capsule review

HP Photosmart 8250

At a Glance
  • Hewlett-Packard HP Photosmart 8250

    PCWorld Rating

    Fast at printing photos, the 8250 offers extensive software, but photo print quality was lower than on the other models.

HP Photosmart 8250
Photograph: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

The silver-colored, $200 Photosmart 8250 marks a departure for HP printers. For one, cartridges for previous models contained up to three inks, whereas the 8250's six cartridges contain just one ink each. Also, the older cartridges incorporate a print head, but the 8250's cartridges don't have built-in nozzles because the printer has a permanent print head. In contrast, the $149 HP Photosmart 8050, which we also tested this month, uses multi-ink cartridges.

HP claims that the permanent print head's high number of nozzles increases print speeds, and the 8250 did turn out photos very quickly. The PC World Test Center clocked the 8250 printing a 5-by-7-inch glossy photo in just 29 seconds--the fastest we've seen from an inkjet printer. By comparison, the previous-generation HP Photosmart 8150 took 140 seconds to print the same photo. However, the second-fastest model (for photos) that we tested this month wasn't far behind: The Canon Pixma iP5200R printed the picture in 36 seconds.

On plain paper, the 8250's performance was less impressive, but still competitive. Text pages emerged at 5.7 pages per minute and color pages at 2.5 ppm; these rates are slightly faster than the Photosmart 8150's, but they lag those of the Pixma iP5200R.

The 8250 comes with all the features you'd hope to find in a photo printer. In the center of its well-organized control panel is a 2.5-inch color LCD that flips up for previewing photos, performing simple edits, and operating the menus. A clear plastic cover to the right protects four media card slots, which accept most common formats. You can print straight from a media card without a PC, or quickly transfer the images to your PC via the printer's USB 2.0 connection. The front USB port lets you print directly from PictBridge-compatible cameras. You can also plug in a USB flash drive and print any images it contains, though you can't transfer them to your PC. For $60, you can buy a Bluetooth option that lets you print wirelessly from a handheld device such as a Bluetooth-equipped camera phone. Also, the included HP Image Zone software suite offers many features for organizing and sharing photos, designing album pages, and the like.

In addition to the printer's main paper tray, which holds up to 100 sheets of plain paper, a second tray can hold up to 20 sheets of 4-by-6-inch photo paper. For an extra $80, a duplexer attachment enables double-sided printing.

Unfortunately, the 8250 printed the least attractive photos of any recently tested photo printer. On glossy paper, color images showed smooth gradations in highlights and mid-tones, but were oversaturated and too dark to reveal detail in shadows. Our grayscale image acquired a murky blue cast, with a foggy effect obscuring the details. Text did not print in a strong black, but looked more slate gray and blotted into the paper, resulting in fuzzy edges. Line art also came out too light, with lines alternating between thick and thin on each pass of the head. Graphics looked grainy, and colors appeared dull and washed out.

For prints such as we make in our lab tests, HP recommends using its new Advanced Photo Paper, which has a thin glossy coating that makes it resemble traditional photo paper. From the smaller tray, 4-by-6-inch Advanced paper fed smoothly, and we didn't see any banding on the trailing edge of the print, an artifact that shows up often on borderless snapshots. However, the prints still looked dark and gloomy. In tests outside the lab, we got much better results on HP Premium Plus Photo Paper, which is slightly thicker.

The Photosmart 8250 has much to offer, including fast printing speeds, but it falls short on print quality.

Paul Jasper

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Fast at printing photos, the 8250 offers extensive software, but photo print quality was lower than on the other models.

    Pros

    • Fast printing speeds
    • 2.5-inch color LCD for previewing photos

    Cons

    • Text looked slate gray and blotted
    • Glossy photos looked oversaturated
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