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HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B Review


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  • Full duplex copying
  • Easy-to-use menu system
  • Direct download of useful print applets


  • Comparatively low black print yield
  • Slow duplex print and copy
  • Occasional failed paper take-up

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £90.00
  • Duplex ADF on scanner
  • Separate trays for plain and photo paper
  • Full fax functionality
  • Downloadable applications
  • Remote printing via ePrint

If you were to put together a list of features for an inkjet all-in-one, it might read like the spec sheet of the HP Photosmart Premium with Fax e-All-in-One CQ521B. Following HP’s bizarre model-naming convention, the only difference between this and the Photosmart Premium with Fax All-in-One is the ‘e’, but they’re quite different machines. The model number for this one, which HP seems reluctant to use, is CQ521B, while the earlier model was the C309A.

Designed for home and small office use, the printer is cased in black, using a lot of high-gloss, smudge-revealing plastic. It’s a tall machine, topped-off by a 35-sheet Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), which ─ like the print engine ─ is a duplex device.

HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B
The control panel has a hinged, 61mm LCD at its left-hand end and a lot of control buttons, including those for ePrint and Web apps. ePrint is HP’s technique for emailing your printer directly, though we’ve yet to see any devastating mainstream uses for this.

The range of applets is handier and includes a variety of special papers, such as music manuscript, Sudoku grids, and news printouts. Most of the news material has a strong US slant, if the science pages we printed are typical.

There are twin paper trays, with an automated 20-sheet photo tray piggy-backing on a 125-sheet A4 tray. Paper feeds round onto the top of the trays, where there’s a pull-out extension to catch the output pages.
HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B
To the left of the controls are memory card slots – which include CompactFlash, as well as SD, MemoryStick and xD – and a PictBridge/USB socket. At the back are USB and Ethernet ports, but the CQ521B also supports a wireless connection, including WPS push-button setup. As long as your wireless router supports it, connection really is just a couple of button pushes.

HP provides Photo Creations and Solution Center software, which includes IRIS OCR, for scanning docs as editable text, and drivers for Windows and OS X. Separate Linux support is available through the HP Web site.

The HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B is rated at 10.5ppm for black and 7.5ppm for colour in what’s called ‘laser comparable’ mode and 34ppm and 32ppm in draft mode. Normal print, which is the default, falls between these modes in speed and quality, but no ratings are supplied.

Under test, our five-page black text test took 47s, giving a real-world speed of 6.4ppm, while the longer, 20-page document took 2:14, a speed of 9.0ppm. These are good for this class of inkjet all-in-one and the five-page, draft mode test gave a speed of 9.7ppm, the highest we saw from the CQ521B.

HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B

Duplex printing is quite slow and the 20-page document printed double-sided took 5:17 to complete, giving a speed of 3.8 sides per minute. Although slow, this is quicker than several of Canon’s all-in-ones, such as the PIXMA MX885, which returned just 2.9 sides per minute.

A five-page copy from the ADF took 58s and a 10-sided, full duplex copy finished in 4:19, again held back by the duplex print speed. 15 x 10 cm photos took 33s from both memory card and PictBridge camera in normal print mode, increasing to 54s for a print from a PC in highest quality.

The printer produces only fair quality text. It looks heavy on the page and includes some fuzziness caused by ink bleed. Draft mode text is usable, but again we noticed glitches, such as split text lines from one pass of the head to the next.

HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B
Graphics colours are strong, and smooth, black text over the top of images is well registered. Colour copies come through with unusually good colour reproduction and colour photos are still among the best you’ll see from an inkjet, with natural colours, plenty of detail and the ability to show strong primaries when needed.

The CQ521B uses five ink cartridges in a permanent head, with the photo black only used to improve photo tones. At the cheapest prices we could find for the consumables, page costs come out at 3.2p for ISO black and 8.1p for ISO colour. These are good, a penny or so per page better than similar Canon printers, for example.

The HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B is a good all-in-one printer. It combines features from typical home and small business inkjets so you get, for example, an ADF and a comprehensive set of memory card slots. On top of this, though, you have both a duplex print engine and a duplex scanner, which is very unusual in a machine at this price. It may be slow, but the facility is there when you need it.

HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B

HP Photosmart Premium Fax CQ521B

Trusted Score

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Score in detail

  • Print Speed 7
  • Features 9
  • Value 9
  • Print Quality 7


Networking Yes
Card slot SD/CF/Memorystick/xD
Connection Type USB

Physical Specifications

Height (Millimeter) 283mm
Width (Millimeter) 468mm
Depth (Millimeter) 453mm
Weight (Gram) 10.4g


Type Inkjet
Duplex Yes
Paper Size A4
Colour Yes
Number of Catridges 5
Sheet Capacity 125
Print Resolution (Dots per inch) 9600 x 2400dpi
Rated Black Speed (Images per minute) 34 ipm
Rated Colour Speed (Images per minute) 32ipm


Scanner Yes
Copier Yes
Fax Yes


Scan Resolution (Dots per inch) 1200dpi

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