HP has always professed it wants to make printing in the home easier. But has it with the HP Photosmart A826 Home Photo Centre? We get printing to find out.

You know those printing booths that are popping up in the shops? Well imagine one of those on a smaller scale and that's the A826.

Looking more like an Egg rather than a traditional printer, the Home Photo Centre comes with a large 7-inch touchscreen that dominates the design and the ability to print boarderless images up to 18 x 13cm (7 x 5 inches).

Underneath said screen is a tray for the stylus, and underneath that a memory card reader that supports xD, CompactFlash, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Duo and of course SD. Additionally there is a USB port for printing directly from a camera via DirectPrint.

Around the back and there is a USB printer port so you can connect it to your computer. In fact the only button on the device is the an on/off switch tucked around the side.

The lack of physical buttons is thanks to the touchscreen display, however those slightly worried by this shouldn't be. Once sprung into action there are six "soft" buttons, three on either side of the screen and these allow you to scroll through images, print, go select the menu, go back a step and view a slide show.

The buttons aren't the only touchscreen element though and when it comes to editing images you have full control.

Slam a memory card in and you are presented with a gallery of all the images that are on it. From here you can then zoom in for a closer look or select to print from the gallery display.

Zooming in gives you the chance to "Edit Photo" or "Get Creative". Editing the photo gives you crop, red-eye removal and photo brightness controls while "Get Creative" gives you stuff like adding frames, captions, drawing on the image or changing the colour all without the need of a computer.

Once your images have been edited and then selected it is just a case of press the print screen and waiting for the prints to come out.

The A826 can hold up to 100 sheets at a time meaning you can forget about paper for a while, although annoyingly you'll only get ink for around 15 prints to begin with. You'll get even less paper - just 3 sheets.

When it comes to printing, this isn't the fastest printer around. Print speeds start at around 80 seconds for a 6 x 4-inch print and go up to around 120 seconds for a 7 x 5-inch print. However the results are worth the wait with good balance of colour and smudge proof by the time they come out onto the paper tray.

Verdict

The Photosmart A826 Home Photo Centre is an innovative printer that offers users shy of printing from the computer a simple and effective way to print. The large screen is easy to use and you can see that HP has designed this to be a standalone rather than one that is connected to your computer.

That said, the company has been wise to include the ability to connect it to a Mac or PC, along with its usual software and drivers in the box. You will still have to buy the cable though.

As for print costs and cost of the unit, it's not the cheapest option available on the market, that award goes to Kodak, however for size and easy of use this is great.

It's like having a printing booth in your home.