Perfect Addition To A Budding Digital Darkroom

Nov 19, 2003 (Updated Nov 30, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:High Print Quality, Compact Size, Memory Card Slots

Cons:Photos with black areas tend to matte out, slow

The Bottom Line: The HP Photosmart 1115, is an excellent photo printer (with a few missteps) for anyone who needs quality prints at a fairly inexpensive price


Close, but not the answer to all of your digital photo printing needs

I was tired of always having 2nd rate printers for my computer. I never would get “new and improved,” but “tried and true,” and it showed in my photo print quality. Before I got the HP Photosmart 1115 (I’ll refer to it as the HP from now on), digital photo printing, was at best, an awkward proposition and at worst, a horrible mess.

So it was with a bit of glee that I was traveling through Best Buy and looking at printers. My Mom at the time was in a generous mood and willing to purchase one for me for my birthday. So after hemming and hawing throughout all the models available at the time (this was about a year and a half ago), I settled on the HP 1115, which wasn’t down at the rock bottom price and feature wise, but it also wasn’t at the top. I purchased it at Best Buy for $199 dollars. Now it appears that you can find it online for around $80.

The HP itself is a fairly compact printer, weighing in at about 14 pounds and is about 16 to 20 inches wide and (with the paper tray extended) about 12 to 14 inches deep. It is a nice size to fit fairly inconspicuously on a desk and will not hog all of your available space. The HP, like all of the photosmart line, consists of smooth plastic in gray and black. It matches my Dell system, almost exactly.

The best part of the HP is the series of memory slots that are available. Both of my digital cameras use SmartMedia and when I’m done taking pictures, I just slide the card out of the camera and into the HP. Pictures can be printed directly from the card without the computer on (by printing a contact sheet of all the photos, and then choosing which you wish to print and entering it into the printer), or can be downloaded from the memory card to the computer’s hard drive and printed that way. When a memory card is inserted into the HP, it appears an additional disc drive on the computer. In addition to SmartMedia, the HP can also accept Compact Flash cards.

The HP 1115 works with both PCs and MACs.

On the PC, The HP is supported in Windows 98 on up – I first installed it under Windows ME and had no issues and have recently upgraded to XP and have not had any issues.

The paper tray holds about 100 sheets of 8 by 11 paper, and can also accept other various sizes of paper – including 4x6, envelopes and legal paper. The HP can also print labels and transparencies.

The HP connects to your computer with an included USB cord – and since it was developed before USB 2.0, the connection speed is the original USB. This isn’t a problem for most print jobs, as the amount of data traveling between the computer and the printer isn’t that much. With larger photo print jobs, you may notice some lag time. The HP does not offer any networking connectivity directly (you could share it through a connected computer – but the HP does not have an Ethernet port or any wireless capabilities).

Resolution for prints runs from 600 x 600 dpi for black up to 1200 x 2400 dpi for color photo prints. The printer does an adequate job with text printing, but is fairly slow. Color printing (non-photo) is equally good and prints at about the same speed as the black and white only. Photo printing is very slow (over 5 minutes for an 8 x 10 print), but is of generally high quality with details accurately captured and presented in photographs.

The HP prints with two ink cartridges, a black ink cartridge and color cartridge. These cartridges run about $30 to replace (each) and will last for several months of normal printing. Heavy photo printing will run them out quicker.

So do you like it?

The HP 1115 is a step up from any printer I have ever had. For starters, the photographs printed on the HP look like photographs. Quality in text, color printing and photo printing is generally very high and print life is good (I have several prints framed and hung now since I first got the printer and there is no fading that I can tell). The only quality problem I have found with the printer involves photographs with large areas of black color in them. No matter what type of photo paper I use, at times, any large black expanses in the photos will go from a shiny, smooth black to a very dull and matte black, while the rest of the photo and ink stay glossy. It appears to be a problem with how the ink dries – because it happens randomly throughout paper types and there appears to be no rhyme or reason why one print is okay and another is not. The color inks seem to be immune from the problem, as it is only the true black ink that seems to be affected.

My solution has been to not print any photos were I know there’s a lot of black in them, that way I don’t have to detail with the possibility of the print being ruined. For those prints, I go to a digital photo developer and have them done. That kind of stinks and it is a major shortfall of this printer – I wish I could print out any print on it.

Ink also tends to smear on the back on the prints. I’m not sure if this is from dirty nozzles, or from ink leaking from the edge of the print when printing borderless prints. Either way, quite often, there are smear marks across the back. This is not a real problem though, as the photo paper is heavy enough that the marks will not show through – the biggest hassle is when you lift the print out of the tray and you end up getting ink all over your fingers from the back.

Printing is slow like I said before. If I am printing an 8 x 10 photo, I can literally start the job, go and get a cup of coffee, stop off and go to the bathroom and come back and it might just be finished. Generally I set it up and then go outside and have a cigarette, it takes that long.

Now, I’m not cranking out tons of digital photos – I tend to print only my favorites or the best for framing and presentation. So, its slowness is not all that big of a deal for me. If I had multiple prints that all needed to be done in a short period of time, I would probably get more frustrated with it. This is definitely not a high volume printer.

Is this the end-all photo printer for me? No, I will be upgrading eventually – especially as I move more into digital photography as more than a hobby (yes, I do have dreams of being a photographer, at least on the side). I will need to have a printer that accurately prints blacks without matting, can print somewhat faster, and can provide for printing larger print sizes. But in the meantime, the HP Photosmart 1115, is an excellent photo printer (with a few missteps) for anyone who needs quality prints at a fairly inexpensive price.

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Photography Reviews:

Books and Magazines:
Shutterbug Magazine / Popular Photography Magazine / PC Photo / Outdoor Photography / Photography Outdoors - a field guide

Cameras:
Olympus C-4000 Digital Camera / Olympus D-460 Zoom Digital Camera / Minolta Maxxum 300si (35mm SLR) / Polaroid PDC 640 Digital Camera

Printers, Scanners & Memory
SanDisk 128MB SmartMedia Card / Memorex 128MB SmartMedia Card / HP Photosmart 1115 / Microtek Scanmaker 4800


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