All-in-one office machines are all the rage at the moment, as they hold out the promise (especially for small businesses) of combining many tasks at a high standard for remarkably low costs. HP is one of the leaders in this area and has been eagerly trumpeting the virtues of the Photosmart 6180, especially for its supposed ‘ultimate’ printing speeds of 32ppm for mono documents and 31ppm for colour.
Well, it certainly won’t take up too much space as it’s a conveniently compact 17.5 x 15.2 x 9.2 inches, weighs a comparatively featherlight 10.6kg and unites the roles of fax, copier, scanner and printer. The optical scanner has a top resolution of 4,800 x 4,800dpi and directly above the scanner lid is an automatic document feeder (ADF) which will hold 50 sheets of A4 or Letter and up to 35 Legal length sheets. The scanner itself cannot duplicate any greater size than A4.
The main input tray holds 100 sheets and there’s an additional 10 x 15cm (6 x 4-inch) photo tray above, which can dispense 20 sheets before you need to reload. If you need it, an optional automatic two-sided printing accessory can be purchased separately and you can scan in transparencies and film (but without the holder that comes as standard with the slightly more expensive Photosmart C7180).
There are six large, well labelled, individual Vivera ink cartridges (CMYK plus light magenta and light cyan) which slot easily into the centre of the machine, and on the front are four memory card slots (supporting CompactFlash, SD/MMC, Memory Stick, and xD) and a USB port which is PictBridge-enabled so you can import photos directly from your digital camera.
The large front control panel dominates the design but is refreshingly uncomplicated to decipher. There’s a separate column for each function and every step of the process appears in the bright, 90-degree pivoting, 2.4-inch LCD that enables you to make your copies and scans without connecting to a PC (if you want to make use of the basic variations), or you can opt to make commands through HP’s supplied printing software.
What will be especially appealing to small business users are the networking options via the 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections, while the fax alternatives include 60 individual, programmable, speed-dial numbers and up to 60 groups.
However, the print speeds – despite the manufacturer’s claims – are relatively low unless you’re using HP’s own Advanced photo papers. The same is generally true of the scan and copy functions, although printing from memory cards was noticeably swifter. On the other hand, the sharpness and faithfulness of the colour reproduction was of a high standard, so on balance this is indeed good value for money.
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