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The small and neat all-in-one has been a staple of HP's home printer offerings for several years, since its first effort, with the pastel ‘jelly bean' control buttons. The latest sub-£80 C4580 has taken a few steps forward, but one or two back, as well.
This is a smartly styled all-in-one in ice white and pale grey, with what appears to be a slice scooped out of the left-hand top and front panels, revealing controls, a 38mm LCD display and twin memory card slots for Memory Stick, SD/MMC and xD cards.
When you pull down the front cover, it becomes the paper feed tray and an extra support swivels out from its back. Paper turns through 180 degrees and comes out to lie on top of the feed stack. Power is supplied from a separate, black-block power supply - it would be neater to have an internal supply, as with most Canon, Epson and Lexmark machines.
The driver, which can be set up for USB or Wi-Fi printing at installation time, is coupled to HP's Photosmart Essentials editing software and IRIS OCR software for document scanning. A huge sticker on the top of the C4580 proclaims Easy Wi-Fi, but the setup instructions require you to first connect via USB, enter an SSID - and a WEP key, if your network uses security - and then scan for the printer.
This isn't any easier than other Wi-Fi printers we've installed; in fact we've set up some Lexmark machines that don't need to be connected via USB during Wi-Fi setup. This temporary connection can be inconvenient, if you intend to position the printer remotely from your PC, through lack of desk space.
Loading an HP printer is normally very simple, but in this case it's quite fiddly. This is because there seems to be an obstruction inside the machine that makes it all too easy to under-insert paper, so it's not in the right position for feeding. You can wiggle it into the right position - there are alignment marks for A4 and 15 x 10cm sheets - but a new purchaser might easily think the printer was broken.
Then there are the mis-feeds. Using the standard multi-purpose paper we use for all our printer tests, inkjet and laser, we saw several examples of two-sheet and multi-sheet mis-feeds during the 50 or so pages we printed. Sometimes the C4580 had the intelligence to feed them through separately as blank sheets, other times it fed several sheets and printed on the top one. Again, this mis-handling of paper is unusual for an HP printer.