Pros: Simple print server, no web interface, works with windows mac and linux
Cons: A bit fiddly to set up
1) No silly proprietary software.
2) Works with all operating system.
3) Web based interface.
The search took me through various manufacturers who frustratingly fail to grasp the concept of hassle free USB over LAN. That was until I dropped on the Apple Airport Express.
Ok, I did some research and it didn't fit two criteria, but it was interesting enough to look further into and I took the plunge and bought one. It came in the usual Apple packaging which is very presentable and slick. The actual device is so simple, just a white box with a LAN port, USB port, a speaker port and a reset button, and on the top side the LED indicator. It comes with the standard plug adaptor, which in my case was the 3 pin UK one, which is big, but has a fuse in it. You can get a lead, like with the notebook power packs, which can make it more accessible under certain 'room constraints'. The plug is for power only, it is not a LAN over power device. It also came packaged with a CD containing the Airport Express software for MAC and PC (silly proprietary software, but read on) which is only necessary for the system you wish to set the device up with. And also the usual instructions, which for a novice, I think would struggle, but for me, pretty straightforward.
For me the way it is setup, will be different to others, but it goes like this - Airport Express cabled to switch- switch cabled to LAN over power - LAN over power connected to router.. Set up was easy, synchronised and worked straight away, indicated by the solid green light. Next I loaded the software onto my Mac book and entered the device, setting a password and setting the wifi up. My Iphone connected straight away. Finally I added the printer (Samsung SCX-4200), it picked it up and I had to download the drivers from the Samsung website. Ran a test print once the printer installed, voila, perfect print out.
Then I moved to my Ubuntu Linux system. I added a network printer in the printing application and it found it straight away. I selected the printer, it installed, so I ran a test print and again a perfect print out.
Then the fun began - Microsoft Windows 7. I installed the management software, but could not get the printer to marry up even though the Airport Express unit appeared immediately. So with a little help from the Apple forums, I downloaded and installed the 'Bonjour Printing driver'. The printer installed , but put the wrong driver in, but easily sorted by clicking the 'New Driver' button and selecting my SCX-4200 from the list. Printed a test page and it came out fine. After that was worked out, I installed it on the family members laptops and it was a breeze.
Overall, if you are not sure about networking, it can be fiddly to set up, with a bit of thought it is doable for the novice. It was annoying in the instructions not saying about the Bonjour printer driver for windows. However the big plus is it has worked on all platforms so far - windows, Mac and Linux - for me that was the biggest result. One note though, only ten devices can connect to it wirelessly so if you are thinking about an office environment, you may need more than one. And I have yet to try speakers through it yet, but I am not an audiophile, so that can wait.