You might expect an All-in-One at this price to be pretty slow. In fact, though, printing black text pages is commendably quick. Our five-page text document completed in 56 seconds, giving a print speed of 5.4ppm. HP quotes print speeds up to 8.9ppm in normal mode, so this is actually closer to quoted speed than most printers.
Things are not quite so good with the colour text and graphics page, which took one minute 54 seconds to finish. Our measured 2.6ppm is not that close to the 5.3ppm claimed. Finally, a 15 x 10cm print took one minute 30 seconds when printing from a PC in top quality mode and five seconds longer when printing from an SD card. HP claims 49 seconds in normal mode and when we compared prints in both modes, there's little difference in quality. You should therefore stick to normal print mode, wherever possible.
Print quality is OK, though nothing special when printing colour on plain paper. There is some noticeable banding in coloured areas and dither patterns can also be seen. Black text print is well shaped, with little feathering, due to the use of pigment-based ink. Photo prints are clear and have plenty of detail in areas of shadow and smoother toning in coloured skies and seas.
There are two ink cartridges in the Photosmart C4280, but these are available in Standard and ‘XL' value versions, with the XL cartridges offering 3.5 times as many colour pages and five times as many black ones. Since the difference in price is just a few pounds, it pays to buy the XL consumables, unless your usage is very light.
Using XL consumables throughout and based on HPs published figures for print yield, which from our tests are pretty accurate, gives an ISO text page, black ink cost of 2.58p. This is good when measured against All-in-Ones from its main competitors, even when the asking prices of those machines are quite a bit higher.
Colour costs are also good at 6.07p per ISO page, so you're not paying extra for consumables, to offset the low asking price of the printer itself.
The Photosmart C4280 has a lot going for it. It's compact, easy-to-use, doesn't cost that much to run and produces above-average print quality, relatively quickly. Where it scores over its main competitors, though, is in having a colour LCD display which is used sensibly for both control and previewing of photos. At the price, the other All-in-Ones don't offer this ease-of-use feature.