HP Deskjet 5940
At a Glance
The $100 HP Deskjet 5940 works a lot like its sibling, the HP Deskjet 5440, but has a more attractive metal cover and costs $20 more. The main things you get for the extra $20 are slightly better speed and greater productive capacity (3000 pages per month versus 1000). Both models come with a pair of ink cartridges that supply four HP Vivera inks between them, but the 5940 accepts larger-capacity cartridges. The 5940's plain-paper output quality wasn't as good as the 5440's, and both printers' color photo prints on special photo paper were disappointing.
Paper handling is pretty typical for a medium-priced inkjet: Up to 100 sheets in a single input paper tray and 50 sheets in the output tray. You can make borderless prints on paper as large as 8.5 by 24 inches. Like the Deskjet 5440, this model lets you swap out the pigment black ink cartridge, designed for strong text printing, in favor of an optional photo color cartridge (adding light cyan and light magenta) for six-color photo printing. The photo color cartridge comes with a plastic clip to protect partly used cartridges while they're out of the printer; but unlike previous models, the 5940 lacks a cartridge storage bin under the cover. Gone too is the additional bypass slot in the output tray, which printers like the HP Deskjet 5850 use to print envelopes and snapshots without requiring the user to empty the main paper feeder.
The simple control panel has a power button plus buttons for canceling and resuming print jobs. Two lights warn you when the ink cartridges are running low. Below them on the left side of the case is a USB direct-print port that permits printing from a PictBridge-compatible digital camera. There are no memory slots, and you can't upload images from the camera to your PC, which some inkjets allow you to do.
The 5940 proved fairly quick in our speed tests. On plain paper, it printed out 5.8 pages per minute for text (a little above average) and 2.2 ppm for graphics. Our 5-by-7-inch test photo appeared on glossy letter-size paper especially quickly--in 45 seconds, nearly equaling the speed of our top performer to date, the 5440.
On plain paper, print quality was acceptable for most personal uses, but failed to match that of the less expensive Deskjet 5440. Text characters were nicely formed and sufficiently dark; line art, however, had a slightly gritty texture and exhibited horizontal banding every quarter-inch or so. We were especially impressed by the color accuracy and shadow detail of color photos printed on plain paper. On glossy paper, however, we noticed some narrow horizontal banding. (The prints improved significantly when we bumped the quality controls in the driver above the Fast Normal settings that HP recommended for our testing, although printing then took longer.) Our grayscale image escaped the banding problem, showing good tonal changes and plenty of sharp detail.
We tested the final version of the printer, but it came loaded with preproduction software. HP has changed its installation procedure from the one used for earlier models, such as the Deskjet 5740. Unfortunately, the new procedure differed from the description on the setup poster, which told us to connect the USB cable before inserting the CD-ROM; doing so triggered confusing messages from both Windows XP and the HP installer. Once we figured it out, however, we were able to run HP's excellent package of drivers and ImageZone software without further incident.
The HP Deskjet 5940 is well equipped for general-purpose printing and capable of fast performance and high quality, though not necessarily at the same time.