Software includes a driver and simple photo management and editing. If you want to use the printer with a PC, this is adequate for day-to-day touch-up. As an alternative to the USB connection the Photosmart A618 has Bluetooth built-in, so you can use this to connect to a PC, PDA or mobile phone.
The Photosmart A618 is claimed to produce a bordered photo print in normal print mode ‘as fast as 53 seconds’. We wonder what HP was printing to reach that speed. Printing straight from an SD card, it took 1 minute 37 seconds to print our standard 15 x 10cm print with a border. Borderless prints took 1:49 from a card and only one second less when printing from a PC. To produce an 18 x 13cm print took slightly longer, at 2:11. Finally, a 15 x 10cm print from a PictBridge camera took 2:01. These times are not bad for a photo printer, but are a long way from HP’s claims.
We’ve come to expect good quality from HP photo prints and in general we weren’t disappointed here. Colours came out natural and both bright and pastels shades are well reproduced. Graduated tints aren’t quite as smooth as we’ve seen before, however, and despite the automatic lighting correction, some shadow detail was lost. We also noted differences between colours reproduced on the LCD display and those printed.
Unlike some other recent HP photo printers, there’s no facility to replace the colour cartridge with a triple-grey one, for improved dynamic range in black-and-white photos.
HP has followed the general move to selling consumables, in this case a single ink cartridge and paper, in one pack. The cheapest way of supplying your printer is to buying the Photo Value Pack, which gives you enough ink and 15 x 10cm photo blanks to produce 120 photos, for just over £21. This equates to 17.99p per print, which to our knowledge is the lowest print cost yet reached by an inkjet photo printer manufacturer.
The main advantages of this printer over its predecessors are the larger 18 x 13cm prints it can produce and the fully integrated Bluetooth support; you need no plug in dongle, here. While both features are useful additions, we’re not over-impressed by the combination of Vivera inks and HP’s advanced photo paper. The ink may dry quickly, but there seems little improvement in colour quality.