HP Photosmart C7280 MFP

If you’re looking for a multifunction printer that’s loaded with features but still does a good job printing text and graphics-filled documents, HP’s Photosmart C7280 is worth a look. This multifunction device includes print, scan, copy, and fax capabilities, with just about every connectivity option you could want.

The C7280 is a six-color (in six separate ink tanks) ink-jet printer with a 100-sheet, letter-size primary paper tray and a secondary tray that holds up to 20 sheets of 4-by-6-inch or 5-by-7-inch photo paper. It also has slots for all standard memory cards, a PictBrige USB port for connecting a camera or flash storage device directly to the printer, and a built-in duplexing unit for two-sided printing.

The C7280’s networking capabilities distinguish it from other multifunction printers in its class: it comes with three ways for you to connect it to your Mac or to a network. You can use the USB 2.0 port for direct connections to your Mac, or you can hook it up to either a wired Ethernet network or a wireless 802.11g network, depending upon your office setup. And, if that’s not enough, you can print using Bluetooth if you add the optional HP bt500 Bluetooth adapter (US$40).

Getting the C7280 up and running is a breeze: step-by-step help on the unit’s 2.4-inch LCD is supplemented with the well-written manual and quick-setup sheet. There’s also plenty of on-screen help for connecting the C7280 to a standard or DSL phone line to use the fax capabilities, and the CD that comes with the printer installs the print and fax driver and all the appropriate scanning software. The C7280 replaces the Photosmart C7180 at the high end of HP’s all-in-one ink-jet line. The C7280 drops the C7180’s film-scanning capabilities for an automatic document feeder for the scanner and copier, which is a much smarter choice overall. Scanning 35mm film sounds good in theory, but it’s rarely possible to get usable scans from an inexpensive flatbed scanner.

The ability to copy multiple sheets from a document is much more useful, and HP does an excellent job of integrating the feeder into the scanning software. Whether you’re scanning 20 pages to your Mac or making direct copies, the feeder will prove to be very handy. The feature-filled Photosmart C7280 has a built-in auto document feeder for scanning or copying multiple documents.

HP’s Scan Pro scanning software is quite basic, but includes such features as built-in OCR support and dust-removal and color-correction tools for scanning photographs. You can scan files as TIFFs, JPEGs, and PDFs, and the Scan menu offers a variety of options, like e-mailing scans, adding images to iPhoto, and more.

Scanning documents was quite easy and produced good results overall. I had a few issues when scanning photos, however. My first attempts produced lackluster images with middling color fidelity, and I had to tweak the driver settings to get better photo scans. In the end, though, the C7280 is more about giving you some photo scanning capabilities than being the best at it.

As a standalone copier, the C7280 is a joy to use. You can make up to 99 copies of a document, and can scan them directly to a connected memory card or flash drive; if your Mac is in another part of the building, you can also scan images directly to it over your network, which is a nice touch. (This option is only available if you have added the scanning software to your Mac.)

As a general-purpose printer, the C7280 is very good: at the printer’s default print settings, it produces clear, crisp type and reproduces Web pages and other graphics-centric pages very well. It is also fairly speedy when printing pure text documents, spitting out a single-page Microsoft Word 2004 file in approximately 17 seconds, and a 10-page document in well under two minutes.

HP is also billing the C7280 as a photo printer, and it does a fine job there; however, when we had a jury of evaluators judge images printed at the C7280’s default print settings, most viewers felt that photos were good, but not as vibrant and lifelike as those printed on Epson’s $199 Stylus Photo RX680. Printing at a higher quality setting and on HP’s top-of-the-line Premium Plus photo paper did bring the C7280’s print quality much closer to its competitors. If photo quality is your top requirement when choosing a multifunction printer, you should check print samples before you buy, but we think most users will be more than happy with the C7280’s photo prints.

In using two C7280s for over a month in different environments, I was quite impressed. In everyday use, the device worked nearly flawlessly on my home wireless network. There were a few times where one of my Macs couldn’t print to the C7280 and I had to restart the printer, but these instances were fairly rare. In a multiplatform environment with Macs and PCs and a non-Apple router, I had some issues initially getting the Macs to connect to the C7280, and had to play with the router’s security settings a bit to get all of the computers working seamlessly.

You can purchase multifunction printers that are less expensive than the Photosmart C7280, but it would be hard to find an all-in-one that has such a rich and well-balanced set of features. If you’re looking for a multifunction device that produces the best possible photo scans and photo prints, the C7280 might not be your best choice; but if you are looking for a printer/copier/scanner/fax machine with very good overall print quality, flexible connectivity, and strong standalone functionality, the C7280 can be a great addition to the home or small office.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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