If you think that having a home printer capable of producing photos as large as A3+ would be too expensive for you to even consider, then HP’s new Photosmart B8550 may change your mind. It’s still not what you would consider cheap, but considering what it offers it is pretty good value for money.
Despite being able to print 13×19 and 11×14 photos, the majority of people print A4 or 15x10cm prints, something HP took into consideration when designing the B8550 as it’s a fairly compact unit measuring 58.0 by 38.9 x 18.1cm, so it should fit on a normal desk without too many problems. It has telescopic input and output trays to accommodate the larger sized paper when needed.
The 1200 x 1200dpi printer uses five individual HP Vivera dye based ink cartridges; Photo Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and a standard Black cartridge, the latter using larger pigments for printing standard text documents. The cartridges themselves will look familiar to anyone who has used Canon’s PIXMA cartridge based printers.
Despite the price tag, the B8550 only comes with a USB 2.0 interface; there’s no WiFi or even Ethernet port, which seems a bit odd, although a Bluetooth adaptor is available as an option (£24 inc. VAT).
As with most manufacturers’ claims for inkjet speeds, those that HP gives for the B8550 (33ppm black, 31ppm colour) should be taken with a fairly hefty dose of salt even in draft mode. And since few people would spend this much money on a printer and then print everything in draft mode, we tested it in normal mode at best quality and got a print time of 8.5ppm for a page of A4 text, dropping to 4.5ppm for an A3 page.
A 15 x 10cm colour print took 1 minute and 35 seconds while an A3+ print took a reasonable 3 minutes and 25 seconds. As you might expect, the quality of photos is first rate, with accurately saturated colours, while text was smooth and strong.
As is normal with a printer, it’s not buying it that costs the real money; it’s running the thing afterwards. A standard black cartridge costs around £14 and yields approximately 250 sheets, while the larger 800-page cartridge costs £21.42. There are two Photo black cartridges; standard 130-page (£6.27) and 290-page (£12.36). Colour cartridges cost £5.75 for the standard 300-page yield and £12 for the 750-page one.
The top left-hand corner of the B8550 holds a 65mm colour LCD display and a small number of control buttons. The B8550 presents no problems to set up and it can be done reasonable quickly. Built into the bottom of the front panel is a PictBridge port alongside three memory card slots supporting the usual formats; Compact Flash, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, SD, SDHC, MMC and xD Picture card.
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