HP Deskjet 5440
At a Glance
The $80 HP Deskjet 5440 handles everyday printing tasks well, and is among the least-expensive printers we've tested that includes a direct-print port on the front for printing from PictBridge-compatible cameras.
A slightly slower twin to the Deskjet 5940, the 5440 generated text pages at 5.1 pages per minute and graphics pages at 1.6 ppm, versus the 5940's 5.8 ppm for text and 2.2 ppm for graphics. On the other hand, it printed our 5-by-7-inch color photo on glossy paper in just 44 seconds, the fastest time turned in by any printer in our latest batch of inkjets; the 5940 printed the same photo in 45 seconds. Both printers have the same basic features and paper capacity: a simple three-button control panel, and a 50-sheet output tray at the front of the printer that flips up so you can access the 100-sheet input tray. (The 5440 doesn't have low-ink warning lights on its chassis, however, as the 5940 does.) Both models use a two-cartridge ink system and can print banners up to 8.5 by 24 inches.
Print quality on plain paper was excellent for a printer this inexpensive. The 5440 is the only printer we tested this month that earned a Very Good for all of its prints on plain paper. It surprised us by printing sharper text and line art than the more expensive 5940 did. Text looked crisp and dark. Line art printed with well-defined edges, and banding was minimal. Color graphics impressed us with their accurate colors and contrast, though some areas looked a little grainy.
Glossy photo prints, however, showed more-pronounced graininess, especially in skin tones; some narrow banding was evident, too, and colors looked washed out. Our grayscale photo came out too light, and its graininess contributed to an overall flat look. When we printed the grayscale photo at higher quality settings than the "Fast Normal" setting recommended by HP, the print quality was much more pleasing, but the print speed fell significantly.
Unlike the 5940, the Deskjet 5440 can't use high-capacity ink cartridges. The pigment black and tricolor cartridges that come with the 5440 hold only 5 milliliters of ink each, and cost $15 and $20, respectively--that's $3 and $4 per milliliter of ink. In contrast, cartridges for the Deskjet 5940 come in several capacities. The largest-capacity cartridges hold 21 ml of black ink and 14 ml of color ink at a cost of $30 and $35, respectively, or $1.43 and $2.50 per milliliter--a significant savings. Even though the larger-capacity cartridges are the same shape and size as the 5440's regular cartridges, its firmware won't let you use them. The 5440 can, however, use the same optional 13 ml photo cartridge ($25) as its sibling; this cartridge, which you swap with the black cartridge, permits you to print with six colors, by adding light cyan and light magenta.
The printer we tested came with preproduction software. The installation procedure for HP's excellent package of drivers and ImageZone software didn't match the instructions on the included setup poster and Windows XP generated some unexpected messages. Still, after we clicked Cancel a few times, the installer led us through the process.
The inexpensive HP Deskjet 5440 produces high-quality text and graphics, but it's not the best choice for color photos, and its long-term ink costs could be high.