printers have experienced a newfound renaissance in our workflows, and the HP Envy Inspire 7900e is a printer that feels like it was created with that reality in mind.

It comes with some helpful features to keep us productive as the world looks forward to transitioning to a hybrid work environment when things return to normal.

Design

Unlike HP’s Tango series, which was designed to blend in with your home, the new Envy Inspire doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a printer with a scanner attached to it. The Envy Inspire comes in two models: The Envy Inspire 7200e is the more compact iteration with a flatbed scanner on top, while the more premium Envy Inspire 7900e, the model we received for review and the one that’s launching first, comes with an automatic document feeder (ADF) with duplexing capabilities.

Each is available in a number of colors, including a green-hued Everglades, purple-toned Thistle, cyan Surf Blue, and a neutral Portobello. Regardless of which you choose, this looks like a printer– no doubt about it.

HP's Envy Inspire 7900e comes in one of four colors.

The colors are applied as accents to provide a pop of color to an otherwise boring off-white box, and on our 7900e, we found the Portobello on the ADF and on the paper tray.

Measuring 18.11 x 20.5 x 9.17 inches, the 7900e is a utilitarian home office workhorse, with an ADF on top and a front-loading paper tray. The more compact 7200e could pass for a modern and boxy version of HP’s Envy 6055, while the 7900e series draws from HP’s OfficeJet Pro series for its inspiration.

Like most modern printers, both new Envy Inspire models come with a built-in 2.7-inch color touchscreen to access printer settings and shortcuts.

Because the Envy Inspire is mostly geared toward home users — families and students — and small home office workers, the paper tray is a bit small for the capabilities of this printer. On the front and toward the bottom of the printer, you’ll find a 125-sheet paper tray. This is more than double the 50-sheet input tray on the Tango X, but the paper tray leaves a lot to be desired for small office environments. Most home office printers start at around 200 sheets for the paper input tray, and the HP OfficeJet Pro 9025e comes with a 500 sheet tray. This means that for every time you replace the paper in the input try on the Office Jet Pro, you’ll have to do that four times on the Envy Inspire. Given that the Envy Inspire isn’t a compact printer to start with, we’d have loved to see HP increase the device’s overall height slightly to accommodate a larger input tray.

The new Quiet Mode reduces noise by 40% while it’s printing.

A new innovation, and one that’s appreciated, is that the photo printer tray slots directly into the paper tray as a modular add-on above where you’ll load standard 8.5 x 11-inch sheets. The photo tray can accommodate borderless prints in standard 4 x 6-, square 5 x 5-, or panoramic 4 x 12-inch sizes.

Traditionally on most printers, the photo tray is located on top of the paper tray but on the exterior. Relocating the photo tray to the interior helps to prevent dust buildup, especially if you aren’t printing pictures regularly.

Photo tray of HP Envy Inspire.

The biggest design change — and one that you can’t visually see — on the new Envy Inspire is a new printing mode. A new Quiet Mode reduces noise by 40% by using smart algorithms to slow down the printing process for a more quiet experience. The mode was developed during quarantine by HP engineers who found themselves disturbed by loud printer noises while on conference calls — a drawback of having to share office space with children who needed to print homework assignments.

HP claims it has combined the best features from its Tango, OfficeJet, and Envy line to create the Envy Inspire.

“We built what we think is the best printer, for families to work, learn, and create — really to get things done, no matter what life has in store,” Jeff Walter, HP director of strategy and product marketing, told Digital Trends. “Whatever you need to create, we can help families do that.”

Walter added that the Envy Inspire is a product that combines HP’s best writing systems from the OfficeJet Pros, the best photo capabilities, and the best app features from its HP Smart app.

Performance

An app is required to setup HP's Envy Inspire.

The Envy Inspire wasn’t built for speed. Unlike office printers, home users aren’t queuing up around the printer to retrieve their documents. Still, the Envy Inspire is a robust printer capable of delivering speeds up to 15 pages per minute (ppm) in color and black-and-white, with the first page ready in as fast as 18 seconds.

