The market for all-in-one printers – which scan, copy and print from memory cards – is, by most measures, mature. Print quality of both plain paper documents and photos is sufficient for most home and small-business needs and the essential functions are all in place. HP, who started the all-in-one market almost single-handed, had to think of something else for its new autumn range.
That something else appears to be looks. The Photosmart C5280 is very nicely styled in ice white and grey with attractive rounded lines. The control buttons, clustered in front of a 61mm colour LCD display and in a single row of 11 along the front edge, are all picked out with key-lines of silver giving the machine a functional, but modern appearance.
Below the LCD display is a bank of four memory card slots, covering MemoryStick, SD/MMC, xD and CompactFlash, but there's no PictBridge socket for direct connection of a camera. We assume this omission must be the result of focus group results, but still feel the facility to plug in just about any camera is a useful one, given the pence it costs to fit a socket.
The paper tray arrangement is like previous HP all-in-ones, with a front-loading main tray that can hold up to 125 sheets of plain paper. Here, though, there’s an automatic 15 x 10cm feed tray for up to 20 sheets of photo paper and a slide-in CD/DVD holder for direct printing on discs. To print CDs or DVDs, you pull down a supplementary feed tray from above the paper output opening.
Installation takes a while, but is pretty painless. HP provides its usual software to manage your photos, reorder consumables and to scan from the Photosmart C5280 – including a copy of ReadIRIS for recognising pages of text. Additionally, there's an intelligent web page printer called HP Smart Web Printing, which squeezes Internet pages to fit the paper without upsetting their layouts. This is the kind of convenience utility being supplied by several major printer makers with their new machines.
We normally expect an HP inkjet device to produce good-to-excellent print on both plain and photo papers. Here though, despite having completely automated alignment of its print heads, the Photosmart C5280 didn't produce particularly good black text. There was a lot of feathering, with ink bleeding off into the paper, and some ink spatter between characters, too. Overall it gave text an ill-defined and fuzzy appearance, not up to HP's usual standard. This effect was exacerbated on a copy of our text and business graphics page. The text printed bolder and thicker than the original and colour output was a lot less well-defined. Original print of colour elements isn't bad, with little sign of banding, but there's some ink run from black text over coloured backgrounds.