HP Photosmart C4780 all-in-one printer review

There used to be a time when printers were big and beige. But can a colour change to gloss black really make you want to sign up for the new HP C4780 all-in-one printer? We get printing and scanning to find out.

Sitting in the mid- to low-end of the printer scale the HP Photosmart C4780 is not pitched as a work horse, but aimed at someone that wants to do the odd printing from time to time. Take the paper for instance. The input tray can hold around 80 sheets of standard paper while the photo tray can handle a mere 15 sheets. Paper is loaded in via the front and spat out on top.

Doesn't sound like a deal breaker, however in reality with no paper catcher, it means that you've got to be there really to catch your prints as they churn out at a top speed of 29 pages a minute for black and white. If you're printing lots then it's going to be an issue.

A printer isn't just about paper handling, although that is a big part of it, it's about usage in our minds. Here you get wireless connectivity meaning you can hide the lump of black in a cupboard never to be seen again. It's a good thing too, for while HP has clearly put some design thought into the product, the black gloss design attracts dust like nothing we've seen before. We're surprised it doesn't come with a duster, it really is that bad.

Back to the wireless functionality and it's not all plain sailing as you might expect. While once you've got it set-up it's a breeze to use, we had difficulty at first doing so. Why? Because the initial set-up process has to be hardwired via USB. While we have to admit it means that you have to know little about setting up networks to get this working (it does it all for you) it does mean that you've got to find somewhere to perch the printer on your desk or lap to begin with. Only to then unplug it all to put it in its final destination.

So you've got it set-up, loaded in the paper and then turned it on. The good news is that it's pretty much straightforward from there on out. The printer comes with a card reader, although the choices are limited to MemoryStick and MemoryStick Duo, SD XD and MMC cards. No Compact Flash support for DSLR users or microSD card support for phone owners. There's no Bluetooth either, although we do like the fact that it works perfectly with the iPhone HP iPrint application.

If you aren't accessing and controlling the printing via your computer (Mac or PC), or your iPhone, you're left with a touch-sensitive panel. It's small (1.45-inches), but with only basic instructions offered it is just about large enough to get the job done. We certainly would have liked something larger.

Beyond the printer functionality you also get a flatbed scanner, which as you might expect comes with photocopy capabilities. The technical specs of the scanner include a scan resolution of 1200 x 2400 dpi with optical scanning up to 1200 dpi. It's not the fastest scanner in the world, but as with the whole model should be seen as a nice feature to have rather than something you would invest in to digitise the last 20 years of photos you've collected. Depending on whether you've opted for the accompanying software, pressing the scanner button loads up the software on your computer automatically. You can scan to a PC or directly to a memory card.

So what's the performance like? Well the HP Photosmart C4780 all-in-one printer isn't a workhorse by any stretch of the imagination and therefore printer speeds and options reflect that here. The print quality for black and white and colour prints is good with little blurring, bleeding or smudging.

As for photos, the quality again is average rather than outstanding. We printed out images on HP's Everyday photo paper (4 x 6) and Canon's Photo Paper Plus Glossy paper (A4) and while the images were okay to share, we would think twice about framing them. The colours looked a little flat to what we would have liked on our numerous test shots.

Verdict

It's clear from out tests and living with the C4780 that it's a "I've got a printer for the odd print" kind of printer rather than aimed at someone who still believes in paper. The standard document printing is good enough for the odd letter, homework, or document you want to reference and the photo element will be good enough to share prints but not really to frame.

If that sounds like what you are looking for then for the price you are unlikely to go wrong, however if you're hoping for something more "officey" or more "full featured", you would be better off looking elsewhere.

Average.