HP Photosmart A618 review
We originally saw the Photosmart A618 back in November last year, and criticised it for being relatively expensive to buy and for grainy-looking prints. Now, you can buy it for around half the price, making it a serious contender for this roundup.
The A618 has two major advantages over the competition: it can print 7 x 5in photos and has integrated Bluetooth. That makes it perfect if you happen to have a decent cameraphone, as the process of printing images via Bluetooth couldn’t be simpler and, more importantly, it works flawlessly. There’s also a wide choice of print methods if you’re not using Bluetooth: direct from SD/MMC, xD-Picture, CompactFlash or Memory Stick cards, from a PictBridge camera or from a PC.
Not only can it print on 7 x 5in photo paper, but the HP also supports 4 x 12in panoramic paper, something no dye-sub printer is capable of. The 2.4in LCD and clearly labelled buttons make it easy to pick which photos to print. The menu options mean you can rotate and apply basic edits to images, and apply colour effects such as sepia, or add borders. A handy layout button cycles between one, two and four photos per sheet.
Checking print quality against our original printouts from the previous test unit showed that grain wasn’t as noticeable at normal viewing distances. However, compared to the Pixma mini 220 and PictureMate 240, the HP’s prints weren’t as good. This was down to colours occasionally being lighter than they should have been, plus a lack of shadow detail. Mono images were neutral, though, with no colour cast. Fortunately, prints resisted fading and only the slightest amount of warmth was lost after our tests.
Each 6 x 4in print took a rather tardy 1min 41secs to print, but you can fill the input tray with 20 sheets of paper and leave it to print a batch while you do something else. The value pack comes with a tri-colour cartridge and 120 sheets of Everyday photo paper, working out to 18p per print. There’s no pack with 7 x 5in paper, though, and as a 20-sheet pack costs around £6.50 the paper cost alone is 33p a sheet. Ink works out at roughly 15p per print, so 7 x 5in photos aren’t economical.
Overall, the A618 may not be the best quality, the fastest or cheapest, but its 7 x 5in capability and Bluetooth make it a good alternative to the Epson.