The HP DeskJet 3720 is a return to the world of ultra-budget multi-function photo printers. A decade ago, most of the major printer manufacturers made photo printers – small-format devices whose sole task was to print photos, usually from PCs or Macs connected via USB. They fell out of favour for a number of reasons, but HP is pushing this agenda again, asking us to print photos from mobile devices (as well as computers) to its new Deskjet 3720.
HP should be admired for making a printer so cheap, but there are compromises in both scanning and printing quality that mean its low price is something of a false economy in a very competitive market.
The DeskJet 3720 is an attractive machine, with its bright blue and white chassis taking cues from HP's Chromebook range from three years ago. It's cute, although it definitely won't suit those who want understated, beige printers that can easily be hidden away.
Unlike most HP printers, paper feeds from a pull-up tray at the back and out to a pull-out tray at the front – more reminiscent of an Epson machine.
The printer is a lot shallower than a typical desktop all-in-one, because it uses a sheet-feed scanner, rather than a flatbed. You feed pages in from the front of the Deskjet 3720 and they come to rest on top of the paper stack in the rear feed tray.
This solution isn’t ideal, as the paper guide, which helps to align the page you’re scanning, is short, so it’s hard to get a sheet in completely square. This produces a crooked copy and often a black bar at the top of the copy, where the scan light has bled around the edge of the scanned document.
The small control panel at the right-hand end of the scanner bar has an LCD screen that shows the number of copies and has a variety of icons indicating status and settings.
The printer has a single USB port at the rear, but it's much more at versatile when hooked up to your home Wi-Fi network, which gives you access to extra print facilities. HP provides a new app in both Android and iOS flavours, which immediately recognises the printer and is very easy to use for printing photos. There’s also the option of printing onto sticky-backed paper for more casual photo arrangements.
HP rates the DeskJet 3720 at 8.0ppm mono and 5.5ppm colour. In our tests, it managed 3.8ppm on our 5-page mono text document, increasing to 4.4ppm on the 20-page test. These results are barely over half the rated speed. Our five-page text and colour graphics document gave 1.1ppm, only 20% of the rated throughput.
These slow results were reflected in the copy and photo print times, too, with a single-page colour copy taking 1 minute 21 seconds and a 15 x 10cm photo taking 2 minutes 39 seconds from an Android phone and a whopping 4 minutes 22 seconds from a USB-connected PC. This is not a quick machine.
Print quality is good on plain paper, although there’s some feathering of black text and reversed text, and white on black is a bit indistinct. Photo prints are clear and well coloured, and just as good with pastel landscapes as vivid portraits.
If you print roughly the same number of pages each month, you’d be well advised to consider HP’s Instant Ink subscription service, which brings the running costs down to 4p per mono or colour page (including paper). This compares well with most machines in this price range, particularly if your print mix includes a lot of colour.
This one’s really a case of horses for courses. If your main requirement is a small-format printer that can print occasional letters and photos and scan the odd bill, it may be just what you need. But for very similar money you could buy a more conventional flatbed all-in-one which would be easier to use, would print and scan a lot quicker and produce prints of similar quality.
There’s the £60 Kodak Verite 55, for example, which offers running costs of 3p and 5.9p for black and colour print and includes NFC for quick connection to mobile devices. Or there’s an example from HP’s own range, the £45 Envy 4520, which does everything this machine can and includes touchscreen control and duplex printing.
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Brownie points to HP for trying a new take on the home all-in-one printer, but there are much better printers to be had for similar money.