HP Photosmart C5180 review

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HP has built up a formidable reputation in the world of printing. The company has tied up both slots for inkjet printers, while the Photosmart 3210 is our top choice for multifunction devices. But when a portfolio is as bursting at the seams as HP’s, it can be difficult to get new units noticed in the crowd.

HP Photosmart C5180 review

The C5180 is aimed at what HP calls “busy, networked families”, with the tell-tale sign being a built-in Ethernet port. And if the family is so busy that it can’t wait to edit photos on the PC, there’s a multitude of memory card slots -including CompactFlash, SD card, xD-Picture card and Memory Stick – on offer, with a 2.4in TFT to preview the images. Note the lack of a PictBridge port, though, unlike both the Canon Pixma MP600 and the 3210.

When it comes to producing the results, the C5180’s output comfortably rivals that of a professional lab. Accurate skin tones, perfect colour gradients and unnoticeable amounts of grain mean that any size print, from 6 x 4in to A4, will look exactly as it should.

Canon’s current crop of inkjets holds the advantage over HP’s when it comes to mono text, but the C5180’s results are still impressively close to those of lasers. Speed is underwhelming, though, with our 5% ink coverage documents emerging at a rate of just six per minute. Dropping print quality to draft sped things up to a laser-like 15ppm, but at the obvious expense of text quality.

Printing costs have traditionally been a strong area for HP, and the C5180 impresses with its six-ink Vivera system. The best cost per page for photos comes from using HP’s value pack (part code Q7966EE), which comprises 150 sheets of 6 x 4in photo paper and six cartridges – at £16, that’s a mere 10.5p per print. Mono pages, using HP’s large black ink cartridge (part code C8719EE), work out at just 2.1p per A4 page. The highly efficient Vivera system comes into play too, as it means little ink will be wasted to “clean” print heads.

Scans from the 2,400 x 4,800dpi scanner are acceptable, although not as good as those from the Canon MP600. Our test images were often over-exposed, and HP’s TWAIN driver lags some way behind Canon’s in terms of features. There’s nothing so wrong with the images that they can’t be fixed post-scan, but those with enormous batches of photos to archive will want a scanner that simply gets it right first time. Speed is a significant plus – we had a preview in seven seconds, and a 10 x 8in print fully scanned, at 600dpi, in 1min 10secs.

Notably, though, there are no advanced paper-handling features – no duplexer in particular – and, although the HP has a supplementary paper tray for 6 x 4in photo paper, we prefer the Canon, which has two full A4 feeders, each one capable of holding 150 pages.

The C5180 is still an excellent device: print quality is superb and the lack of speed is counterbalanced by the low cost per page. But the market is crowded, and the C5180 can’t move out of the shadow of the slightly cheaper Photosmart 3210. The latter has a higher-resolution scanner and the advantage of being able to scan slides and negatives. In fact, the C5180’s only real benefit is that it’s slightly smaller.

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