HP Photosmart e-All-in-One

The Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) Photosmart e-All-in-One could be any low-end colour inkjet multifunction printer saddled with limited features and pricey inks. Its solid performance and its access to a range of Web-based printing apps make it an acceptable choice for home users, however.

Its performance was very good overall. At default settings on plain paper, text pages printed at a middling 5.3 pages per minute on both the PC and the Mac. Output looked crisp, and it improved (though pages came out more slowly) at the highest quality setting. Snapshot-size photos printed on the PC at a rate of 1.8 ppm and looked marvelous on either plain or photo paper, albeit slightly darker than the norm. On the Mac, a much larger and more complex image took over three minutes to print on photo paper; colours were vivid but reasonably realistic. Scan and copy samples also looked good overall.

For the price ($130 as of September 1, 2010), the Photosmart e-All-in-One’s print/scan/copy feature set is a mix of interesting and underwhelming. On the interesting side of the ledger, the 2.36-inch colour LCD is flanked by touch- and context-sensitive controls. This TouchSmart frame is fun to work with, though its left- and right-arrow navigation makes scrolling up or down awkward. Press the Apps icon, and you can select from a preloaded set of 16 Web-based applications for printing, say, paper crafts or news feeds or coupons. HP plans to provide additional apps that you can download directly to the printer. Wireless and USB are standard, as are media slots for MMC, MS, and SD media.

On the underwhelming side, paper handling is limited. A front panel unfolds to accommodate all input–and also to catch output, which can get messy. There’s no alternate path for thicker media, so even photos must negotiate a 180-degree turn, after which they exit slightly curved. The letter-size scanner lacks an automatic document feeder, and the lid doesn’t telescope to accommodate thicker media. Manual duplexing works only on the PC. If you choose this feature from HP’s own driver, you’ll receive clear guidance for using it; but if you choose it from Microsoft’s universal printer driver, you’ll get a brief, misleading instruction. HP is aware of the issue and is working on it.

Like many other low-end printers, the Photosmart e-All-in-One suffers from high ink costs. The HP 60 black cartridge costs $15 and yields only 200 pages (which works out to 7.5 cents per page), while the HP 60 unified tricolour cartridge costs $20 and delivers only 165 pages (12.1 cents per page). A page using all four colours would cost nearly 20 cents. So if you plan to print more than a few pages a day, look for a unit with lower-cost inks, such as the Canon Pixma MG5220 or the Epson WorkForce 520.

HP’s Photosmart e-All-in-One performs well, and its Web apps are a likable addition. Unfortunately, in other respects it’s a pretty limited machine, with expensive inks.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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