Print resolution is up to 1200 x 1200 dots per inch( dpi) for monochrome pages and 4800 x 1200 dpi for color prints and photos. Print speeds here were just shy of the 24ppm output on the HP OfficeJet Pro 9025e, which is one of the best printers on our list this year. Compared to the slightly older HP OfficeJet Pro 8025’s 10ppm color speed, the Envy Inspire’s speed was no slouch.

To put the speeds into perspective, the Envy Inspire’s boxier build houses internals that allow it to print at speeds much faster than cuter, more design-centric home printers. The HP Tango X, another highly ranked printer, tops out at around 10ppm monochrome and 8ppm for color jobs, roughly half the speed of the Envy Inspire.

Page per minute is only half of the print speed equation, with the second half being how fast the first page can be ready. In my experience, I found that the first page was ready in just over 15 seconds, and HP’s print speed claims were largely accurate, with speeds hovering between 12 ppm and 16 ppm. Printed text appeared crisp and was legible even in small fonts.

Color prints were similarly sharp. Photos printed to Epson’s glossy photo paper appeared sharp, and the quality — sharpness, tones, and dynamic range — rendered by HP’s Envy Inspire rivaled prints created from online photo service Shutterfly. Shutterfly’s prints appeared slightly warmer compared to HP’s photo print rendering. And like Shutterfly, HP’s mobile app gives you access to a variety of different templates to create posters, greeting cards, invitations, and other printable content.

HP's Smart app for printing from mobile. I cannot comment to how HP’s photo capabilities will be on HP photo printing paper, as none was supplied for this review. In general, most printer manufacturers recommend you pair their printer with their branded photo paper for the best results. HP stated that the new ink technology on the Envy Inspire delivers a 40% wider color gamut and new ink technologies to render true-to-life photographs.

HP claimed that when printing to 4 x 6, 5 x 5, or 4 x 12 paper, the printer will be smart enough to choose the photo paper tray — rather than the standard letter-sized paper tray — for printing. I didn’t get to test this feature, as I didn’t have photo paper in these sizes to test.

Though it’s admirable that HP is promoting its cloud-based approach to printing, the setup of the Envy Inspire could have been more simple. Out of the box, you’ll need to download the HP Smart app and follow the prompts to begin printer setup before you can print or make copies. The app will guide you in connecting to the printer’s ad-hoc Wi-Fi network so you can then connect to your home or office Wi-Fi network. After the printer connects, it will take a few minutes for the printer to update its firmware.

This means that unlike a traditional printer, not only is the overall process a bit involved, but you’ll actually have to use HP’s dictated process before you can do anything with your printer.

Unlike dedicated photo printers, the Envy Inspire doesn’t have separate cartridges for color ink. Instead, the printer is powered by two ink cartridges — a black one, and a combination cartridge with three ink colors for cyan, magenta, and yellow.

Both cartridges — and paper — need to be installed for you to begin setting up the printer, so we recommend you do this right after the printer is taken out of the box and all protective tape is removed — and there’s plenty of it!

The ADF on the top of the Envy Inspire 7900e can scan up to 50 pages at a time and handle up to 8.5 x 14-inch paper, while the flatbed can handle 8.5 x 11.7-inch sheets. Scanning resolution is set at 1200 x 1200 dpi, and scan speeds are at about 8 ppm. In addition to using the hardware for scans, you can also use your smartphone’s camera as a scanner with HP’s companion mobile app, which is available on both Android and iOS smartphones.

Duplex scanning, copying, and printing can be done on this printer, which will help you save paper if needed. If you’re worried about conserving ink, you can set the printer to print in draft mode. This mode will produce lighter prints, but you’ll use less ink and gain faster print speeds.

