On its face, Google Cloud Print is a grand idea: print pages, documents, and emails to your home or office printer, wherever you are, from whatever computer, device, or web browser you have handy.
In reality: your printer is probably old. Even if it is somewhat new, and wireless, it is probably not one of the Cloud-Print-supported printers. Google has a link and an option for adding a "classic printer", but that involves (not kidding) leaving a regular computer constantly running.
There is a solution, one that I have tested (see note at bottom of post regarding testing). The Lantronix xPrintServer Cloud Edition can turn many, many wireless and USB printers into Cloud-Print-ready printers. You can check to see if your office or home printer is on the Lantronix list. If your printer is wireless-capable, you don't need to plug in the little xPrintServer: just connected it by ethernet cable to the same router that serves that printer.
The really short answer to "So, should I buy this?" is "How much is Google Cloud Print worth to you?" It will almost certainly work, but at $150 from Lantronix (and about the same on Amazon), it's certainly not going to be worth it for everyone. $150 is a good deal less than the cheapest laser printers you'll find on Google's Cloud-Print-ready list, but it's no small chunk of change. And it's also worth noting that Lantronix makes other, less costly versions of its xPrintServer for iOS, Office, and more standard USB-to-wireless uses.
But let's say that printing to your home printer from a Chromebook, an Android phone, any Chrome browser, or pretty much any browser, anywhere in the web-connected world, is worth it to you. What's it like to set up the xPrintServer? It is like 5 minutes with a phone or a computer in front of you.
- Take the xPrintServer out of its box, along with the ethernet cable and power cord.
- Plug in the xPrintServer for power near your router. Plug the ethernet cord into your router and the xPrintServer.
- Give the device about 30 seconds to boot up and connect, then either scan the QR code on the device with your phone, or follow the instructions in the quick setup guide to find the device via browser.
- Authorize the xPrintServer itself as a Google Cloud Print printer.
- Print a test page.
That's really it. There are more complicated setups some people will have to deal with, if there are multiple routers or certain kinds of security. But for the most part, you just need a router, a wall plug, and a Google password. You can now print documents a few different ways:
- From your Android phone, usually through the "Print" option on relevant apps, or through Chrome mobile.
- From your iOS device, using either Chrome or a work-around app like iCloudPrint.
- From Chrome itself, using the "Print" dialog.
- From Cloud-Print-connected webapps, like Google Drive.
- By straight uploading a document to your Google Cloud Print control panel.
If you have the money to spend (see note at bottom), or get lucky with an eBay buy, the xPrintServer Cloud Print Edition is a pretty handy thing to have around. Print your stuff whenever you feel like it, wherever you are–without having to leave a freaking computer running all day.
Or you can just see if Chicken.pdf will print from your phone while in line for lunch.
Note: Lantronix provided me with a review unit of the xPrintServer Cloud Print Edition for testing/setup purposes. But I told you how much it costs, and hope you don't just buy things without thinking about the cost and benefit.