HP and Canon have been slugging it out for some time now in pursuit of the ultimate all-in-one printer, with the Holy Grail being the machine that can provide excellent quality and the fastest speeds, combined with chic and practical design at the most affordable prices. Inevitably, neither company has quite managed the ultimate yet, but each new upgrade creeps a step closer to that goal.
The latest HP Photosmart has concentrated principally on improving network connection and quality of image reproduction. The main physical differences between the previous C6200 series and the new C7200 series are the addition of a 50-sheet auto document feeder on the top and the thrusting forward of the controls, which now include a set of fax programming buttons.
The 100-sheet paper input tray still juts out at the front with the automatic 20-sheet, 10 x 15cm photo tray above it. The LCD screen at the left end of the control panel remains 6.1cm in size and allows you to perform a cut-down series of commands from the main Photosmart Essential software. Also, the same set of memory card slots is in place at front right, ready to print or copy directly from CompactFlash, SD, Multimedia Card, Memory Stick and MS Pro.
What is new is the 802.11g wireless networking capability, and the setup via the LCD menu is outstandingly effective. Simply ask the machine to search for the router and up it pops: once confirmed, you’re off and running and if you don’t have WiFi then there are standard USB and Ethernet connections available as well.
Setting up the fax is a little more complicated but if you follow the LCD or manual instructions you should have no difficulty in being operational within minutes. Up to 90 A4 fax pages can be stored in the memory, which is great for business but also for wretched spam faxes.
In terms of speed, there’s virtually no significant improvement over the C6200 series, with printing and copying optimal quoted rates at 34ppm for black and 33ppm for colour documents. The 10 x 15cm photos averaged around 12 seconds at basic settings when printing from memory sticks and via a PC, rising to 15 minutes when scanning at the highest resolution (4800 x 4800 dpi). Thankfully the automatic duplex function remains from the last series and doesn’t involve any bulky add-ons to the back of the unit; each page is simply sucked back into the machine and the reverse side is printed.
Print quality is uniformly high on all copying and printing functions, with colours often so sharp and real they seem to leap off the page, and blacks are solid and consistent. Scanned photos will need to be tweaked from the default settings, though, as outdoor photos had a tendency to give foliage a yellow tinge.
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