User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Pros:Wonderful, high resolution, ink jet printer
Cons:Watch out for the cost of supplies!
The Bottom Line: Expensive but fast, fast photos! Easy to carry and has high color fidelity, a must for on-the-go picture takers.
So, you buy a new digital camera, have a good traveling computer (in my case an ECS Desknote) loaded with Photoshop and you find one thing is missing to get nice pictures to hand out to family and friends. Yes, a good photo-quality printer! What I wanted was something that I could pack along on a trip that would still do high quality photo prints, yet not be a huge letter sized paper output device. This end of the market is now burgeoning with devices from HP, Kodak and Olympus, amongst many, with devices ranging from standard 8.5" x 11" devices that can take smaller print stock to the device I finally hit upon the HP Photosmart 100.
Recommend this product?
Why did I choose the HP device over its competitors? First off it suffers from serious featuritis: it is not only a USB printer that can be run off of a PC, but is also a stand-alone printer that can take compact flash cards and smart media cards and can print directly from those cards! And since the capability to read those media cards is built into the printer, it can also serve as a reader for those cards for your PC. The drivers the device comes with include all the necessary drivers for the printer and its card reading. I will probably never use the printer in its stand-alone mode, as I don't trust automated color-correction and sharpening of photos that I can't see on a large screen. But if I ever needed to make truly 'instant' photos, then I do have that capability.
Installation is a two-step process for PC based printing, first installing drivers on the PC before hooking the device up and then hooking it up when prompted by the software. These drivers covers later versions of the Windows operating system (98/ME/XP/2000 Pro). As with any new hardware device, do check the manufacturer's web site for updated drivers and software patches. In the case of the Photosmart 100 it can often print with thin white lines (which are non-ink coverage areas) thus ruining a good print. A software patch is available, run it once and you should be good to go.
On to the pictures! The printer comes with a few 4"x6" starter sheets, which you will run out of after a few test picture prints. I have been able to find loads of glossy card stock, with the lowest price being $12 for 50 sheets. I would really like to find some matte/coated card stock for everyday 'hand out quality' photos, but local resellers seem loathe to stock that sort of thing. I guess it will be on-line shopping for me... The printing on glossy stock is absolutely fabulous! On the basic settings for the printer driver I have had no complaints and many compliments on the quality of pictures printed and their color fidelity. The latter to me is quite amazing as I do not have a color calibration utility installed on my travel based PC, just quick 'by eye' work in Photoshop. Printing output will vary by printing type chosen in the driver set-up and can be as high as 2400 x 1200 dpi (drops NOT dots per inch) for each of the color channels.
On the consumables side I've used some of the standard print numbers for HP ink jet cartridges of this size (~125), average cost of paper (glossy stock) and general ink usage, to find the average cost per print. The numbers I'm seeing are in the 35-75 cent range, which is not unreasonable for getting fast-turnaround pictures on decent card stock. Plus using basic camera selectivity for earmarking photos for direct print or using a photo-manipulation software package, you are guaranteed never to print out something you don't like. And you will never have to visit a photo service desk again...
The downsides to this device are few: I tested a floor model and it had been beat-up enough so that it couldn't run paper through its two step input system. That is a bit worrying as the paper is first taken from the front and fed through the back of the machine and then moved forward under the print heads. It is something to keep an eye on over time and a few photos may come out ever so slightly mis-aligned to the paper edges (not that I haven't seen THAT from normal picture processing). Also, the cost of the ink cartridge (tri-color CMY, no black) is relatively high running in the $30-35 dollar range. It should be good for a little over a hundred prints or so, but that depends on how often you print pictures, the amount of color saturation chosen for your photos, and the life-span of the ink itself.
If you are looking for a photo-printer to take on the road, then this is probably the best of the lot. Compact when not in use and taking up minimal table space when in-use, the extra couple of pounds are well worth the effort to tote for the capacity it offers. This will never be your primary printer for any PC, but it could well take over all of your small photo printing needs over night. Finally you can get UV resistant inks/paper for this device and the standard ink is resistant to water smearing.
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Amount Paid (US$): 175
Operating System: Windows