The HP Photosmart A826 is a kiosk-shaped compact photo printer that features a 7in touchscreen and a stylus.

Designed for what HP calls "busy mums", the HP Photosmart A826 streamlines the process of printing photos: it's as easy as inserting a photo storage card, tapping a screen, and touching the Print icon.

See also: First look: HP Photosmart A826 photo printer

Although the HP Photosmart A826's touchscreen interface is a great innovation, its print quality could use some work: in our testing, dark prints looked flat and a little bland. Despite this imperfection, the HP Photosmart A826 is a solid device with a unique interface that should set a positive precedent in the printer market.

There's something important to note about the HP Photosmart A826: even though it is a compact photo printer, that doesn't mean it's portable. Measuring 373x384x264mm with its output and paper trays open and ready to use, the HP Photosmart A826 is larger than other compact photo printers we've tested.

The HP Photosmart A826 also lacks a handle, so it'd be impractical to try to carry this device around on trips or to events.

Rather, the HP Photosmart A826 is designed to serve as a personal kiosk or home photo centre. Still, the printer could use something to make it easier to grip, in case you wanted to move it from one room to another in your home, for example. The smooth, egg-shaped design makes the HP Photosmart A826 slippery and difficult to hold.

The HP Photosmart A826's strength lies in its innovative interface. It's so innovative, in fact, that it caught the attention of several passersby, who stopped by just to look at it. The menu is very intuitive, and we were able to crop photos, add or remove effects, type captions, add frames, and insert clip art with zero hassle. We never had to consult the user manual because the printer operation was completely straightforward.

The HP Photosmart A826's ink-level status is clearly displayed in the upper-lefthand corner of the screen, so you'll know when it's almost time to change the cartridge. To top it off, the HP Photosmart A826 offers an option to view your photos in a slideshow, beautifully displayed on the printer's large, bright screen.

The HP Photosmart A826 uses a tri-colour ink system (cyan, magenta, and yellow), which means that its blacks are processed - that is, made up of the aforementioned three colours combined rather than coming from a separate cartridge of black ink. As a result, shadows appear to lack depth, making images look a little flat and dull. The printer performed better with brighter images, and you'll get the best results when printing on HP's Premium Plus photo paper. Despite my complaint about processed blacks, the HP Photosmart A826's photos look pleasing overall.

When it came to speed, the HP Photosmart A826's performance was about average; it took 1 minute and 29 seconds to print a single photo in our testing at best settings. By way of comparison, the Epson PictureMate Zoom took 42 seconds, less than half the time, to perform the same test.

Verdict

The HP Photosmart A826 is a great choice for beginning photographers who want to print their digital photos as easily as possible. The printer's case design could use some improvement for greater ease of handling, and dark prints appear a little dull; but overall, the A826 is an attractive, fun device made just for its intended consumer group, hobbyists and scrapbookers. At £182 inc VAT, the A826 isn't cheap, but its innovative, user-friendly interface makes this printer a worthy investment, and you can use it as a photo and slideshow viewer.

TEST RESULTS AND SPECIFICATIONS

Jury tests


Colour photo quality: good
Black-and-white photo quality: fair

Timed trials


4x6in photo: 1:29
Five 4x6-inch photos: 7:11

Scale = minutes: seconds

How we tested

We printed all test files from a SanDisk Compact Flash card inserted in the printer. We recorded the time it took to print a 4x6in photo and the time it took to print five 4x6in photos. A panel of experts examined samples of the printer’s output to rate its print quality as Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor in comparison to the output of past compact photo printers we’ve tested.

Manufacturer's specification

All print speeds HP's claimed speeds

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 79 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 130x180mm)
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, 13x18cm, 10x30cm
Standard connectivity: USB - compatible with USB 2.0 specifications, PictBridge, memory card slots

Printing system:

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 79 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 130x180mm)
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, 13x18cm, 10x30cm
Standard media sizes: 10x15cm, 13x18cm, 10x30cm
Recommended media weight: HP photo papers up to 280 g/m²
Maximum input capacity (sheets): Up to 100
Maximum input capacity (cards): Up to 100
Standard output capacity (sheets): Up to 100
Duplex print options: None (not supported)
Standard memory: 64MB
Software included: HP Photosmart software

Other technical information:

Compatible operating systems: Windows XP Home, Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Ready, Mac OS X v10.3.9, Mac OS X v10.4, Intel Mac
Standard connectivity: USB - compatible with USB 2.0 specifications, PictBridge, memory card slots
Optional connectivity: HP bt450 Bluetooth Wireless Printer Adaptor (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 800x600 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: 5.5 B(A)
Dimensions (W x D x H): 263x244x275mm
Package dimensions (W x D x H): 294x244x327mm
Weight: 2.63kg
Package weight: 3.84kg
Power consumption: 4.3 watts maximum (off), 6.7 watts maximum (ready), 16 watts maximum (active, printing), 24 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 / EN 55022:1998 + A1:2000 + A2:2003 Class B, CISPR 24:1997 / EN 55024:1998 + A1:2001 + A2:2003, IEC 61000-3-2: 2000 + A1:2000 + A2:2004, IEC61000-3-3:1994 + A1:2001, CFR 47 Part 15 Class B, ICES-003 Issue 4 - 2003
Safety: IEC 60950 -1 :2001 / EN 60950-1: 2001 ; IEC 60825-1 Edition 1.2:2001 / EN 60825-1+A11+A2+A1: 2002 Class 1 (for LED/Laser) 3) NOM 019 SCFI 1998 4) GB 4943-2001
Energy Star certified? No
What's in the box: HP Photosmart A826 Home Photo Centre, HP 110 Tri-colour Inkjet Print Cartridge (introductory cartridge), 13 x 18 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.

PRODUCT IMAGES

HP Photosmart A826 photo printer

The HP Photosmart A826 photo printer has a unique egg shaped design

Depending on your taste, you may be happy to place it in your living room, and use the HP Photosmart A826 photo printer as a digital photo frame. But beware: with no carry handle, it's a tricky beast to carry.

HP Photosmart A826 photo printer

Although other printers produce better photos, the HP Photosmart A826 photo printer is very easy to use

This is due in no small part to its 7in touchscreen interface. You needn't hook up the HP Photosmart A826 photo printer to a PC, and getting photo prints from a camera or memory card is a cinch.

HP Photosmart A826 photo printer: Specs

  • Number of inks: three
  • memory cards: CompactFlash Type I and II, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard/Secure MultiMediaCard, xD-Picture Card
  • printer resolution: up to 4,800 x 1,200 dpi
  • special features: 7in touchscreen interactive menu
  • stylus
  • Number of inks: three
  • memory cards: CompactFlash Type I and II, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard/Secure MultiMediaCard, xD-Picture Card
  • printer resolution: up to 4,800 x 1,200 dpi
  • special features: 7in touchscreen interactive menu
  • stylus

OUR VERDICT

The HP Photosmart A826 is a great choice for beginning photographers who want to print their digital photos as easily as possible. The printer's case design could use some improvement for greater ease of handling, and dark prints appear a little dull; but overall, the A826 is an attractive, fun device made just for its intended consumer group, hobbyists and scrapbookers. At £182 inc VAT, the A826 isn't cheap, but its innovative, user-friendly interface makes this printer a worthy investment, and you can use it as a photo and slideshow viewer.

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