The Photosmart A526 is simple to use but very slow. The prints are worth the wait, though.

HP's low-cost HP Photosmart A526 aims for simplicity. If you'd rather print than fuss, this is the model for you - assuming you can tolerate its relaxed printing pace.

The inkjet-based HP Photosmart A526 is fairly compact and sports a handle for carrying about. The front panel unfolds to make the output tray and to reveal the media slots; this also triggers the input tray to unfold automatically from the back. The four media slots take most major formats; there's also a PictBridge-compatible USB port.

The HP Photosmart A526's input tray takes both 4x6in photo stock and 4x12in panoramic stock. The tricolor ink cartridge loads easily into a lidded bay on the right side.

The control panel is minimal but usable. The HP Photosmart A526's tilted, 2.4in LCD is adequately sized for viewing images and navigating menus. Among the few buttons is one for reducing red-eye. A large Print button is flanked by left- and right-arrow buttons; you press it to confirm your settings. A button labelled 'ok', though, would make the HP Photosmart A526 easier to use - we find it unintuitive to confirm settings by pressing Print. (We also prefer word labels over icons any day.)

The HP Photosmart A526's menus offer plenty of maintenance and how-to content, but just a handful of printing options. Photo Fix automatically tries to improve the sharpness, lighting, and colour quality of a printed photo; you can disable it. You can also select a level of print quality, or bordered/borderless printing.

Want more? Install the HP Photosmart A526 on your PC so you can use HP's Photosmart Essentials software (or another program) to fine-tune an image before printing it. You can also use the HP Photosmart A526 to transfer photos from a memory card to your PC.

Photos we printed on the HP Photosmart A526 looked very good overall. Flesh tones tended to look orangey, but other images looked natural. The larger issue was speed, or the lack thereof: prints took well over a minute to emerge.

Installing the HP Photosmart A526 on a PC takes a little while, because it loads a good dollop of software. HP's Solution Center interface centralises all the tools and applications, including a thorough onscreen user guide.

The HP Photosmart A526's other documentation - a setup poster and a printed "Basics" guide - are clearly written and cover the primary usage issues.

Next page: manufacturer specifications and verdict >>

Verdict

The HP Photosmart A526's minimal-options approach to printing photos will be a relief for some, a frustration for others. But it's the slow printing that dampens its value somewhat, even if the photos are worth the wait.

Manufacturer specifications

Fast facts:

Print speed (colour photo, draft quality on photo paper, 10x15): As fast as 39 sec (with border, direct connect)
Print speed (colour photo, best quality on photo paper, 10x15): As fast as 76 sec (with border, direct connect)
Print quality (colour, best quality): Up to 4,800x1,200 optimised dpi when printing from a computer and 1,200 input dpi
Borderless printing: Yes (up to 100x300mm)
Memory card compatibility: CompactFlash Type I and II, Magic Gate, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard, SmartMedia, xD-Picture Card
Standard media sizes: 10x15cm, 10x30cm
Standard connectivity: USB - compatible with USB 2.0 specifications, PictBridge, memory card slots

Printing system:

Print technology: HP Thermal Inkjet
Print head nozzles: 600 colour ink nozzles
Print quality (colour, best quality): Up to 4,800x1,200 optimised dpi when printing from a computer and 1,200 input dpi
Print speed (colour photo, best quality on photo paper, 10x15): As fast as 76 sec (with border, direct connect)
Print speed (colour photo, draft quality on photo paper, 10x15): As fast as 39 sec (with border, direct connect)

Photo printing and smart features:

Borderless printing: Yes (up to 100x300mm)
Memory card compatibility: CompactFlash Type I and II, Magic Gate, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro®, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard, SmartMedia, xD-Picture Card
Standard paper trays: 1
Recommended media: HP Advanced Photo Paper: 10x15cm
Custom media sizes: 10x15cm, 10x30cm
Standard media sizes: 10x15cm, 10x30cm
Recommended media weight: HP photo papers up to 280 g/m²
Maximum input capacity (sheets): Up to 20
Maximum input capacity (cards): Up to 20
Standard output capacity (sheets): Up to 20
Duplex print options: None (not supported)
Standard memory: 32MB
Software included: HP Photosmart software

