Our review of the HP Deskjet 460wbt Mobile Printer shows that while HP's portable printer isn't huge and has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the Deskjet 460wbt isn't as portable as HP would have you believe.

Nowadays you can work just about anywhere. All you need is your mobile phone and a laptop.

Of course, a comfortable chair doesn't hurt. You may also want food, water, and an occasional bathroom break. But what about a printer? At some point, you'll probably need a hard copy - whether it's a map with driving directions, a spreadsheet, or a photo of your boss drunkenly leading a conga line up a down escalator.

Is it worth the expense and effort to pack a portable printer? To find out, we tested HP's Deskjet 460wbt, the Bluetooth version of the Deskjet 460.

HP's Deskjet 460wbt is £217 inc VAT on HP's site, but you can get lower prices elsewhere (see below).

We tested an earlier version of the 460wbt, the Deskjet 450, back in 2003, so we were curious to see how the updated model compared. Here's what we learned.

Portable? Yes. Petite? No.

Before a recent trip, we packed HP's Deskjet 460wbt in a wheeled notebook carry-on bag, along with a computer - the ultraportable Sony Vaio TXN19P. It's not an experience we recommend.

The Deskjet 460wbt is about as hefty as its predecessor. At 2.22kg including a battery and two inkjet cartridges, it weighs more than many notebooks. Add its AC adaptor and the printer weighs even more. It's bulky, too, measuring 340x163x80mm. Once we put it in a carry-on bag, there was no room left for reading materials, files or other carry-on essentials.

HP's Deskjet 450 can connect to a computer wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, depending upon which model you buy. It can also connect via USB 2.0, though the cable is not included. By comparison, the Deskjet 450 offered Bluetooth but not Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Deskjet 460wbt comes with a CompactFlash Bluetooth card that you insert into a card slot on the printer's left side. Alternatively, you can buy the Deskjet 460wf, which includes an 802.11g CompactFlash card for making connections over a Wi-Fi network. As of the time of writing, both printers cost the same.

Whichever wireless configuration you choose, you can add the other via an optional CompactFlash card.

Which wireless option is best? It depends. In my tests, configuring HP's Deskjet 460wbt to connect via Bluetooth was easier than making an initial Wi-Fi connection. Because my home Wi-Fi network is security protected, connecting the 460wbt to the network took a few extra steps - which could be cumbersome if you hope to access different secure Wi-Fi networks during your travels.

The Deskjet 460 has a rear switch that lets you toggle between three different Wi-Fi networks, however. Also, Bluetooth connectivity is limited to up to 30ft in range, whereas a Wi-Fi connection can extend much farther.

Printing via Wi-Fi - at least over our 802.11g home wireless network - was faster than using Bluetooth. In our tests, printing an article from a website that ran over four printed pages and included text and color photos took 2.25 minutes over the Wi-Fi connection. Using the Bluetooth connection, the same print job took 3.04 minutes.

Bottom line: the Bluetooth 460wbt option would be better than the Wi-Fi 460wf for those who frequently travel to many different places. That's because once you've made a Bluetooth connection between your printer and notebook, you're done. You can use the same connection wherever you go. But if you will primarily use the printer in no more than three different locations and each has an 802.11g (or faster) network, the Wi-Fi option is best.

Print quality: good

In our tests, HP's Deskjet 460wbt produced good-quality colour, greyscale and black-and-white prints. None of the prints we made would win awards, but we wouldn't be embarrassed to hand them to a client, either.

The Deskjet 460wbt prints smooth, black text on plain paper. Colour and grayscale photographs look slightly grainy on plain paper, but more natural on glossy paper. On both types of media we noticed some splotchiness in densely coloured areas, as if the ink hadn't soaked in completely.

HP Deskjet 460wbt: Specs

  • Up to 4,800 optimised dpi colour and 1,200 input dpi
  • 32MB memory
  • input capacity 50 sheets
  • network capabilities via 802.11b CompactFlash card
  • HP Thermal Inkjet print technology
  • HP Photoret III (HP Photoret IV with optional photo cartridge) colour ink technology
  • ICC Color Management
  • Prosumer UI
  • Adobe RGB
  • print quality (black, best quality) up to 1,200x1,200 rendered dpi
  • print quality (colour, best quality) up to 4,800 optimised dpi colour and 1,200 input dpi
  • standard media sizes A4, B5 (JIS), 2L, A5 , A6, L, C6 envelope, A2 envelope, DL envelope
  • media supported: paper (plain, inkjet, glossy photo), envelopes, transparencies, labels, cards
  • battery recharge time 2 hours
  • requires Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP Home, XP Professional
  • Vista
  • Mac OS 10.x
  • 340x163x80mm
  • 2.22 kg
  • 1-year warranty
  • Up to 4,800 optimised dpi colour and 1,200 input dpi
  • 32MB memory
  • input capacity 50 sheets
  • network capabilities via 802.11b CompactFlash card
  • HP Thermal Inkjet print technology
  • HP Photoret III (HP Photoret IV with optional photo cartridge) colour ink technology
  • ICC Color Management
  • Prosumer UI
  • Adobe RGB
  • print quality (black, best quality) up to 1,200x1,200 rendered dpi
  • print quality (colour, best quality) up to 4,800 optimised dpi colour and 1,200 input dpi
  • standard media sizes A4, B5 (JIS), 2L, A5 , A6, L, C6 envelope, A2 envelope, DL envelope
  • media supported: paper (plain, inkjet, glossy photo), envelopes, transparencies, labels, cards
  • battery recharge time 2 hours
  • requires Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP Home, XP Professional
  • Vista
  • Mac OS 10.x
  • 340x163x80mm
  • 2.22 kg
  • 1-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

If you frequently need prints on the go, and you mostly travel for business by car, the HP Deskjet 460 is a good option. we could see estate agents and other professionals stowing one in their car trunk, to print updated contracts and other documents at a client's home or other location. But those who travel mostly by plane will balk at how much space the printer takes up in a carry-on - don't even think about packing it in a checked-in bag. If you fall into that category, consider one of Canon's smaller printers or print remotely via FedEx Kinko's or EFI's services. Melissa Riofrio contributed to this review of the HP Deskjet 460wbt Mobile Printer

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