The nice thing about the Envy Inspire is that it comes with more advanced capabilities to simplify your document workflow, making it feel like a more capable office printer. You can set up custom shortcuts to simplify what you need the printer to do. For example, small businesses with more involved bookkeeping needs can program a shortcut to make a physical copy and upload a digital copy of a document to a cloud service like Google Drive or QuickBooks whenever they scan a receipt or invoice. In addition to saving documents to the cloud, you can also configure shortcuts to email you the scans.

Other useful features include the ability to create Printables, which are photo cards and invitations from templates. These are great for crafting or for sending a birthday card, for example, if you forgot to pick one up from the grocery store.

Another app feature is the ability to use the app to send a mobile fax. HP includes a trial of its mobile faxing service, and you can configure it to send a digital fax from the app. The Envy Inspire doesn’t include faxing capabilities natively, and this could be a useful feature for when you need to generate a fax.

I really appreciated HP’s new Quiet Mode, which reduces noise levels by about 40% by slowing down the print speed by approximately 50%.

“As we developed it, it was really interesting, … because we developed [Quiet Mode] during a time we also personally experienced,” Walter said. “So now if you’re working from home, and there’s multiple people in the house using the printer, you can, for example, schedule Quiet Mode from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when you might be on Zoom calls, and have the printer print 40% Quieter during those times.”

HP's new Quiet Mode

Because I don’t need a printer to be a speed champion at home, I generally have Quiet Mode always enabled, rather than scheduled for the working day, as there is a perceivable difference in the level of noise generated by the system.

“What we do is we essentially slow a lot of things down, and we try and optimize around this adjustment for how we could cut the noise roughly in half,” Walter explained. “And so we end up slowing it down by about 50%. There’s things like, you know, how fast is the paper turning? How fast is the cartridge going back and forth? And all those things create different decibel levels. And so some things are slowing down more than others, some are being adjusted more than others, and so we just tweaked everything.”

The Envy Inspire’s double-sided photo printing is a great addition.

The company explained that the print quality isn’t affected by Quiet Mode, which I found to be accurate.

For home users looking to print photos or work on scrapbooking projects while in lockdown, the Envy Inspire’s double-sided photo printing is a great addition. Not only does the Envy print gorgeous photographs, but it can extract the exchangeable image file format data from your smartphone’s camera to print the location from the geotag, the date, and the time on the back of the photo. This makes it easy to remember when the memory was created. You can also add your own personal note — like “Grandma’s 80th birthday” — as a caption.

For the time being, the duplex photo printing capability — with date, location, and timestamp — is limited to the mobile app, but the company is working on bringing it to its desktop software in the future. The reason for launching the feature on mobile first is that most of our photos are already on our smartphones, HP said.

The Envy Inspire is designed to work with PC and Macs, as well as Android and iOS devices. In addition, HP also worked with Google to make the Envy Inspire the first printer certified for Chromebooks.

“We also thought about all the devices that are going to be in the home,” Walter said. “So as more and more kids are doing schoolwork or technology is becoming more and more important for students, what we did is we work with Google, who has a certification program for Chromebooks. And we made sure that HP Envy Inspire is HP’s first printer that’s going to be certified to work with Chromebooks.”

Our take

The HP Envy Inspire joins HP’s printing universe as a capable printer for all your home, crafting, and work projects. With the Envy Inspire, HP has not only delivered on its promise to bring together the best inkjet technologies into a single printer, but it also created a tool with features that may prove to be helpful as more people work from home during the pandemic, including a Quiet Mode and strong photo capabilities.

Is there a better alternative?

HP’s Envy Inspire utilizes inkjet printing technology, and the company claims that it combines the best features from the Tango, Envy, and OfficeJet Pro lines. Suitable inkjet alternatives include the HP Tango series. Be sure to view our recommendations for the top inkjet printers.

If you need a faster printer to handle documents, HP’s OfficeJet Pro 9025e is a terrific alternative. For budget-conscious shoppers who are worried about the price of ink, refillable tank printers, like Epson’s EcoTank ET3830 will reduce your long-term ownership cost with cheaper, refillable ink tanks.

