capsule review

HP Deskjet 5150

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder HP 1100d Inkjet Printer

HP Deskjet 5150
Photograph: Rick Rizner

HP's Deskjet 5150 costs only $100, and prints very attractive photos. Printing on glossy paper and using the optional photo-ink cartridge--which costs an extra $25--the Deskjet 5150 produced superb color photos with smooth texture and very sharp detail. A window in the print driver called HP Digital Photography simplified the process, thanks in part to an easy-to-use red-eye removal tool, a slider for increasing contrast, and a digital flash effect for brightening shadows. We also liked the fine detail and sharp focus of the Deskjet 5150's gray-scale printouts, despite their slightly yellowish cast.

Because the 5150 can hold only two cartridges at a time, you must swap the black cartridge for the photo-ink cartridge in order to make top-quality photo prints. When you swap cartridges, the printer automatically realigns its print heads. Unfortunately, that process lasted 8 minutes in our test; however, the printer needs to realign the print heads only once--the first time you insert the photo-ink cartridge--because it stores the calibration settings in memory for later use. If you forget which cartridges you last installed, however, you can't figure it out by checking under the hood; the latches that hold the cartridges in place also cover their labels. Instead, you have to check the driver, which means that both the printer and your PC have to be powered up. You can reinsert partly used cartridges, but when not using them, you should keep them in the storage container that HP includes with the optional photo-ink cartridge.

The 5150 printed at average speeds: 4.6 pages per minute for text and 1.5 ppm on graphics. On plain paper it produced sufficiently black text that was marred by some spattering. Narrow parallel lines in printouts impressed us by being distinct and almost free of random spray. Essentially, for $100, the Deskjet 5150 duplicates the quality and performance of the $250 Deskjet 5850, but without the built-in Wi-Fi and ethernet connections. Estimated per-page ink costs are high; about 4.4 cents per page of plain text, and roughly 13.4 cents per page of light graphics.

The Deskjet 5150's output tray rests on top of the main paper tray, but you have to remove it to access the main tray. There is no envelope bypass slot, and the Deskjet 5150 doesn't support an add-on paper tray, but you can snap HP's $95 optional duplexer into the back. The 5150's power-converting brick plugs directly into a wall socket, where it may block other sockets.

HP's documentation could be stronger: A cursory poster covers installation, and a 14-page brochure mostly refers you to the on-screen manual. Though the on-screen manual provides thorough coverage on how to use and maintain the printer, it displays information in tiny chunks in a small, unstretchable window; and because you can't simultaneously look at the index or table of contents, navigation quickly becomes annoying.

If you're considering the Deskjet 5150 for office use, you may appreciate its driver setting for printing documents with a coarse texture so they will reproduce better when faxed or photocopied.

The Deskjet 5150 is a solid, low-cost choice for printing top-notch photos--as long as you don't mind swapping ink cartridges.

Dan Littman

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder HP 1100d Inkjet Printer

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