- Review Price: £47.89
HP’s range of small, ice-white and grey all-in-ones has carved a very respectable niche in the entry-level market. Today’s specimen, the Photosmart C4480, is just about the cheapest machine the company makes which has a colour LCD to show menus and photo thumbnails and is intended very much as a home machine for general-purpose, low-duty printing, copying and scanning, as well as basic photo upload and print.
This machine follows many of HP’s recent design norms, such as having a single tray, which folds down from the front of the printer, to serve as both its input and output trays. It does this by having a practical, though slightly Heath Robinson, paper support, which swivels out from the front lip of the tray, once it’s folded down.
Paper is loaded onto the tray and feeds out directly on top of the input stack. Intuitively, you feel the weight of the output sheets might affect the feed mechanism, but in practice the system works fine, though the machine does have quite a large footprint when set up for printing. Since there’s no cover for the input tray, you’ll want to remove the paper and shut the printer up, when it’s not in use.
The simple, A4 flatbed scanner is a Contact Image Sensor (CIS) device, but still gives a remarkably good scan for a machine in this price bracket. To the left of the scanner lid is the compact, neat control panel, which comprises a 38mm colour LCD – small but usable – together with three colour-coded selection buttons, which follow the scalloped lines of the printer’s edge, and three further buttons for Menu, OK and Cancel.
The power button sits behind these and just over the front edge, at the top of the printer’s front panel, are twin sockets for the three main memory card formats: SD, MemoryStick and xD. At the back are just a single USB socket for data connection and a low-voltage socket for power from the supplied black block.
The Photosmart C4480 uses two ink and head cartridges, one black and the other tri-colour. These clip into place in a slightly awkward way, as you slide them back and clip them up into place, once you’ve folded down the front panel of the printer, behind the paper tray.
HP’s usual bundle of support software is provided on CD and installs without problem, so you have Solution Center, Photosmart Essential and OCR software for scanning text documents.
Print speeds are a little more realistic now that companies have started using the ISO print speed test and HP quotes 8.9ppm and 5.3ppm for black and colour pages in normal print mode, respectively. These are closer to what we saw under test, as our five-page black text document completed in 59 seconds, giving 5.08ppm, rising to 6.09ppm on the 20-page document. Still only two thirds of the rated black speed, but better than some rivals we’ve tested recently.
Similarly, the colour speed we saw was only 2.10ppm, less than half the rated speed, but part of this is due to preparation time, which is excluded from the ISO tests, but not from ours. It’s part of the print process and you can’t do anything with the completed document until the last page hits the output tray.
Copying a single page, colour document took 50 seconds, which is a little slow and this is true of printing photos, too, with a best time of 1:17. Neither speed is a deal-breaker, though, and for a machine that costs just over £40 is not too bad.
The quality of plain paper prints is surprisingly good, with clear, dense text and very little spatter. Colour business graphics are also smooth and clear, perhaps a little pale in places, but this does mean that overlaid black text shows up well with, from our tests, virtually perfect registration.
A colour photocopy, though it came through slightly lighter than in the original prints, did better than some machines costing a lot more and is still perfectly usable on default settings.
Our photo test print is also very good, with smooth colour variation, plenty of detail in the hard-to-reproduce darker shadows and good colour balance. The machine works with both Premium Plus and Advanced photo papers, but the best results we produced were from the cheaper Premium Plus paper.
If you go to HP’s website and move to the ink and paper tab for this particular product, it appears there are around 10 different ink cartridges compatible with it, but in fact the HP350 and HP351 cartridges, in their Standard and Value versions, are the only recommended consumables.
As always, you’re better buying the Value, XL versions of both and at the best prices we could find for them, page costs come out at 3.18p for an ISO black page and 7.78p for an equivalent colour page. Compared with page costs from other inexpensive, inkjet all-in-ones, these are both a penny or so cheaper than most rivals, a little more in the case of colour.
The most directly comparable all-in-one in terms of price, print quality, speed and feature set is Canon’s MP480, a machine we haven’t reviewed, yet. It too has a colour LCD, slightly larger than the Photosmart C4480’s and it also offers a Pictbridge socket for direct photo printing. Against that, the HP machine is likely to be cheaper to run, as the Canon MP540, next up in the range – which we have tested – costs more per page in consumables than the C4480.
The Photosmart C4480 is an easy-to use all-in-one, neat and well-organised, quiet to run and subjectively quick. Print quality is very good for an entry-level machine and if money is tight, it’s a very good buy.
Score in detail
Print Speed 8
Print Quality 9
|Card slot||Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital, MMC, xD-Picture Card|
|Paper Size||Letter, Legal, Executive, 4" x 6", Custom Size|
|Sheet Capacity||100 sheets|
|Rated Black Speed (Images per minute)||30 ppmipm|
|Rated Colour Speed (Images per minute)||23 ppmipm|
|Scan Resolution (Dots per inch)||1200 dpi|