Hewlett Packard – PSC 950 review

multi-function printer/scanner with clever digital photography features
Photo of Hewlett Packard – PSC 950
£254 + VAT

Hewlett Packard played a big part in inventing the All-in-One device category (combined printer, scanner and copier) and the latest model to join the range, the PSC 950, moves the genre on to new levels. The new machine is smaller than previous models, such as the OfficeJet G85, but then it contains no document feeder for the scanner. It’s a USB-only device, so installs very simply.

A bank of illuminated buttons controls scanning, printing and copying functions, including standalone copying which doesn’t require connection to a PC. A two-line LCD display helps here, giving step by step guidance with any of the more complicated functions.

The device is based on a DeskJet 900 series print engine, so is well capable of printing on plain and photo paper with excellent results. Using Photoret III image enhancement these results can all be obtained at 600dpi, though if you must print at higher resolution, there’s a 2,400dpi print mode too.

The scanner can scan at up to 600 x 1,200dpi with a colour depth of 36-bit, which is more than enough for pulling in photo prints and detailed drawings and of course for OCR on text. It’s not high enough for scanning slides, but HP is aiming squarely at the digital photography market here.

Plug a memory card into its SmartMedia, CompactFlash or MemoryStick card slots and the PSC 950 prints you a contact sheet – a sheet of thumbnail images. This is useful in itself, but each sheet comes with a series of fields you can fill in with a pencil – much like the numbers on a lottery ticket. The fields provide options like the number of prints of a shot you’d like printed and the size and type of paper you want them printed on.

How do you get this information back into the All-in-One? Simply lay the contact sheet on the scanning bed and scan it back in. After a good deal of rumbling and pause for thought, the PSC 950 produces just the images you requested and in the right numbers and sizes. This is such a good bit of lateral thinking that you begin to feel like crediting HP with its own slogan – ‘HP invent’ (or should that be ‘invents’?).

It goes further though, as you can upload images from the cards plugged into your PSC 950 to your PC and HP’s software automatically puts them in a new folder with today’s date. If you have a mixture of images on a card, some of which have already been uploaded, the software is intelligent enough to realise this and not upload them again.

Finally, the printing Wizard in the HP software is like a super-set of the print Wizard in Windows XP, offering to lay out the images you want to print and helping you to get the most from your expensive photo paper.

Company: Hewlett Packard

Contact: 0870 241 1485


Verdict
Although great as a scanner, printer and copier, most of the excitement about this machine comes from its handling of digital photos stored on memory cards. Currently there's little that matches the versatility of the HP PSC 950 in extracting images from digital cameras, either onto paper or into your PC.