Greyscale prints are excellent too, from the depths of a slate quarry to the heights of a snowfield. The additional shades of grey provide extra detail in shadows, which are often missed in other prints, including those from HP machines with fewer inks. While we would still stop short of calling them studio quality, they’re certainly up to proofing duties and pretty amazing from a consumer printer at this price.
Speed isn’t as much of an issue with a photo printer as with a general-purpose one, but the results we obtained show this machine to be reasonably quick. Printing standard black text, using a black cartridge as a replacement for the photo black – a caddie is supplied so the cartridge not in situ doesn't dry out – produced a five page document in 56 seconds, or around 5.5 pages per minute. A 5 x 3in photo reproduced in just under two minutes.
On a six or eight-colour printer, running costs are hard to calculate, particularly when the extra inks – photo colours and/or photo greys in this case – are not used as heavily as the black and the primary colours. Actual usage depends on the type of photos you print; the photo inks are intended to improve light tones, like flesh tints and sky shots. If you mainly print images of steam engines emerging from tunnels, you won’t use much photo ink when you print your pictures.
Therefore, we based our black print costs on the price of the black ink cartridge, plus 20 per cent of the tri-colour, as the Photosmart 8450 lays down colours under black to improve its opacity. For colour prints, we priced the tri-colour and black cartridges and added an arbitrary 50 per cent of the photo cartridge cost for highlights.
We were disappointed that this printer didn’t achieve either its black or colour ink-yield claims, falling short by over 100 pages in each case. HP used to be very conservative in its estimates, but its new print cartridges don’t hold as much ink as the previous generation and, even with the same test pages, we can’t achieve the usage HP does. Even so, the printer produced a text cost of 3.4p per five per cent black page. It isn’t the cheapest you can go, but is fair for the quality of print, and the figure of 33.3p for a 20 per cent colour page with photo highlights is also reasonable.
Aside from having to replace ink cartridges more often than you might have expected, there’s very little to fault with this printer. It’s easy to use, versatile, and produces results which really are out of the ordinary.