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hp pretty much invented the all-in-one category of scanning and printing machines, but it hasn't sat back on its laurels. Through a process of continued refinement, hp’s devices have reduced in size, improved in performance and developed more sophisticated feature sets. The Photosmart 2610 is the latest iteration and is designed for the enthusiastic home user or perhaps for a small/home office.
This machine combines the four key functions of an all-in-one: printing, scanning, copying and fax. It’s also a dab hand at dealing with memory cards from cameras and printing out in up to six colours. To help with this, it includes a 64mm colour LCD display, rather larger than on the back of a typical digital camera, to show individual shots and display menu options.
The display is positioned at the rear right of the top panel and in front of it is an array of buttons which control its four main functions, including a number pad for dialling fax numbers manually. The cancel button is a good emergency measure here, as it stops a job immediately, even part-way through a print, potentially saving expensive photo media if you set things up incorrectly.
Following down the front right of the device you come to a set of memory card readers, which can handle 11 formats, including the MicroDrive and xD cards. At the rear, as well as a USB 2.0 socket for connecting to an individual PC, there are twin connectors for the built-in fax-modem and a phone handset, as well as a 10/100 Ethernet connection. Using the latter, the Photosmart 2610 can be set up as a network printer, available directly to any machine on a cabled network.
Installation is quite a long-winded procedure, as there’s scanning and fax software to set-up, as well as the printer driver. It's all handled pretty transparently, though we did have problems with installation on one Windows XP PC, where the software repeatedly pulled the machine over. It installed flawlessly on three others though, so we believe it was a clash with software already installed on the offending PC.
Installing ink cartridges involves lifting the top section of the machine and clipping in a three-colour cartridge with a single-colour black cartridge, tri-colour photo or a triple-grey photo, to produce a maximum of six-colours for photo printing. The triple-grey option is a new feature for an all-in-one machine, but it does improve photo output in both colour and, more obviously, greyscale prints.
As well as standard black and white and colour prints up to borderless A4, the Photosmart 2610 employs hp's innovative proof-sheet system, where you can print thumbnails of all or selected images from any memory card and select which you want to print at a larger size, by colouring in small circles under each miniature. You can use the same technique to set the size and number of prints.