HP PhotoSmart 8450 review

£220
Price when reviewed

HP’s flagship PhotoSmart offers all of the features we originally saw with last year’s 7960 but with HP’s new ink-cartridge technology. This, as listed above with the 8150, is said to offer better speeds and fade resistance than before.

HP PhotoSmart 8450 review

The main difference between the 8450 and 8150 is that a third cartridge slot is added to the engine. To accommodate this, the chassis has been expanded further (to over half a metre) and it feels more like an A3 printer; disappointingly, it can only cope with A4 paper. But at least HP has sensibly included a 10/100 Ethernet port.

Quality is immaculate. The combination of a tricolour, photo colour and photo grey (the PhotoREt Pro system) is only rivalled by Epson’s R800 and Canon’s iP8500. It also, subject to the results of our tests, should offer excellent fade resistance when used with HP’s own Premium Plus Glossy Paper. This leaves Canon trailing and makes the final stretch a two-horse race with Epson.

The grey inks offered by the 100 cartridge take the strain off using coloured ink to make composite blacks. However, in doing this it’s used up more than twice as quickly as the other colours, so you’ll need an extra cartridge to hand. Even after using two photo grey cartridges, the remaining two cartridges printed 30 extra 6 x 4in photos before running out.

It might sound expensive, but when using HP’s special paper/cartridge bundle, the price per photo is comparable to the R800. Plus, you can rest assured that the photos will last.

We couldn’t find fault with any of the 8540’s photographs. Every aspect, including mono reproduction, approached perfection. All graphics on coated paper were sublime and even the draft Streetmap print was excellent. Only the plain paper CorelDRAW image was blighted with undersaturation. Draft and normal text was also top drawer.

But the 8450 fell down in terms of overall speed. While text speeds of 14.4ppm (draft) and 4.7ppm (normal) are decent, almost three minutes for 6 x 4in prints and six minutes for A4 photos is disappointing – especially when the R800 took half the time.

It’s a similar story with the price. HP didn’t wait and let the 7960 fall in price (like the R800), but replaced it with a new version, and in the face of the Epson it looks expensive.

With such a combination of price and speed, only quality can rescue it this month – and that’s matched by the cheaper R800. The 8450 is a great photo printer, but it can’t match the R800’s all-round qualities.

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