How long will it last?

HP’s printer is backed by a one-year limited hardware warranty that can be extended to two years. The printer benefits from periodic software updates to help it stay secure and potentially even gain new features over time through the HP Smart printing app.

Printers aren’t designed for annual or biennial upgrades like smartphones, and the HP Envy Inspire should last for many years provided you continue to supply it with fresh ink and paper. The company offers a subscription ink service that makes replenishing ink simple, but it doesn’t offer the same for paper. Having a combination subscription for replenishing ink and photo paper would make this an excellent printer for the craft room, home historians, and budding photographers.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re looking for a home printer that can print, scan, and copy, the HP Envy Inspire is an excellent choice. Unlike Envy printers before it, the Envy Inspire doesn’t reinvent the printer design. Instead, HP plays up the utilitarian aesthetics of this printer to deliver a solid, all-around workhorse that will fit nicely into your home or home office workflow.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Razer’s $399 Enki is better than most office chairs, period

In the past decade we’ve seen the tag “gamer” used increasingly as a lifestyle sales pitch. Sure, you can buy gaming headsets and gaming mice and gaming keyboards, but there are also gamer hoodies and gamer drinks and even gamer furniture. Chairs made especially for playing have been proliferating over the past few years and until now, they’ve tended to be overpriced and ostentatious. Razer’s new Enki chair is still a bit over the top, but at least it’s a more affordable over the top, starting at $299.

To build the Enki, Razer called in ergonomics experts, paying attention not just to lumbar support, but also to how test subjects sat on the bottom cushion. The 21-inch-wide seat is shaped to distribute your weight more evenly, so you can sit for hours without getting a sore ass. They even considered the needs of those who like to sit in more unusual positions, like a half- or full-lotus. As someone who often sits cross-legged in my chair, I am grateful for the extra space and support.

Gallery: Razer Enki gaming chair | 7 Photos

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the chair is how far back it can lean. It’s not quite 180 degrees, but 152 degrees is still pretty good — the kind of angle you might only see on an airliner’s international business class. It’s the kind of chair you can fall asleep in. It seems precarious but in use, the chair held my weight well when I opened it to its max. It didn’t feel too top heavy, like it would fall backward, but it felt a bit unnatural due to the lack of a footrest. But let’s be honest, you really should just retire to your couch or bed when you need a proper snooze. This is good for when you need a bit of a stretch between Overwatch matches or Zoom meetings.

Razer Enki from rear

Kris Naudus / Engadget

My one nitpick besides the lack of a footrest is the head pillow, which is only included with a more expensive $399 package. It’s a nice shape and the fabric feels good to the touch, but it’s also not very adjustable. It has to be strapped on around the moon-shaped cut out toward the top of the seat, which means the height is non-negotiable. I found it ended up in that limbo between my head and neck, where it just jutted out and supported neither of them. I found it incredibly uncomfortable and ended up tearing it off. However, it also felt weird to not have something supporting my head in this chair. I can only hope that Razer ends up offering more options for users of different heights.

The headrest on the Razer Enki, it sucks

Kris Naudus / Engadget

Aside from that, it’s a very good chair offered at a very good price — other chairs from Secretlab or Logitech might cost hundreds more, and a good non-gaming office chair can easily go above $1,000. And, while some might find it silly to buy a “gaming” chair, there’s no rule this has to be used only for gaming. You can use the chair for work, meetings and anything else. It’s not gaudy in any way that would draw attention on a video call, as Razer eschewed its usual use of lime green highlights.

In the end, it’s just a chair. A nice, comfortable chair that you can buy directly from Razer or various retailers starting today, for $299 for the Enki X or the $399 Enki that includes the head pillow, a more reactive seat tilt and an armrest adjustable in four directions. With all the time you’ve been spending in front of the computer lately, you should make it a little nicer.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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