When HP launched its portable PhotoSmart Printer range last year we were very impressed. The print quality was good, the portability great and the overall packages top notch. Another year on and another update to the range, this time in the guise of the HP PhotoSmart 385. So does the new model add anything to the mix? We get printing and find out.

On the surface nothing has changed, the model is virtually identical in shape and size and you’ll be hard pushed to tell the difference bar the number on the side of the unit.

However there have been changes - hey what would be the point of releasing a new model. The biggest one is the ability to now print panoramic shots using new HP paper stock while other changes cover what you can do to the images once in the printer’s memory.
Like before, you can print borderless 6x4in prints from a variety of memory card formats or a camera itself as long as it supports PictBridge, not forgetting a PC or Mac. The new printing option is the ability to choose to print borderless three-picture panoramic image.

The paper, which measures 10cm x 30cm, fits in the printer lengthways and prints in the same way as the 6x4in pictures. You can either decide to print via a memory card, digital camera or a PC and as long as your image is three images wide/long the 385 seems happy (even if it’s not a HP camera although handily enough HP’s new R817 can create panoramic shots in camera). The results are very much like an APS panoramic shot, just without the loss of quality as you are taking the image from three shots rather than blowing up just the single frame.

To view your images, the 385 comes with a 6.4 cm built-in LCD that flips up so you can see what you are doing without having to hover over the unit. Here you can select photos to print as well as doing basic editing to them. Pictures can be zoomed in on, cropped, have frames added, rotated or brightness changed. The printer also includes the ability to remove red-eye and features HP real life adaptive lighting technology so you can improve you images all without using a PC.

In practice it’s as easy as it sounds and selecting and printing the images is very straightforward. The only real drawback we could find was the inability to print multiple prints of the same print in one go which is mystifying to us - if the pictures are taken with your digital camera they’re your copyright, so that can’t be the reason for it this curious omission.

Print quality was very good and like previous models we’ve tested, as good as you would get from most professional labs. HP has also made the 385 compatible with its new Grey ink cartridge meaning you can print true black and white images rather than four colour black images.

Verdict

Like previous PhotoSmart models, the 385 is very good and performs well. Adding the optional battery pack makes it a truly portable device and the panoramic printing mode offers something new and different from other models on the market. We also especially liked the ability to edit our prints without the need for a computer at our side.

All in all this is a top notch effort from HP and if you are looking for a printer that can print borderless 6x4in (10x15cm) prints on the move, this carries a strong recommendation.