Text print quality is very high, with crisp, dense black showing little spread even into ordinary office photocopier paper. Colour graphics prints are also well reproduced with well-defined colours and superior dithering patterns producing smooth shades.
When it comes to photographic reproduction, four-colour output, using the standard, single-colour black cartridge, is sharp and clean with good gradations in areas of changing colour, such as skies. Using the three-colour grey cartridge, there is visible improvement, particularly in greyscale images, where the subtleties of tone are enhanced. The improved quality of colour prints with either photo cartridge is not that marked, though, so it’s probably worth reserving the three-colour cartridges for proof-quality prints.
Print speeds are generally good, with our five page text print completing in less than three quarters of a minute, implying a page rate of nearly 7ppm. This isn’t up there with hp’s claim of 11.6ppm, but is still a respectable speed for a device in this class.
A single-page colour A4 photocopy took under half a minute, which is again respectable and even the 5 x 3in top quality photo completed in one minute 11 seconds.
There are two, single-colour black cartridges that you can use with the Photosmart 2610, the 338 and 339, rated at 450 and 800 pages, respectively. Under test, we produced 664 five percent cover pages from the 339 cartridge, which is surprising for an hp printer, as they normally produce more pages under test than the company claims. This page usage gives a black-page running cost of 3.49p per page.
With colour, we started to see banding in the cyan strips of out test piece after about 100 pages – hence the drop in the print quality score. These gradually spread to the other colours. From what we saw, prints were unusable after about 180 pages from the 344 cartridge, rated at 450 five percent pages. This gives a page cost of just 32.9p, which is only kept that low by the cost of hp’s glossy paper, which has dropped significantly, to around 18p per sheet (from eBuyer). The ink cost is still relatively high.
This is a well-designed machine which genuinely warrants the term all-in-one. However, unless the colour print samples we saw from our ink-usage tests are not representative, we feel that hp has some problems with ink placement on plain paper, which could drastically affect its running costs. But assuming that the problems we encountered were due to a defective ink cartridge, hp has a great all-in-one product on its hands.