With reams of budget all-in-ones (AIOs) available for casual users there’s a constant battle between speed, quality and value, and HP has attempted to find the right combination yet again here with the PhotoSmart C4680.
We were pleasantly surprised to note that this is a superbly compact AIO with an attractive piano-black design that takes a minimalist approach due to a lack of obvious controls. Combining print, scan and copy, it sits at the entry-level end of the spectrum due to its low price point and lack of additional features.
Aside from a power switch and multi-card reader, the printer’s functionality is accessed via a 1.5-inch full colour screen that sits amidst touch-sensitive controls. Despite being rather small, we found this to be effective at accessing the range of menus available, and the fact that the touch-sensitive buttons illuminate only when they come into play means it’s always easy to work out what you’re being asked to do next.
This is particularly useful during setup, which must be completed correctly to get the best results, and also when printing photos directly from the multi card reader. In the case of the latter, images are quickly indexed from other content on a card and are easily browsable via the display, which allows for multiple selections and direct printing without the need for a computer.
The C4680 includes a maximum 80-sheet input tray capable of handling a wide range of paper sizes including photo paper up to 280gsm. The lack of an output tray leaves resulting prints resting on top of a ream of paper, however, which can get quite messy during larger jobs. A 1200dpi scanner and 1200 x 1200dpi copier, along with quoted print speeds maxing out at 29ppm for draft text prints, betray the PhotoSmart’s rather basic nature, but we were hoping it would still be able to tick the most important boxes.
During our tests the PhotoSmart C4680 hit around 15ppm for monochrome text prints on draft setting and 7ppm on standard setting. Quality was pretty good despite a hint of bleed on regular printer paper, though this is only really noticeable at the draft setting, and would be more than adequate for most users in a home environment.
Printing borderless full colour photos takes over six minutes for a full sized A4 image and around a minute and a half for a 6 x 4-inch snap. The C4680 certainly isn’t the fastest out of the blocks, but almost surprisingly we were very pleased with the resultant quality, which aside from a slightly grainy hue maintains bright, accurate colour balance, sharp lines and deep blacks that for most people would be indistinguishable from professional prints in a lab. Skin tones are accurate and fine details are reproduced extremely well, especially considering the low-end nature of the device.
In terms of the other features, copies take around 15 seconds per A4 monochrome page and are of comparable quality to prints. Full colour A4 scans are ready to view on a PC or saved directly to memory card in around 45 seconds, but we were a little disappointed to note quite poor reproduction quality here, with colours appearing rather washed out and a greenish hue over images, something that is particularly apparent with deep blacks. Those who may be looking to scan digital photos to store on a computer can expect to do a fair bit of image editing to get the desired results.
Overall it’s a pretty good showing from the PhotoSmart C4680 in terms of quality, but even if you can justify the long wait for prints there’s an additional factor to take into account, namely the running costs over time. We noted that the HP was sapping ink quite quickly, and a look at cartridge prices for this printer revealed a rather expensive upkeep. Expect to pay around £30 for a 500-sheet replacement colour or black cartridge, which is quite a bit more expensive than most rivals at this price point.
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