HP Deskjet 6980 review

Price when reviewed

As we saw in last month’s group test, HP’s photo printers give consistently superb prints across both text and graphics jobs. But HP isn’t resting on its laurels, and the Deskjet 6980 is trying to win over small office workgroups and home offices too. So, although the 6980 can print photos, there are no photo-printing luxuries like an LCD preview screen or a card reader.

HP Deskjet 6980 review

HP has made up for these omissions in other areas, though. As well as USB and PictBridge ports, there’s also wired and 802.11b/g wireless network capability. The latter works either as an ad hoc connection to your PC, or you can transfer your infrastructure wireless settings via a USB flash drive and the PictBridge port.

As yet, we haven’t seen an inkjet that can take on even the cheapest of mono lasers, but HP’s claim of 36ppm is certainly promising. In reality, the fastest we saw the 6980 working was a respectable but not quite so outstanding 21ppm. That’s a more than practical maximum, even for those who want to share the 6980 between users in a small workgroup, and the quality of this draft setting is fine for informal use.

Impressively for the price, there’s a duplexer included, although our tests didn’t show a significant speed difference between using the duplexer and simply manually flipping over the sheets in the out tray for double-sided printing. It’s ideal for large print jobs that you want to leave to finish themselves.

Setting the print quality to normal produced prints at a much slower rate of 5ppm. On the plus side, the quality of our test text document was on a par with a decent laser printer, exhibiting dark and crisp characters. The photos we printed were also more than acceptable, with excellent contrast and life-like colours. We switched the black-text cartridge for HP’s 348 photo cartridge, and using the best-quality settings and HP’s Premium Plus paper we achieved results that would embarrass printers costing £50 more. Prints from the 6980 are claimed to last for up to 108 years in an album.

Closer inspection reveals that photos aren’t quite up to the standards of the Photosmart 8250, but the 6980 produces perfectly respectable photos for hanging on the wall or putting in a photo album. Our best-quality photos emerged at a rate of one every 82 seconds, which is slow compared to any of Canon’s current range, but respectable compared to any other HP, Epson or Lexmark printer.

The 6980 has the same print engine as the 5940. Our efficiency and run-down test results on this engine leave us with reasonable running cost of 39p for a 6 x 4in print – it tops off a good all-round performance.

£100 for a printer that will do almost anything you ask of it, as well as being networkable either by a wired network or WLAN, not to mention an included duplexer, is a superb deal. If you’re looking for the best possible quality, the HP 8450 will serve you better, but at about £30 less, the 6980 is a great buy.

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