Hewlett-Packard Photosmart 7760
HP's Photosmart 7760 delivers great photo quality and is moderately priced. In addition, it's well-equipped to print photos from memory cards or directly from a digital camera.
The control panel's 1.8-inch LCD displays either photos or menu commands, and the flash-memory card slots on the front of the printer read all common media-card formats. You can connect an HP digital camera to the USB 2.0 port beside the card slots. From the LCD's menus, you select the images to print and the quality, size, and number of copies. Also, you can rotate pictures, add simple frames, date- and time-stamp them, and tweak color and contrast. The LCD can display tiny thumbnails of nine images at a time from the cards.
Glossy photos earned a rating of Outstanding, with fine detail, smooth textures, and accurate color. Gray-scale photos printed with HP's new photo-gray ink conveyed remarkable contrast and realism. But there are a couple of gotchas to be aware of. First, the 7760 can use four different ink cartridges, but only two can be loaded at a time. The three-color cartridge always stays in the printer; but depending on whether you're printing ordinary black text, color photos, or gray-scale photos, you'll use a different cartridge in the second well. If you print a wide range of materials, you'll find yourself swapping cartridges fairly often. You'll have to pay more to get the complete set of inks, too: The printer comes with only the three-color and photo inks; the cartridge for ordinary black costs $20 extra, and the gray cartridge costs $25 extra. The 7760's cost per page on plain paper are competitive, however. In ink consumption tests, the cost of printing a page of color plus black was 12.5 cents, slightly higher than the average of 11.9 cents per page for the five photo printers we tested. The cost of black-only pages from the 7760 significantly exceeded that of the average photo printer--4.2 cents per page versus 3.3 cents per page.
The paper output tray is sandwiched so tightly on top of the paper input tray that to add paper you pretty much have to slide the input tray out. And a fold-out extension flap for the output-support tray seems quite flimsy. Though the trays lack an envelope bypass, you can keep 4-by-6-inch snapshot sheets ready to print in a little well between the two trays; a lever easily slides the sheets into or out of the paper path.
Like many photo-oriented inkjets, the 7760 doesn't deliver top quality on other kinds of print jobs. Black text on ordinary paper looked clean enough but somewhat grayish. On ordinary paper, color prints lacked detail, especially in highlights and shadows; colors seemed washed out, and transitions between shades looked rough. (Higher-quality inkjet paper significantly improved results for all of those document types.) If you occasionally need to use the 7760 to print text, you'll find it fast enough, at 4.6 pages per minute (more than 1.5 ppm faster than the average of recent photo inkjets). In case you want to save paper on long text documents or want to produce pages for booklets, the 7760 supports an $80 duplexer option; you can opt for a second, 250-sheet paper tray, as well.
HP's idiot-proof driver installation routine loads HP Photo & Imaging. A console common to all HP imaging hardware, this program provides access to various imaging applications. You also get HP Memories Disc Creator, for producing photo albums on CD, and HP Photo Printing, which provides basic photo tune-up features such as sharpening and color correction.
The 7760 prints terrific color and black-and-white glossy photos, making it a good choice for users who don't mind swapping ink cartridges frequently.