HP Photosmart C5280
At a Glance
HP's Photosmart C5280 shows how good design can tame an inherently complicated machine. This inkjet multifunction printer has a few limitations and a mountain of benefits--for a tidy $150.
Installation takes almost no effort. The setup poster is a little hard to read because it stacks three languages' worth of narrative next to each illustration, but the CD-based installation process is fully automated. The C5280 comes with a USB connection, but no Ethernet port.
The control panel is one of the best I've seen: Most buttons are clearly labeled with real words as well as icons, and all are grouped by major function. A 2.4-inch, tiltable LCD shows menu options; the navigation buttons make sense. When you're working with photos, the LCD shows thumbnails and walks you through the editing and layout options. A redeye-removal button automates this common correction. SD Card, Compact Flash, xD-Picture Card, and MS Pro Duo Card slots are located on the machine's front.
For paper handling the Photosmart C5280 offers a 125-sheet input tray, whose lid serves as the 50-sheet output tray. Nestled in a slot beneath the input tray is a special tray for CD/DVD printing: Snap in a specially coated disc and then slide the tray into a feeder that lowers from the output area. Roxio's Express Labeler software (usually installed automatically during setup, but also available on a CD) helps you create the image for the disc from your PC.
In our printing tests, the Photosmart C5280 achieved middling speeds but produced generally attractive prints. Plain, black text pages came out at about 7.3 ppma??a bit below average for this category; color documents averaged 2.4 ppm overall, also a bit below average. At default settings on plain paper, text looked slightly feathery and jagged; photos looked a bit grainy. Special paper and settings yielded smoother, more subtly colored photos. Costs per printed page (calculated using HP's estimated cartridge yields) are reasonable: 8 cents perpage of black text, and 24.1 cents per page for all three colors plus black.
The C5280 produced scans and copies quickly, and they looked good overall. The included HP Scanning software lets you preview and edit images before saving a file. Copies seemed a little chunkier than the originals, but not distractingly so. The MFP has the quantity, sizing, and other copying features that most home and small-office users will need, except that the letter/A4-size flatbed scanner can't elevate its lid to accommodate books or other thick media, and can't scan film or slides.
The Photosmart C5280 comes with a wealth of software and utilities, much of it launchable from buttons on the HP Solutions Center's on-screen interface. In addition to Roxio's disc-labeling software, you get HP's Photosmart Essentials for editing and managing digital photos, plus maintenance utilities and links for reordering supplies directly from HP. An HTML-based manual complements Flash videos that explain common tasks like cartridge replacement.
Regrettably, the manual's various topics are inadequately linked. For instance, the description of how to copy from the control panel doesn't link to the description of how to copy from the PC. But in this case the disconnect is real: You can manage scan and copy settings from the HP Solutions Center or from the control panel, but one doesn't mirror the other--I could create completely different settings for the same job in each place. The place you send the copy command from wins the battle, but the two ought to be synchronized.
The Photosmart C5280's mediocre speed and sparse connectivity options restrict it to a small or home office. Those users, however, will enjoy a highly capable, easy-to-use device with excellent photo output.