HP's new flagship printer is the HP Photosmart C8180 All-in-One printer, scanner and copier. But can it live up to its flagship status? We get printing to find out.



The HP C8180 sits at the top of the HP product tree and for the money gives you a 3.5-inch touchscreen display, transparency scanner, lightscribe burner, 6 colour scanning, 9600 x 9600dpi resolution, built-in Bluetooth, memory card reader, wireless and Ethernet connectivity, and built-in red-eye removal as well.

The design is fairly minimalist with a glossy white and grey colour scheme and everything is managed from a simple console featuring five buttons and a touch screen display.

The screen itself is large, certainly large enough to see what you are doing and the difference over the C6280 and C7280 is noticeable. Because of this size, as we've said buttons are kept to a minimal with dedicated buttons for Red Eye Removal, Print Photos, copy keys for scanning and an all important cancel key.

Also on the front is the memory card reader making it easy to print directly from memory card. The memory card reader supports xD, CompactFlash, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Duo and of course SD. Additionally there is a USB port for printing directly from a camera via PictBridge.

In addition to the memory card reader there is also a CD drive for LightScribe enabled discs and even better backing up your photos directly from a memory card on to a CD or DVD without the need for a computer. Supported formats include DVD DVR+R and of course CD.

Copying files across from an SD Card is simple and easy and takes a couple of presses of the touchscreen. Once completed the disc played perfectly on both our Mac and PC test machines and copying 418.3MB took around 6 minutes.

While a memory card reader and DVD burner are likely to be helpful the core functionality is going to be printing from your computer, either via the network (wired) or wirelessly.

Coming with HP printer drivers as well as HP's Photosmart Essential Software for Windows, the C8180 also comes with Roxio Creator Basic, Roxio Express Labeler, Roxio My DVD Basic and Roxio Easy Archive.

Connecting the printer to the PC was easy via all three methods - you even get a USB cable in the box with this model, and printing over the air via the wireless connection was just as quick as printing via a USB cable.

Again everything is done and controlled via the touchscreen display. And connecting to our office network, even with a password was a couple of clicks.

So what of the print and scan quality? Well in all modes we were very impressed with good balance and colour performance all around.

Printing a full colour borderless prints from a memory card took just over 5 minutes at 5:04. The HP C8180 offers print resolutions up 1200dpi in colour from a memory card and up to 4800 via the computer. Colour is reproduced via 6 separate ink cartridges; Black, Yellow, Light Blue, Blue, Pink and Magenta rather than just the standard Black, Yellow, Cyan and Magenta.

The results are very good with an equal balance of colour tones and blends reproduced in our test shots we were happy with the performance of all the images (which also came out smudge free) from faces to night time shots of Las Vegas.

For standard copy printing, the performance is also good. Printing this review took 23 seconds to print over a wireless network from pressing the print button to having the final copy on the printer tray in standard mode. However printing on standard 80gsm paper there was evidence of slight ink bleeding.

As for scanning there are a number of options including scanning to a memory device and scanning 35mm film for digitising.

Lifting the scanner lid on the top of the device reveals an A4 tray from which to scan documents from. The top lid can be removed if you are looking to scan books. Hidden under the lid is also the negative tray that allows you to scan negatives and transparencies. Again the process is incredibly easy thanks to the touchscreen and again you can scan directly to the computer, a memory card or view before printing.

The ability to scan to a memory card in the printer again negates the need for a computer although the only catch however is that you don't have control over the scanner's settings for this option. You can of course scan directly to your PC or Mac if you want where you do get full control through the software suite.

The scanner supports resolutions up to 9600dpi via the hardware although those wishing to get more out of the scanner can take this to 19200 dpi via software enhancements.

Verdict

The HP Photosmart C8180 is the flagship in a range that now sports six models and you can see why. Impressive from the get go the only thing missing is no automatic document feeder, or the option of one, and no fax capabilities, but to be honest both are something that you can live without. I mean who faxes these days?



Overall the print quality is good and the print speed is okay but not incredibly fast. As for the running costs, the HP comes in about average, certainly not as cheap as the Kodak EasyShare offering however.

Overall it's top marks because of the overall package. If you're looking for easy of use and good print quality, the C8180 offers it in spades.