Hewlett-Packard's new Photosmart 8230 printer had a lot to live up to. Claiming to print a standard 4 x 6 photo as fast as 14 seconds, HP has dubbed this model the "world's fastest photo printer".
- Design and Aesthetics, LCD Display and Menu System, Printing Speeds, Automatic Document Feeder, Excellent Colour Reproduction and Image Detail
- Expensive Cartridges, Grainy Effect in Prints
It's not without its faults, but the Photosmart 8230 is an above average photo printer with speed as its number one drawing card. It does suffer from graining effects, but its colour reproduction and level of detail is excellent for a photo printer in this price range.
Price$ 349.00 (AUD)
Unfortunately we weren't able to achieve the claimed 14 second print time, but we were still able to print a borderless 4 x 6 photo straight from an SD card in just 21 seconds. This is lighting fast and although the Photosmart 8230 didn't achieve its advertised target, this an outstanding result. And it's not just photos that are quick. Printing a page of text in economy mode took just 13 seconds, while the same page in high quality monochrome mode took about 22 seconds. If this wasn't enough, our test page containing photos, graphics, tables and text took just 32 seconds on plain A4 paper and a lightning 1 minute and 50 seconds on HP's colourfast glossy photo paper. In short, the Photosmart 8230 is extremely fast.
Design and Features
Aesthetically, the Photosmart 8230 is quite an attractive unit, even if it's a little on the bulky side. It will undeniably take up a substantial amount of real estate on your desk, so you'll need to ensure you have an appropriate place for it if you decide to make a purchase. Finished in a soothing silver and grey colour scheme, HP has ensured the printer is quite easy on the eyes thanks to a sleek and well rounded design.
The Photosmart 8230's paper output tray sits neatly in front of the unit. This means you'll have to keep the front of the printer clear as you'll need to open it when you load new paper. There are two paper trays; the first is a main tray which holds up to 100 sheets of plain paper and the second a 4 x 6 photo tray which can store 20 sheets. Both are adequate, although if you are planning to do plenty of text printing, then you may be a little disappointed with the 100 capacity main tray. In saying this, the main function of this unit is photo printing so the capacity provided is more than enough in that regard.
The Photosmart 8230 also includes a convenient card reader with support for CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, Microdrive, and xD cards. This is located at the front of the unit and is covered by an inexpensive looking frosted plastic cover. Perhaps HP would have been better served with a silver cover to match the rest of the unit, but this is a minor issue and certainly not one that detracts from the overall quality of the unit. A PictBridge port also makes its way onto the Photosmart 8230 and this is located on the front bottom right of the printer to ensure easy access.
HP has made it as straightforward as possible to print photos without the need for a PC thanks to a 2.5 inch colour LCD and an easy to grasp interface. The speed of the menu system is definitely noteworthy; unlike other printers we've seen, scrolling through photos on an SD card or through a PictBridge camera is a very quick process. There are a multitude of editing and image options available onboard, including red eye reduction, adjusting photo brightness, adding frames and colour effects, viewing slide shows, selecting print quality and cropping images. The buttons on the front of the printer are well laid out and easy to access so utilising these functions is a hassle-free process.
If you do want to print with the aid of a PC or Macintosh computer, HP's Image Zone software and drivers allows you to do so. It took a fair while to install (about 15 minutes on our test machine), but it's worth the wait and provides plenty of printing and editing options. The Instant Share option is a useful feature; pressing this button on the printer automatically sends any photos currently selected from a card or PictBridge connection to your computer where they are ready for e-mail, the creation of online photo albums, or for burning to a CD.
The prints we produced with the Photosmart were just above average overall. They aren't bad by any means, but then again, they just don't do enough to blow your socks off. The biggest letdown is the grainy effect we discovered in most photo test prints; this was clearly visible, especially in larger prints and areas where a single colour dominated the image. Despite this weakness, the detail level of the Photosmart 8230 is especially good and it produces excellent colour saturation in most images.
Monochrome text prints were average, although the Photosmart 8230 does tend to struggle with lines. There were visible jagged edges and slight banding, although the latter isn't too much of a concern. High quality monochrome text prints were much better than their economy counterparts, with far clearer text patterns; although this is to be expected.
Ink and Cartridges
The Photosmart 8230 utilses a reservoir ink tank system fed from six separate cartridges (Black, Cyan, Light Cyan, Magenta, Light Magenta and Yellow). According to HP, this new system enables the printer to recycle excess ink, such as the ink that is used during print head alignment and cleaning, meaning it saves you ink and money.
Like most HP printers, cartridges for the Photosmart 8230 are fairly expensive; the Black commanding an RRP of $30.95 and the other five colour ink tanks $16.95. However from mid-June HP will sell a Photo Pack for the Photosmart 8230 which will contain a set of six cartridges and 150 sheets of Advanced Photo Paper for $75. This equates to 50 cents per 4 x 6 photo, which is slightly above average but still fairly competitive.
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