HP Photosmart 8250 review

£111
Price when reviewed

HP’s range of inkjet printers has long been known for its combined print cartridges; the integrated print heads mean you never need worry about blocked nozzles, since a fresh print head is installed each time the cartridge is changed. While these are preferable to permanent print heads installed in the printer, there’s the potential that unused ink has to be discarded in cartridges that hold three colours once one of them runs out.

The 8250 is HP’s first A4 Photosmart printer to use individual ink tanks with a separate, permanent print head. The ink-recycling technology is new too – rather than a continuous flow of ink between the tank and print head, the latter’s reservoir is only filled up when it’s used up. Plus, excess ink can be pumped back into the cartridge, and HP claims it’s ultra-efficient.

Unfortunately, the fact that ink remains in the system made it impossible to measure exactly how much ink is used for maintenance (see Running costs). However, the good news is that, since our original tests, we’ve run real-world rundown tests over a number of months, by printing photos intermittently.

We discovered it wastes precious little ink: it prints the same number of prints under intermittent use as it does in a single bulk session, namely 116 6x4in photos. If you buy HP’s value pack of six cartridges with 150 sheets of Everyday Photo Paper, each photo will cost just under 20p – very competitive. If you opt for Premium Plus paper for better quality prints, it still works out at a reasonable 35p, making this printer the fourth most economical in the Labs.

The ink system falls under the Vivera banner and comprises a pigment-based black along with CYM and light versions of cyan and magenta. Resolution remains the same as other PhotoREt IV inkjets at 4,800 x 1,200dpi.

HP also makes a lot of noise about the 8250’s speed, claiming to be the world’s fastest photo printer at its launch. Printing a 6 x 4in photo at best quality took one minute, 31 seconds, which was far from the fastest we saw. Quality was excellent, though, and easily on a par with the 8450’s stunning detail and colours.

Mono text quality wasn’t up to the Canon standard (being slightly grey in comparison), but it was delivered quicker at normal quality – 5.4ppm against 4.8ppm. Likewise, in draft mode, the 8250 beat the iP5200R (and everything else on test) with a superb rate of 16.2ppm.

And, to be fair, the 8250 can beat the Canon iP5200’s time of 36 seconds for a 6 x 4in photo too, but only if you switch to fast draft mode and use HP’s barcoded Everyday Photo Paper. We saw prints fly out in around 13 seconds, but the drop in quality is noticeable. Colours aren’t quite as vibrant and grain is much more noticeable, but they’re still acceptable as photos.

One advantage over the Canon is the dedicated 6 x 4in paper tray, which can hold around 20 sheets. This automatically engages when you select 6 x 4in as the paper size and means you don’t need to remove the A4 paper from the main tray.

Yet another bonus is the 2.5in TFT, the selection of media card readers (which accept all major formats) and the PictBridge port, which allow photos to be printed directly from a camera. If you want to edit photos before you print, HP includes its Image Zone software. This offers only basic tools, but makes it easy to print borderless photos.

The iP5200R scores with its Wi-Fi and Ethernet interfaces – the 8250 has only a USB 2 port – but the Canon’s 58p per 6 x 4in photo running costs put it out of awards territory. Thanks to more affordable running costs the 8250 is a better choice for most people. Just remember to consider the 8450 first.

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