HP Photosmart A618 review
Nothing beats the convenience of being able to print photos from the comfort of your own home, and devices like the Photosmart A618 represent the height of decadence for those used to trudging to the high street to get their holiday snaps developed.
If your snaps are on an xD-Picture, SD, Memory Stick or CompactFlash card, a PictBridge camera or even a USB flash drive or USB hard disk, you’ll be able to get full use from the A618 without ever needing to take it near a computer. And, for the ultimate in print-anywhere chic, you can even power it from a battery and send pictures to it via Bluetooth.
The standard criticism for miniature photo printers is their limited print size. Like most, the A618 will print standard 6 x 4in photos, but is also capable of printing up to 7 x 5in prints or panoramas. This is down to the inkjet engine at its heart, unlike most mini printers which are based on a dye-sublimation system.
But while the inkjet print engine has its advantages in terms of print sizes, it also brings a distinct number of negatives. HP’s best printers use up to eight different ink tanks for the widest, smoothest colour gamut possible, but the HP 110 ink cartridge in the A618 has just three tanks. This makes for a narrower colour gamut and a far grainier image – we noted significant grain on every image we printed. Colours were generally accurate, but grain noticeable even at comparatively long distances severely dents the appeal of such an expensive printer.
Things get a little better when you consider print costs. www.inmac.co.uk sells the HP 110 Photo Value Pack, which contains 120 sheets of 6 x 4in paper and an HP 110 tricolour cartridge, for £18 – a total cost per page of 15p. This is cheap compared to most A4 inkjets.
Speed is a disappointment though. We printed five 6 x 4in prints in eight minutes and 21 seconds – 1 minutes and 40 seconds each. This is far from impressive compared to either A4 inkjets or dedicated 6 x 4in dye-sub printers, both of which are capable of churning out better quality prints at a rate of around one 6 x 4in photo per minute.
The Bluetooth function is a particularly attractive one for those with good quality camera phones, and in practice we found it worked flawlessly: just select the photo, select the ‘send via Bluetooth’ option on your phone, browse for the A618 and hit send. That’s all there is to it: the printer receives the photo and it magically appears without any more intervention. The battery, although not widely available yet, will make you a centre of attention at picnics and family gatherings.
However, convenient as these extras are, the A618 doesn’t address the key concern of serious photographers – print quality. Images are too grainy, and when you consider that for the same money you could have the A-listed HP Photosmart 8450, which prints up to A4, for an incredible £37 less, it’s clear that only quality-agnostic snappers and gadget freaks should look seriously at the A618.