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Improvements in IT technology now filter down from top of the range to budget models in only a few months. Nowhere is this more obvious than with printers and All-in-One devices, where last year’s cunning innovations are this year’s mainstream features. Just to prove this point, HP has released the PSC 1610, a sub-£100 All-in-One aimed at the home user and digital photographer, which includes most of the goodies reserved last year for machines costing over twice as much.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first; the PSC 1610 doesn't have a colour LCD display for viewing your photos. It would be pretty surprising if it did, given the price point, but it does have a two-line, alphanumeric LCD with, praise be, a backlight. This makes it very easy to read and with HP's well-designed menu system, the device is very easy to control.
The machine has a conventional design and looks much like several earlier PSC models. The main difference is that it's smaller and its paper trays fold neatly out of the way when it's not in use. This is ideal for the person who only prints or copies occasionally. Paper feeds from the tray at the front and ejects directly on top of the input pile, with no separate output tray.
In between, each page is printed on by twin ink cartridges, one black and the other tri-colour. For top-quality photos, you can replace the black cartridge with a three-colour photo one. Cartridges are easy to fit, as the top section of the PSC 1610 hinges up for access. The device includes a reader for all the common memory card types and a direct connection for PictBridge cameras.
On top of the print engine is an A4 scanner flatbed and to the right of this is a comprehensive set of control buttons, including extras for selecting photos and printing a proof sheet. HP's proofing technique, which enables you to select which images from a camera or memory card to print by colouring in ovals on a proof sheet, has still to be beaten for intuitive simplicity. It goes some way to balance the lack of a preview LCD.
There's over 750MB of software on the supplied CD, most of which is HP's ImageZone suite. It includes image editing applications, photo management, HP Director and HP Quick Prints. There's also a copy of Read IRIS, for recognising text.
The printer driver includes most of the bells and whistles you would expect, including watermarks and imposition of multiple pages on each sheet. There's good control of photo image quality, with separate sliders and a preview thumbnail for contrast, focus, sharpness and smoothing, as well as effects like red-eye removal and digital fill-in flash.