HP Photosmart 8050
At a Glance
The $149 HP Photosmart 8050 offers fewer features than the $200 Photosmart 8250, and it is slower, but it delivers better print quality. Like the 8250, the 8050 has a color LCD, four media card slots, and a direct-print port. However, the 8050's LCD is smaller, at 1.8 inches, and it can be difficult to see because it sits vertically on the front panel and doesn't tilt (the 8250's 2.5-inch LCD swivels). The media card slots accommodate most common card formats, though the printer uses the older USB 1.1 connection to upload images to a PC. In addition to working with PictBridge-compatible digital cameras, the direct-print port lets you print photos stored on a USB flash drive. But you can't transfer images from a flash drive to your PC (as you can when you insert cards in the media card slot). To print wirelessly from suitably equipped camera phones and PDAs, you can plug a Bluetooth adapter ($60) into the port.
The paper tray sits in the base of the printer and holds up to 100 sheets, including legal-size paper. HP provides a special photo cassette for printing smaller sizes, such as 4-by-6-inch snapshots. But before using it, you have to remove the paper from the main tray. When not in use, you can store the cassette in a compartment under a lid on top of the printer. We noticed a narrow stripe near the trailing edge of a test snapshot, which may indicate that the cassette did not feed the paper smoothly.
The 8050 employs up to six inks from its two standard tri-color and photo ink cartridges. For printing text documents, you can install an optional pigment black-ink cartridge in place of the photo ink. For printing black-and-white photos, HP offers a photo-gray cartridge. Under the cover is a slot for storing a partially used cartridge.
Using the photo ink cartridge, the 8050 printed very attractive photos; we liked their depth and shadow detail. But because the prints looked a bit light and some highlights appeared foggy, they earned a score of Very Good. Most photo printers earn a Superior rating for their color photos. The 8050's grayscale print had a faint pink tone.
When printing text and line art on plain paper, the 8050 notched a Very Good rating thanks in part to its pigment black ink. The 8050's sharp-looking text also earned a Very Good, higher than most other recently tested photo printers. And the 8050 is also the only photo printer that earned a Very Good for its line art print; the 8050 printed clearly distinguished lines, with just a little grittiness and wavy horizontal banding. When we printed color graphics on plain paper using all six inks, they looked too washed out. We got better results with good shadow detail and natural-looking skin tones when we used the black ink cartridge, although some horizontal banding was evident in the prints. In contrast, the Photosmart 8250 uses individual ink cartridges. Overall, the 8050's graphics earned a Good rating.
The 8050 printed text and graphics quickly, at 5.7 pages per minute and 2.1 ppm, respectively. Glossy photos were a different story, however. The 8050 took 83 seconds to print a 5-by-7-inch photo, slower than the other models tested this month, which averaged 55 seconds per print. The 8250 took just 29 seconds.
The Photosmart 8050 delivers better print quality than the more expensive 8250, but it prints photos slowly and uses multi-ink cartridges.