The £88 HP Photosmart 8050 offers fewer features and is slower than the more expensive Photosmart 8250, but it delivers better print quality. It has a colour LCD, four media card slots and a Direct Print port. However, the 8050's 1.8in LCD can be difficult to see because it sits vertically on the front panel and doesn't tilt.
The media card slots accommodate most formats, though the printer uses the older USB 1.1 connection to upload images to a PC. In addition to working with PictBridge-compatible digital cameras, the Direct Print port lets you work from a USB flash drive, and there's an optional Bluetooth adapter for wireless printing.
The 8050 employs up to six inks from its two standard tri-colour and photo ink cartridges. For text, you can install an optional pigment black-ink cartridge in place of the photo ink. For printing black-and-white photos, HP offers a photo-grey cartridge.
Using the photo ink cartridge, the 8050 produced very attractive results; we liked the photographs' depth and shadow detail. But the prints looked a bit light and some highlights appeared foggy. The 8050's greyscale print also had a faint pink tone.
When printing text and line art on plain paper, the 8050 performed well, thanks in part to its pigment black ink. The 8050's sharp-looking text work also surpassed a lot of the competition. When we printed colour graphics on plain paper using all six inks, they looked too washed out; we got better results – with good shadow detail and natural-looking skin tones – when we used the black-ink cartridge, although some horizontal banding was evident.
The 8050 printed text and graphics quickly, at 5.7ppm (pages per minute) and 2.1ppm respectively. Glossy photos were a different story, however. The 8050 took 83 seconds to print a 5x7in photo. The 8250 took just 29 seconds.