HP Photosmart CN503b review

3.5 out of 5
£153

For

Solid overall performance, effective display, access to online resources, easy to set up and use

Against

Limited appeal from web-based apps, a little overpriced if you won’t take full advantage of these benefits

HP takes another stab at the home all-in-one market with its new Photosmart series, which includes the mid-range CN503b - a printer/copier/scanner inkjet device that distinguishes itself from many rivals through the use of a 2.4-inch full colour touchscreen display. As well as offering intuitive access to the key features of the product, HP is bringing its device into the modern age by offering wireless access to a range of online resources directly accessible through the panel, which include printable games, maps, colouring pages, forms, templates, calendars and more. It also offers the ability to print from afar using the associated applications and offers wireless access to local networks which are easily configured using the straightforward setup wizard 

First and foremost, the device’s capabilities as an all-in-one are best described as “above average”. We liked the styling of the 503b and the presence of a versatile photo paper tray that can handle up to 7 x 5-inch photo paper, a 125 sheet main tray, 50-sheet output tray and the fact that it can handle a wide range of media sizes means it’s a decent all-rounder for the modern home. HP’s quoted print speeds of 11ppm at standard setting were fairly accurate it our tests, though we only reached around half the speed of the 33ppm optimum at draft setting. Quality is very good for document printing and can certainly reach “professional” standard, with clean, sharp text even at smaller font sizes, and accurate gradation for graphics and images.

Photo quality is also pretty impressive, though we’ve seen better in this area and some work may need to be done on an original image using the supplied software. Though colours were fairly accurate and lines very sharp, darker shades were often lost. It takes just under 3 minutes to output an A4 picture, and just under a minute for a 7 x 5-inch snap, though this was using the premium photo paper and output settings available through the software.

We were impressed by the scanner through, which does a better job of duplicating a printed image for the screen, with little difference between this copy and the original. It’s also fairly fast and takes just over 10 seconds for results to appear on a desktop. The copier can churn through documents at around 4 seconds per page, and quality here is very close to the original.

Back to the touch sensitive display, which is quite responsive but some distance behind the accuracy of recent offerings in the mobile phone and portable arena, we can see some benefit from the features on offer, particularly for families. While many of the services available require you to sign up for access there are some useful resources that can come in handy in the right environment. Much of it is no more than a casual benefit however, and though there’s plenty to explore we feel it will lose its appeal rather quickly without more widespread compatibility. 

Ultimately the CN503b is simply an all-in-one device that offers an attractive display that puts a handful of potentially useful resources at your disposal. Otherwise this is another capable Photosmart printer from HP that doesn’t particularly elevate itself over the competition in any area. Considering there are devices around that can achieve similar results for less money, you’ll need to get some use out of the extra benefits available here to justify a purchase.

Verdict

HP’s Photosmart CN503b is a very capable consumer inkjet that ticks most of the boxes in terms of performance and quality, and is pretty fast to boot. With many rivals showing similar performance with cheaper devices though, the impressive but ultimately limited appeal of the web-connected touchscreen will be the main draw.