There's no getting around it: the HP looks uncannily like a toaster. Sadly, it has no bread-heating capabilities, but it is neat, practical and it occupies a minimal amount of space.

We particularly like the softly sprung pop-up handle that sits discreetly on top of the unit. Plus the PictBridge port has been sensibly located next to the cluster of memory card slots on the front, which is a bonus.

But we do have grumbles regarding build quality. Our biggest cause for concern is the ink cartridge door which, when opened, triggers the request for it to be closed before printing can continue. It’s an acceptable request, of course, but the door is so flimsy we felt there was the possibility you won’t be able to print because the cover has snapped off. If this was even only a desktop printer we would gripe about this, but on a portable model we expect more.

In use, the HP presents no obstacles. It has an intuitive menu, a sprinkling of large buttons which frame an adjustable 2.5in LCD, plus built-in Bluetooth connectivity. Getting the printer up and running is very straightforward - a welcome change from products that expect the user to be armed with an electronics engineering degree.

The HP's print quality gives the Epson PictureMate 240 a run for its money, with similar levels of detail and generally well-balanced colours. Where the models tend to differ is in the midtones, sometimes in the highlights, where the Epson is able to pull out more detail using sharper contrast.

HP Photosmart A618: Specs

  • Photo printer
  • average print time 1 min 41 sec
  • average cost per print 21p
  • print quality 4/5
  • Photo printer
  • average print time 1 min 41 sec
  • average cost per print 21p
  • print quality 4/5

OUR VERDICT

Build quality is a worry, but the HP is easy to use and print quality is decent.

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