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9/10

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HP Photosmart C4280 All-in-One

Although HP sells more All-in-One machines than any other manufacturer, it's not generally known for its offerings at the entry-level - i.e. cheap - end of the market. The Photosmart C4280, though, costs only a tad over £50 and still has many of the attributes you would expect in a multifunction printer.

This machine has a remarkably small footprint, partly due to its foldaway design. The main aspect of this is the front cover, which folds down and becomes both the paper input and output trays. Using HP's trademark in-at-the-front/out-at-the-front paper path means printed pages end up resting on top of the pile of paper ready to be fed in.

Given the price of the Photosmart C4280, it's surprising to find it fitted with two LCD displays. As well as a monochrome status display which shows print quality, size and copy numbers, the 38mm colour LCD acts with three soft-function keys for selecting mode and other menu-driven functions.

The colour display shows photo thumbnails when you plug any of the common types of memory card into the four slots to the left of the paper tray at the front. It's a bit small for any detailed images and in fact, the screen image is not particularly good, but it's still far easier to select photos for printing with a screen, than to have to print a proof sheet and mark it up.
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Power and USB sockets at the back are the only connections and the machine uses an in-line, black-block power supply which has to be secreted somewhere. It's about time HP started to build its power supplies into its machines, like its main competitors do. Buy all HP kit and you end up with a pile of blocks under your desk.

The front face of the Photosmart C4280 pulls down to provide access to the two Vivera ink cartridges, one black using pigmented ink and the other tri-colour with dyes. They clip in place very easily and, particularly if you buy the ‘XL' variants, shouldn't need replacing that often.

The software provided includes HP's Photosmart Express, which handles all the basic tasks you might require of the machine, including OCR. It installs simply enough and the device is then ready to go.

The extensive use of soft-function keys, where the function depends on what's showing on the LCD screen, makes the machine easy to navigate and is a simple solution to a problem which often plagues less expensive All-in-Ones.

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