Summary

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8/10

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There’s a lot new in HP’s Photosmart 8250, most gathered under the umbrella heading of Scaleable Printing Technology (SPT). This is quite a break from tradition for HP, at least for its home and SME printers, as the 8250 uses six separate ink cartridges, which aren’t built into a replaceable print head.

HP has developed a single, massive (in printing terms) head, photolithographically etched from a silicon wafer and presenting no less than 3,900 ink nozzles. This means it can print very quickly, over a wide swathe of the paper. It feeds this head with ink from separate cartridges, in much the same way Epson and Canon do, but HP recirculates the ink, to help prevent bubbles forming. This way, it doesn’t have to purge the head by ‘spitting’ ink onto a sponge every so often.

Combined with SPT are Vivera inks, a new formulation which HP claims offers over 80 years fade resistance and almost instant drying, so there’s little worry about smearing, as one print lands on top of another in the output tray.

The Photosmart 8250 has pleasantly simple lines, without the wealth of buttons and lights seen on some of its rivals. A single row of buttons is augmented by a button wheel for menu navigation and a big blue indicator to show printing. At the extreme right there’s a memory card reader under a hinged cover, supporting CompactFlash, SD/MMC, MemoryStick and xD, but not SmartMedia – those with older cameras beware.

In traditional HP style, paper feeds from a tray at the front that can hold around 100 sheets and ejects on top of the tray. On the 8250, though, there’s a separate tray for 6 x 4-inch photo blanks, which can be filled at the same time as the A4 one. The printer draws the photo tray in when you specify 6 x 4 prints and ejects it again at the end of the job.

The SPT system links the new silicon head to six, separate ink tanks which are all mounted conveniently in a line under the hinged top cover of the printer. The cartridges are all coded, so each one only fits in its own position, and they snap into place with a minimum of fuss. The rest of the installation is the usual procedure: install the software, plug in a USB 2.0 cable and print.

HP claims phenomenal print speeds for this printer; just 14 seconds for a 6 x 4-inch print. The good news is that we produced one in nine seconds, but this is tempered by the fact that it was only in fast, draft mode on A4 plain paper. This may be good for a quick proof, but isn’t going to be what you give to your granny to show off the kids. When you switch to glossy paper or to 6 x 4-inch print blanks, the speed drops dramatically, though we still saw our test 5 x 3 print at best quality complete in 1 minute 19 seconds, which is respectable.

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