HP Photosmart A616
At a Glance
HP Photosmart A616
This Photosmart is easy to use, but it prints quite slowly and delivers so-so quality in skin tones.
The $180 (as of 11/3/2006) HP Photosmart A616 is the latest in HP's line of portable snapshot printers. It's a little longer and heavier than the 375 and 475 models we've reviewed in the past, but it has the same distinctive "mini-boom box" look with a fold-up handle. Two optional power accessories, an $80 rechargeable internal battery and a $40 vehicle power adapter, make the unit easy to take on the road.
A top-mounted 2.4-inch color LCD flips up and clearly displays the attractive menus. Unfortunately, the many buttons surrounding it can be overwhelming as you go through the various options for previewing, editing, and laying out your photos. You can apply effects and border styles in addition to the common red-eye removal, cropping, and auto-fix functions.
The front panel folds down to act as an output tray, revealing four media slots that accept all the major memory card formats. You can print directly from a card in a media slot, or straight from your camera using PictBridge. You can also print images from a USB flash drive or use HP's optional Bluetooth adapter ($60) to print wirelessly from compatible camera phones or PDAs. The included HP Photosmart Express and HP Photosmart Essential software package handles image manipulation on your PC, helps to organize your images, and lets you share photos with family and friends through HP's Snapfish Web site.
The rear panel tilts back to serve as an input tray that holds up to 20 4-by-6-inch sheets. The A616 can also print 5-by-7-inch photos and 4-by-12-inch panoramas.
The A616 uses three inks (no black) that come in a combined cartridge. You get one cartridge good for 55 prints in the box with the printer, but no paper. Your cheapest option for buying more supplies is a 120-sheet ink-and-paper bundle from HP for $35, which comes to 29 cents per print.
For our testing we used HP Advanced Photo Paper, which is thin and glossy like photo lab paper. Some HP paper is marked on the back so that HP printers can automatically detect the paper type. Unfortunately, the marks showed through to the printed side on our lighter prints.
Overall the A616 produced attractive prints, but each of our samples showed different flaws. We noticed overly bronzed skin tones, murky shadows, dull colors, and grainy dithering, depending on the subject. Print speeds were a little disappointing too: black-and-white images emerged at a sluggish 0.6 pages per minute, while color prints averaged an even slower 0.5 ppm.
In two informal moisture tests, we looked for defects after sprinkling water on week-old (and therefore dry) snapshot prints. Then we dunked them in water for 30 seconds and wiped them dry. The A616's prints didn't show any obvious ill effects after either test.