Fast cars, fast games, now we have fast printers. Hewlett Packard claims that its new Photosmart 8250 inkjet photo printer produces 4 x 6in photos in under a quarter of a minute. We tried it out with borderless prints, which always take a bit longer. A 4 x 6in print using normal print mode took around 20 seconds and a borderless A4 photo took about two and a half minutes, making it a very quick printer indeed.
As well as printing fast photos, the 8250 does all the things you would expect of an inkjet printer in this price bracket (recommended price is £149). It prints A4 text documents in black at around 30 pages per minute and borderless prints in all the most popular sizes. A front PictBridge camera port, rear USB port and card reader compartment enable direct printing from digital cameras and all popular storage cards. For wireless printing, there is optional Bluetooth. 4 x 6in photo paper and A4 have their own dedicated paper trays. A 2.5in colour LCD screen to display photos before printing comes with plenty of controls to select, rotate and zoom pictures.
Quality is just as important for photos as speed. The printer's maximum resolution is 1200 x 4800 dpi, not the highest for this type of inkjet, but very, very good. Our test prints were so realistic they could easily have been mistaken for the real thing. Borderless is the printer's default setting and as well as standard sizes, we had excellent results with borderless large panorama mode, which prints 215 x 610mm photos. There are six, separate colour inks plus black which gives you the chance to economise. If you use some colours more than others, only the empty cartridges need replacing. HP claims there are also ink economies from its new printhead technology. The 8250 does not repeat the maintenance cleaning cycles that most inkjets use, and which waste ink. Instead, the 8250 uses a new recycling method that HP says allows more of the ink in cartridges to be used in printing. HP has also built in a system that checks ink levels and stops you starting print jobs if you have insufficient ink.
There is a catch to printing fast photos. The printer requires a new range of quick drying papers called HP Advanced. Use HP's Premium photo papers and print speed drops dramatically. As well as quick drying, Advanced papers are bar coded. The 8250 reads what paper is in the tray and tells you when you have mismatched a print job to the paper loaded in the tray. The new Advanced papers gave fairly good water resistance in our tests, but not as good as Canon's near indestructible photo paper. Whether HP's Advanced papers will give the same longevity as its Premium photo papers, which come with a 50 year guarantee, only time will tell. Our test photos are stored in a draw and we will report back next year on any signs of fading.
All in all, this is a very good home printer with the advantage of being versatile, quick and economical. There are a few drawbacks. This is HP's first fast printer with new printhead technology. As with all firsts, we encountered some glitches in the software that later models will no doubt rectify. It may be worth waiting a few months for HP to introduce even faster models before deciding which printer to buy. Additionally for a device designed for the home, it could do with a much neater power adapter.