The HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One is a multifunction printer with advanced touchscreen control
Is this the future of printing? HP has pioneered the use of touchscreen technology (witness its user-friendly Touchsmart desktop PCs, for example), and this HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One is the latest offering to reveal how the typical home office of the future may look.
Smart and polished, this particular HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One offers print, scan and copy facilities. An earlier version of this printer, confusingly called the Premium Fax All-In-One, comes with fax as well, although that older incarnation lacks a number of the new HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One model's more eye-catching features, such as the large 3.5in touchscreen.
Of all the HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One's many fancy features, it'll be the touchscreen that wins the most votes. It does make everything surprisingly pleasurable, and we found ourselves trying out menu after menu, just to see what the HP would throw up next. The list of options is extensive, and HP's set of built-in apps includes Quick Forms, which allows you to create all manner of forms and grids - from calendars and graph paper, to mazes and Sudoko games.
Inevitably, typing in usernames and passwords can be a slight chore, but as long as you're not too indelicate, it shouldn't take long to get the hang of the pop-up keyboard. And the printer can save settings, so after the initial setup, there shouldn't be much of a need to laboriously type in username after username.
The wide range of connectivity options would also seem to distinguish this printer. Unusually for an inkjet, Ethernet is supplied as standard, as is Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The latter is a particularly nice touch in the hands of the HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One. And, combined with HP's own Snapfish service, it drives the idea that here is a printer that can be used without needing a PC to be connected to it.
So what of Snapfish? Well, in its mainstream guise, Snapfish is an electronic photo album that lets you keep an online collection of your digital snaps, and effortlessly share them with your friends and family. Where Snapfish makes its money is by offering to professionally print your pictures in a range of forms, or to turn them into a mug, even a jigsaw. It will also charge you to download your photos in their original resolution.
Using the HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One, you can wirelessly connect to your Snapfish account and browse through your shots, printing them onto the Premium in seconds - to be more precise, 42 seconds was typical on the shots we printed out. Printing from you Snapfish costs you no money, and it will basically doubles up as an online image library.
If you already make use of Snapfish, you'll probably find this a very convenient way of printing off your shots. If you don't, then you may struggle to see why this is any real improvement over taking pictures directly from a USB stick or memory card (which you can also do), aside from the added security of having the files stored off site.
Separate trays are provided for photo paper and for normal sheets, so you don't have to keep changing media. We weren't totally impressed with the durability of these trays, though, and the photo tray, in particular, was too easy to knock out of position - it's very sensitive, so if it's not in exactly the right place, you could have problems during printing.
Provided the trays are lined up properly, though, the photo features are generally excellent. The touchscreen gives you an illuminating preview before you decide whether or not to print, and a wide range of tools are provided so that you can happily crop and reshape until you're satisfied with the output.
The photos are automatically corrected as default, and this tended to produce rather washed out and imprecise results. But once the auto correct had been turned off, photos were reasonably colourful, and very precise - we were able to print out complex paintings, and yet remain able to pick out the smallest of details.
When it comes to general printing, the HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One works better with graphics than it does with text. In its fastest mode, it produced 10.4 pages of text per minute. But even at higher settings, the text wasn't as sharp as we've come to expect from top-end HP products. There is a duplex feature, but this cut the fastest figure to less than 4 pages per minute. Losing a third of the performance is one thing with Duplex; but to drop to almost one third is too much.
But the HP Photosmart Premium All-In-One's images are bright and colourful, and quick to print at 5.8ppm. Add the strong scanning component, and this makes for an attractive photo printer.
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