Other technical information:

Compatible operating systems: Windows XP Home, Windows XP Professional, Certified for Windows Vista, Mac OS X v10.3.9, Mac OS X v10.4
Standard connectivity: USB - compatible with USB 2.0 specifications, PictBridge, memory card slots
Optional connectivity: HP bt450 Bluetooth Wireless Printer Adapter (Q6398A), HP bt500 Bluetooth USB 2.0 Adapter (Q6273A), HP Wireless Printing Upgrade Kit (Q6259A)
Minimum system requirements: 900MB hard disk space (Windows Vista), for all other systems: 350MB available hard disk space for software installation, CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, Internet access recommended, SVGA 800 x 600 monitor with 16-bit colour (32-bit colour recommended), USB port and USB cable, Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher, Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher; Windows Vista: 800MHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor (1GHz processor, 1GB memory or higher recommended); Windows XP (Home, Professional): any Intel Pentium II, Celeron or compatible processor, 233MHz (Pentium III 300MHz or higher recommended); Windows XP Professional x64: any AMD Athlon 64, AMD Opteron, Intel Xeon with Intel EM64T support, Intel Pentium 4 with Intel EM64T support, 256MB RAM (512MB or higher recommended), Internet Explorer
Standard printer languages: HP PCL 3 GUI
Acoustic power emissions: 5.1 B(A) (active, printing)
Dimensions (W x D x H): 227x116x137.4mm
Package dimensions (W x D x H): 250x150x207mm
Weight: 1.22kg
Package weight: 2.02kg
Power consumption: 23 watts maximum
Power supply type: External power supply module
Power requirements: Input voltage 100 to 240 VAC (+/- 10%), 50/60 Hz (+/- 3 Hz)
Operating humidity range: 5 to 95% RH
Recommended operating temperature range: 15 to 35 ° C
Non-operating humidity: 5 to 95% RH
Recommended humidity operating range: 20 to 80% RH
Electromagnetic compatibility: CISPR 22:1997+A1:2000+A2:2002 / EN 55022:1998 +A1:2000+A2:2003 CISPR 24:1997+A1:2001+A2:2002 / EN 55024:1998 +A1:2001+A2:2003 IEC 61000-3-2:2000+A1:2001+A2:2004 / EN 61000-3-2:2000+A2:2005 IEC 61000-3-3:1994+A1:2001 / EN 61000-3-3:1995+A1:2001 FCC Title 47 CFR Part 15 / ICES-003, Issue 4, CNS13438 1997, VCCI-2, GB9254:1998, GB17625.1:2003
Safety: IEC 60950-1:2001 / EN60950-1:2001, IEC 60825-1 Ed. 1.2:2001 / EN60825-1 + A1:2002 + A2:2001 (LED) AS/NZS 60950.1:2003 NOM 019-SCFI-1993, CNS14336:2004, GB4943:2001
Energy Star certified: No
What's in the box: HP Photosmart A526 Compact Photo Printer, HP 110 Tri-colour Inkjet Print Cartridge (introductory cartridge), 10 x 15 cm photo media sampler, HP Photosmart Essential Software, setup guide, user’s guide, power supply
Warranty: Standard one-year limited hardware warranty. Warranty and support options vary by product, country and local legal requirements.

HP Photosmart A526 photo printer: Specs

  • Inkjet printer
  • max B&W dpi: 1200-by-1200
  • max colour dpi: 4800-by-1200
  • tray capacity, pages: 20
  • 227x116x137.4mm
  • 1.22 kg
  • Inkjet printer
  • max B&W dpi: 1200-by-1200
  • max colour dpi: 4800-by-1200
  • tray capacity, pages: 20
  • 227x116x137.4mm
  • 1.22 kg

OUR VERDICT

The HP Photosmart A526's minimal-options approach to printing photos will be a relief for some, a frustration for others. But it's the slow printing that dampens its value somewhat, even if the photos are worth the wait.