HP Photosmart 5520 e-All-in-One

The $129 (as of May 9, 2012) HP Photosmart 5520 e-All-in-One color inkjet multifunction (copy/print/scan) is a decidedly welcome replacement for the HP Photosmart 5510 e-All-in-One — a handsome but disappointing product that lacked manual duplexing and layout support. The Photosmart 5520 makes amends big-time, offering an automatic duplexer as well as both booklet and multipage printing. In other aspects, the units are virtually identical.

Paper handling with the Photosmart 5520 is rudimentary, but adequate for low-volume use. An 80-sheet input tray sits at the bottom of the unit. Output exits just above that, falling onto the back of the input tray, where a swivel-out extension catches it. The design is clever only until you need to feed more paper, but it’s workable overall.

As mentioned, the Photosmart 5520 has an automatic duplexer to ease two-sided printing chores. You won’t find an automatic document feeder to go along with the A4/letter-size scanner, however, so the Photosmart 5520 isn’t suitable for scanning long documents. The scanner lid is solidly constructed, but the hinges don’t telescope to accommodate thicker items such as books.

You manage the Photosmart 5520 directly via a 2.65-inch color LCD touchscreen with contextually lit (lit when needed, dark when not) navigation buttons. The Wi-Fi and ePrint buttons are always visible, as is the power button–the only mechanical control on board. The trouble (not really) with the control panel is that it looks removable; it’s not, so don’t yank on it. The other salient feature on the front of the unit is a dual SD Card/Memory Stick reader for offloading scans and performing direct photo printing.

Although the Photosmart 5520’s printer driver is a relatively simple affair, it does offer layout options for booklets and multiple pages–amenities lacking in the Photosmart 5510. Like its predecessor, the Photosmart 5520 supports push scanning (that is, scanning to a PC using the printer’s control panel) and printing via email using HP’s ePrint.

The Photosmart 5520 is a nice performer for a sub-$150 MFP, albeit a tad slower than the Photosmart 5510. In our tests, monochrome pages printed at 8.8 pages per minute on the PC and 7.9 ppm on the Mac. Snapshot photos printed at 4.1 ppm to plain paper and 1.0 ppm to glossy paper. Full-page photos printed on the Mac were a little slower than average at 0.4 ppm. The Photosmart 5520 produced nice-looking draft-mode documents very quickly. Scans and copies were acceptably quick as well.

Output from the Photosmart 5520 generally looks good when it arrives. Though a tad on the light side, photos have a largely realistic color palette (with a slight pinkish cast) on both plain and glossy photo paper. Text is dark, crisp, and sharp. Scans have a slightly cool temperature but are more than acceptable.

The Photosmart 5520 uses a four-cartridge ink system (HP’s 564 line). Costs are actually fairly low for an MFP in this price range if you use the large-capacity supplies. In the standard size, black costs $12 and lasts for 250 pages (4.8 cents per page), while the standard cyan, magenta, and yellow color cartridges are $10 each and last for 300 pages, or 3.3 cents per page. The resulting 14.8-cent four-color page is a little cheaper than average.

The high-yield “XL” cartridges lower costs more for color than for black. The cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges are $18 for 750 pages, or 2.4 cents per page–a single cent per page cheaper for each color than the standard cartridges. The $23 black lasts for only 550 pages, working out to 4.2 cents per page. A four-color page with the XL supplies is 11.4 cents per page.

If you want an MFP that’s better than average-looking and covers all the basics for light use, the HP Photosmart 5520 is definitely worth a gander. If you’re checking out other printers in this price range, the Brother MFC-J625DW ($130) is the most comparable. The Canon Pixma MG4120 ($130) and the Epson Stylus NX430 ($100) have pricier inks.

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