- Review Price: £216.88
This is quite a strange name to give an all-in-one printer. There’s no model number on the end – this is the Photosmart Premium. What HP does if it wants to extend the range is unclear, but the Premium suffix is intended to imply a machine with all the extras and for a keen home user or even a small business, there’s certainly a lot under the hood.
A smart piece of industrial design, this is an evolution of recent HP styling. A neat Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) sits on top of a fairly standard flatbed scanner. The control panel is nicely laid out and appears to float at an angle in front of the machine. There’s quite a busy set of controls, including a full number pad for the machine’s fax facilities, as well as separate buttons for printing quick forms, doing photo reprints from the flatbed and automatic redeye removal from troublesome portrait shots. A 60mm colour LCD display at the left-hand end of the panel hinges forward to the vertical, should you need a different viewing angle.
Set into the control panel’s bottom lip is a pull-down tab for the CD and DVD loading tray, for direct disc print. To the left of the control panel are three memory card slots and a PictBridge socket and the 125-sheet main paper tray has a 20-sheet photo paper tray set above it. This is powered, so photo blanks slide into the machine when you select to print photos.
At the back are sockets for USB and Ethernet connection, as well as for phone line and telephone handset, but there’s also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. To set up a wireless link with an existing network, you run the wireless network wizard from the control panel and enter your encryption key, before choosing wireless connection in the installation software on your PC or Mac and picking up the name of the device from a pop-up list. This whole process can be completed in a few minutes and the wireless connection is then completely transparent.
Other support software is the usual HP mix, including photo-handling, OCR and scanning applets. The only other thing you need do is install the five cartridges – the Photosmart Premium uses a separate photo black ink, as well as a high-capacity black for text print. The cartridges’ shrink-wrap and snap-off seals are so reminiscent of Canon ink cartridges that you have to wonder how close the link between the two companies is.
HP quotes draft print speeds of 33ppm for black and 32ppm for colour print – it doesn’t appear to have caught up with the new ISO standard yet. In fact, in normal use you should expect nearer 7.5ppm for black text and 4.0ppm for colour.
Like other recent HP machines, there’s a lot of ‘fiddling about’, with various squeezing and priming noises going on before print starts. We measured a full half minute before the printer started producing our 20-page text sample.
If you print duplex pages, the wait is even longer, as the machine pauses for 16 seconds between the two sides of each sheet, to allow for ink drying. This means that in our 20-side duplex test, which took 7:31 to complete, over two and a half minutes was spent thumb twiddling, while we watched the ink dry.
As well as being able to print on both sides of the paper, the Photosmart Premium can scan both sides of a two-sided document in one job, so it can perform a complete duplex copy, though a single page copied in this way took 1:35. By contrast, photo print speeds are pretty good, with a 15 x 10cm borderless photo coming through in about a minute.
HP’s photo prints are singularly good, with smooth contours, colours which look the part and good detail in low or bright light areas of an image. Text on plain paper is also very crisp and colour graphics are clean and well-saturated. A colour photocopy from the flatbed showed less colour fade than many of its rivals.
We did see a couple of problems during testing, the first when printing an image from an SD card, where selecting a single copy caused a mini blue screen, lots of flashing lights on the control panel and the need to switch off and switch on again. Also, when printing photos, a misfeed of HP Advanced photo paper caused a major jam of the print carriage, which had to be corrected by delving inside the printer.
The five print cartridges are each available in two capacities and, as usual, we used the high yield versions to get the best economy when calculating running costs. The figures came out at 3.76p for black print and 9.42p for colour, both including 0.7p for paper. Both costs are on the high side, with the black cost being quite a bit over the norm for this class of machine. Kodak’s ESP 9, for example, manages 2.44p for black print on the same test.
First impressions of the Photosmart Premium are very good and it’s certainly a well-styled machine with a lot of extras. Direct CD and DVD print, duplex paper handling and duplex scanning should make the machine a very effective small-business tool. Unfortunately, when you get to use these features you find they are slow and not particularly well implemented. It’s a shame, as HP all-in-ones have often been the benchmark against which other brands are measured.
Score in detail
Print Speed 7
Print Quality 9