HP Photosmart A536 Compact Photo Printer

Among snapshot printers, HP’s Photosmart A536 Compact Photo Printer is tempting on many counts: It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and light enough to take anywhere. Even though it’s slow, a lot of budget-minded users will find it well worth considering.

You can use the Photosmart A536 as a stand-alone printer or connect it to a PC. Even the PC installation is amazingly simple: You just power on the printer and connect it to the PC via a standard USB cable (not included). The driver downloads itself automatically from the printer to the PC. HP doesn’t provide a photo management application as part of the installation, but you do get an electronic help guide and links to support and to registration on HP’s site.

To start printing, you unlatch the plastic front panel, which also acts as the output tray. The rear, 20-sheet input tray pops open automatically. When you plug a media card or PictBridge-connected device into one of the three slots on the front panel of the A536, the printer scans the device for photos. A 2.4-inch, adjustable LCD and a small, self-explanatory array of buttons help you scroll through photos and select printing and editing options.

The options available may be sparse (red-eye removal, date/time stamp, and the like), but the Photosmart A536 does have a bonus: It can print on both 4-by-6-inch and 5-by-7-inch photo paper. Its cousin, the Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer, shares this feature; the pricier Epson PictureMate Dash does not.

Considering the low price, the Photosmart A536’s lackluster performance in our Test Center tests (it produced photos at a sluggish speed of 0.7 page per minute) is tolerable. Though it did an adequate job of reproducing most of our photo samples, some flesh tones looked unnaturally ruddy.

The Photosmart A536 ships with five sheets of 5-by-7-inch photo paper and a starter tricolor cartridge that yields 10 to 20 prints, so you’ll need to buy new supplies almost immediately. HP’s pack of 120 sheets of 4-by-6-inch paper and ink costs US$38, or 29 cents per photo–a much better deal than the 55-sheet pack, which costs US$20 (36 cents per photo).

The HP Photosmart A536 is basic, but also affordable and easy to operate. For many home users, it offers just enough snapshot printing for the price.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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