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HP Photosmart Pro B9180 review



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HP Photosmart Pro B9180


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HP produces printers for the consumer and professional inkjet markets, but until recently, not much for the semi-professional or sole-trader professional. The Photosmart Pro B9180 fills this gap and also showcases HP’s scaleable print technology, in which it’s placing a lot of faith for future developments.

This is a big printer, but has a solid, professional feel. Large areas of plastic in A3+ printers often feel flimsy, but not here. It has a functional design – boxy, but with a curved front edge. The main paper tray, which can be used for any paper from 15 x 10cm to A3+ paper, extends, so you only need to open it up when using larger sizes. The cover telescopes out, too.

The brushed metal front panel folds down to reveal a secondary, straight-through paper path. Paper from the main tray performs HP’s normal 180-degree turn before being printed, but in the top tray, it travels unencumbered from front to back, which means the B9180 can print on card up to 1.5mm thick. Don’t back the B9180 up against a wall, though, if you intend to use the straight-through tray.

The two line by 16-character LCD display is well used to show status messages and instructions and the row of five buttons underneath is all you need to navigate its menu system. At the back are USB 2.0 and Ethernet sockets; the printer is network enabled, straight out of the box.

Consumables installation is an involved process. It uses separate ink cartridges and print heads and these have to be installed and primed in a set order. Start by opening the cartridge cover at the left-hand end of the printer and plugging in each of the eight cartridges; they have keyed mouldings, so each only fits in its respective slot. The printer then primes them, by pumping ink from the cartridges to the point where the heads would be, had you fitted them.

When prompted from the LCD display, open the top cover and fit each of the two-colour heads, first removing the stoppers on the ends of the tubes from the cartridges. You’ll also need to wipe each print head with a spirit-soaked, ‘super cotton bud’, supplied with each head, to get the ink flowing.

Now load the ‘calibration pack’, actually 10 sheets of A4 Advanced Photo Paper, and let the printer do its own calibration, which involves a wait of around 30 minutes and several test prints, which get progressively better in quality. Full calibration is a once-only process, though ‘closed-loop’ calibration happens whenever an unrecognised new media is used in the printer.

While you’re waiting, you can install the software, which includes a comprehensive driver, a Photoshop plug-in and HP’s Photosmart Premier application. This last is a simple photo editor, which won’t give Adobe any sleepless nights, but is enough to make basic edits and to resize, crop and select images for printing.

The B9180 is clever. Not only does it auto-sense the paper type its using, using bar codes on the back of HP sheets and its own densitometer to calibrate for other types, but it also senses paper sizes. It won’t print an image that’s too big for the loaded paper, which is good, but even tells you if the paper is bigger than it needs be for a given image – a help in avoiding waste of expensive photo papers.

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Damon T. Miller

September 13, 2008, 10:30 pm

Beware of this printer. I bought one a little over a year ago and was never able to print more than ten pictures reliably. The paper would jam halfway through nearly every print job. The few times the printer managed to complete a job, the results were decent, however these were few and far between.

After approximately 10-11 months of trying various paper and setting combinations, I finally gave in and called HP's tech support. I'd read many reviews of this experience and I was prepared for the worst. Sadly, my expectations were confirmed.

The first 45 minutes of my initial call was spent trying to navigate HP's support queues. Eventually I really someone who walked through the usual "level one" tests, e.g. confirm power, confirm paper, etc. I've worked in enterprise IT for ten years so this was a bit annoying but I was pleasant throughout, recognizing that the guy had a job to do.

Eventually the conclusion was that I should try different paper. I agreed, and he promised HP would send a small bundle for testing. After waiting three weeks, I called to check on the order and found that it had been cancelled. The reason given was that the printer was no longer under warranty. Excellent work, HP.

I'm sad to say that this experience is precisely what I had expected--an infuriating waste of time. With no further recourse, I took the printer to a nearby dumpster and bid farewall.

In short, don't buy this printer. And if you do, never, ever call HP for support. It will be a complete waste of time.


Jeremy Greenaway

January 20, 2009, 10:19 pm

This printer is mechanically appalling, and HP offer NO after-sales support whatsoever. Immediately it is out of warranty (one year), HP will wash their hands of it. No servicing. No repairs. Nowt!

I have had mine for 18 months. Within six months of purchase it shed bits of the paper feed (little knurled wheels and a rubber roller). I managed to replace the rubber, but not the wheels. In the most part I was doing A3+ straight-feed heavyweight paper giclees using HP inks and either HP or Hahnemuhle paper. So, all according to HPs requirements.

A few weeks after that, it started to give software error message, and stop halfway through a print cycle - costly on a long A3 width pano print! I was away for a few weeks on shoots etc and when I came back had a lot to get through. The B9180 did a couple of dozen A3+ posters for a client before it once again died. This time terminally. In total, it logged less than 700 print cycles. Repeated contacts with the on-line 'support' at HP US (none in Europe) failed totally to grasp the problem or provide a solution.

This cost more than 𧺬 new in 2007. When it did work, it was unbelievably noisy, violent - it would shake its trolley around the floor - and had horrendous ink consumption, constantly wanting to recalibrate itself.

Avoid this machine and HP printers generally AT ALL COSTS! Sadly, I sold my elderly but incredibly reliable Canon A3 colour printer just before this thing died. There's a message there somewhere!

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