If you're looking for a multifunction printer that's loaded with features but still does a good job printing text and graphics-filled documents, HP's Photosmart C7280 is worth a look. This multifunction device includes print, scan, copy, and fax capabilities, with just about every connectivity option you could want.

The basics|

The C7280 is a six-colour (in six separate ink tanks) inkjet printer with a 100-sheet, letter-size primary paper tray and a secondary tray that holds up to 20 sheets of 4x6in or 5x7in photo paper (4x6in is the traditional 'photo size' you used to get from Boots).

The HP Photosmart C7280 also has slots for all standard memory cards, a PictBrige USB port for connecting a camera or flash storage device directly to the printer, and a built-in duplexing unit for two-sided printing.

But it's the networking capabilities that distinguish the HP Photosmart C7280 from other multifunction printers in its class: it comes with three ways for you to connect it to your PC or to a network.

You can use the USB 2.0 port for direct connections to your PC, or you can hook it up to either a wired ethernet network or a wireless 802.11g network, depending upon your office setup. And, if that's not enough, you can print using Bluetooth if you add the optional HP bt500 Bluetooth adaptor (available online for around £25 inc VAT).

Setting up the HP Photosmart C7280 is a breeze: step-by-step help on the unit's 2.4in LCD is supplemented with the well-written manual and quick-setup sheet.

There's also plenty of onscreen help for connecting the HP Photosmart C7280 to a standard or DSL phone line to use the fax capabilities, and the CD that comes with the printer installs the print and fax driver and all the appropriate scanning software.

Scanning smart

The HP Photosmart C7280 replaces the HP Photosmart C7180 at the high end of HP's all-in-one inkjet line.

The C7280 drops the HP Photosmart C7180's film-scanning capabilities for an automatic document feeder for the scanner and copier, which is a much smarter choice overall. Scanning 35mm film sounds good in theory, but it's rarely possible to get usable scans from an inexpensive flatbed scanner.

The ability to copy multiple sheets from a document is much more useful, and HP does an excellent job of integrating the feeder into the scanning software. Whether you're scanning 20 pages to your PC or making direct copies, the feeder will prove to be very handy.

HP's Scan Pro scanning software is quite basic, but includes such features as built-in optical character recognition (OCR) support and dust-removal and colour-correction tools for scanning photographs. You can scan files as TIFFs, JPEGs, and PDFs, and the Scan menu offers a variety of options, such as emailing scans.

Scanning documents was quite easy and produced good results overall. We had a few issues when scanning photos, however. Our first attempts produced lacklustre images with middling colour fidelity, and we had to tweak the driver settings to get better photo scans. In the end, though, the HP Photosmart C7280 is more about giving you some photo-scanning capabilities than being the best at it.

As a standalone copier, the HP Photosmart C7280 is a joy to use. You can make up to 99 copies of a document, and can scan them directly to a connected memory card or flash drive; if your PC is in another part of the building, you can also scan images directly to it over your network, which is a nice touch.

NEXT PAGE: print performance, and our expert verdict > >

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The HP Photosmart C7280 includes print, scan, copy, and fax capabilities, with just about every connectivity option you could want.

Print performance

As a general-purpose printer, the HP Photosmart C7280 is very good: at the printer's default print settings, it produces clear, crisp type and reproduces web pages and other graphics-centric pages very well. It is also fairly speedy when printing pure text documents, spitting out a single-page Microsoft Word file in approximately 17 seconds, and a 10-page document in well under two minutes.

HP is also billing the HP Photosmart C7280 as a photo printer, and it does a fine job there; however, when we had a jury of evaluators judge images printed at the C7280's default print settings, most viewers felt that photos were good, but not as vibrant and lifelike as some other. Printing at a higher quality setting and on HP's top-of-the-line Premium Plus photo paper did bring the C7280's print quality much closer to its competitors. If photo quality is your top requirement when choosing a multifunction printer, you should check print samples before you buy, but we think most users will be more than happy with the C7280's photo prints.

In using two C7280s for over a month in different environments, we were impressed. In everyday use, the device worked nearly flawlessly on a home wireless network.

In a multiplatform environment with Macs and PCs, we had some issues initially getting the Macs to connect to the C7280, and had to play with the router's security settings a bit to get all of the computers working seamlessly.

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HP Photosmart C7280: Specs

  • A4 Multifunction Inkjet Printer, Scanner, Copier, Fax
  • 6.1mm LCD Screen
  • Up to 34ppm Mono
  • Up to 33ppm Colour
  • Up to 4800x1200 Optimised dpi
  • 20 Sheet Photo Tray
  • 100 Sheet Input Tray
  • 50 Sheet ADF
  • Duplex Unit
  • Memory Card Slots
  • PictBridge
  • Wi-Fi
  • Networked
  • USB
  • 11.47kg
  • 450x444x248mm
  • A4 Multifunction Inkjet Printer, Scanner, Copier, Fax
  • 6.1mm LCD Screen
  • Up to 34ppm Mono
  • Up to 33ppm Colour
  • Up to 4800x1200 Optimised dpi
  • 20 Sheet Photo Tray
  • 100 Sheet Input Tray
  • 50 Sheet ADF
  • Duplex Unit
  • Memory Card Slots
  • PictBridge
  • Wi-Fi
  • Networked
  • USB
  • 11.47kg
  • 450x444x248mm

OUR VERDICT

You can purchase multifunction printers that are less expensive than the HP Photosmart C7280, but it would be hard to find an all-in-one that has such a rich and well-balanced set of features. If you're looking for a multifunction device that produces the best possible photo scans and photo prints, the C7280 might not be your best choice; but if you are looking for a printer/copier/scanner/fax machine with very good overall print quality, flexible connectivity, and strong standalone functionality, the C7280 can be a great addition to the home or small office.

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