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Hewlett-Packard HP Photosmart A826
Most snapshot photo printers are basically one-trick ponies, but the HP Photosmart A826 breaks from the herd with its innovative and plentiful features. Unfortunately it's hobbled by a high price and slow print times.
This distinctive printer lacks both buttons and corners (it looks like a squared-off egg). To control it, you use the included stylus on the touch-sensitive, 5.6-inch LCD. Flanking the screen are backlit icons for major functions (such as menu, navigation, slide show, and print) that darken when they're not needed. Submenus and settings appear on screen. As you navigate photos and options, you'll encounter a variety of icons and plain-English soft buttons or lists, plus many helpful prompts. You can also watch videos on the screen, although I didn't try this.
The on-board editing tools range far beyond the typical cropping and red-eye removal. You can print your photo with a themed "frame" or print a selection of photos in album formats. You can type your own captions using an on-screen keyboard, or doodle on the photo. You even get a "slimming" feature that helps you remove the 10 pounds the camera seems to put on you.
The ability of the Photosmart A826 to print on 5-by-7-inch as well as 4-by-6-inch stock is its other major selling point, but the input tray is a bear. Pushing out the rear panel requires a little force and makes an awful sound (although a sticker on the machine illustrates the process adequately). The paper-width guide is not clearly marked, and you have to squeeze a small area very hard to move it. It's also not clear whether you can keep the top lid open or closed while printing; those desperate few owners who consult the documentation will be disappointed to see how inadequately it covers this topic (though the manuals seemed fine otherwise). Fortunately the output tray is more straightforward, as it's a fold-out front panel that's pretty sturdy.
The color and monochrome photos we printed looked good. The orange-biased palette made flesh tones look a bit off but gave other images a vivid, if slightly dark, quality. Hard edges seemed pretty crisp. Regrettably, like many other snapshot photo printers we've tested, the Photosmart A826 is very slow, taking well over a minute to print each of our 4-by-6-inch test photos. Bargain hunters, take note: Its cousin, the HP Photosmart A526, offers near-identical speed and print quality for significantly less money (but it prints only on 4-by-6-inch media).
The starter cartridge that comes with the Photosmart A826 can print up to 20 4-by-6-inch photos. The cost per photo beyond that can be reasonable: HP's Value Pack includes enough ink and paper for 120 4-by-6-inch photos and costs $35, or about 29 cents per photo. Printing on 5-by-7-inch media is pricier--the paper alone costs $15 for 60 sheets (25 cents per sheet). A $20 tricolor cartridge has enough ink for approximately 36 5-by-7-inch photos (or 55 4-by-6-inch photos), which translates to about 55 cents' worth of ink per photo.
If the HP Photosmart A826 were as fast as the Epson PictureMate Zoom (the other higher-end snapshot printer we tested recently), it would probably be more of a category killer. Those people willing to pay for it most likely value features and ease of use over efficiency or economy.
Hewlett-Packard HP Photosmart A826
Advanced features (a touchscreen interface, 5-by-7-inch media handling) might merit the price, but it’s still awfully high.
- Large, intuitive touch-screen interface
- Takes 4-by-6-inch and 5-by-7-inch media
- Slow; very expensive
- Input tray is awkward
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