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We don't know what's got into inkjet makers, but first Canon and now HP seem to have redesigned their mechanisms so their machines spend a much higher proportion of the time housekeeping than before. Virtually all the tests on the Photosmart C6380 were preceded by 20 to 25 seconds of squeezing or chewing noises, presumably some kind of ink priming.
This would be understandable if the ink tanks were remote from the print head, connected by tubes as they are on some wide-carriage printers, but here we have cartridges plugged directly into the head, so it's hard to see why all this annoying noise is necessary.
HP claims 12.5ppm and 9ppm for black and colour prints in normal mode, but as usual we couldn't reach these exalted figures. Our five-page black text print took 55 seconds, giving a realistic, real-world speed of 5.5ppm, but when we ran the 20-page test, this rose to 8ppm, which is passable for an inkjet machine in this price bracket.
The text and colour graphics print produced a speed of 3.7ppm and all these results were hampered by the amount of preparation time before printing started. In best quality print mode our 15 x 10cm photo print took just over a minute, but printing in normal mode from memory card or PictBridge camera, the speed came down to under 50 seconds, which is impressive.
A colour photocopy took 40 seconds, again a very reasonable time, and the resulting copy was commendably close to the original, with slight lightening of hues, but generally good reproduction. This is also reflected in the quality of scans, which came through with good levels of detail and fairly accurate colours. Text scans for OCR showed very few scanning errors.
HP inkjets have always produced good quality prints and the Photosmart C6380 continues in this tradition. Text is sharp and black; possibly not quite as clean as the best Canon can offer, but more than adequate for general use. Business graphics are bright and arresting and text registration over colour is good. Photo prints are everything you could hope for from an inkjet, with natural colours and good levels of detail in both bright and shadowed areas. Given the speed with which they're produced, it's a very commendable performance.
The five ink cartridges are available in two different versions with standard and high yields and using the high yield consumables for better economy gives page costs of 2.7p for black and 6.9p the colour. Both these figures are good for an inkjet and with the high yields, maintenance costs should be kept down.
The HP Photosmart C6380 is a fine all-in-one machine not just for photo enthusiasts and but for any mainstream home or even small business customer. It's easy to use, relatively cheap to run and produces high quality prints. The convenience of a wireless connection is also a bonus and, unlike some other machines, is not a pain to set up.
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