The HP Photosmart A616 is the latest in HP's line of portable snapshot printers. It's a little longer and heavier than the 375 and 475 models we've reviewed in the past, but it has the same distinctive "mini-boom box" look with a fold-up handle. A $99 rechargeable internal battery makes the unit easy to take on the road.
- Also produces 5x7in shots, easily portable
- Slow printing, inconsistent quality
The A616 produced attractive prints with minor flaws and slow print speeds. If you're looking for colour accuracy and a speedy photo printer you might want to look elsewhere.
A top-mounted 2.4in colour LCD flips up and clearly displays the attractive menus. Unfortunately, the many buttons surrounding it can be overwhelming as you go through the various options for previewing, editing, and laying out your photos. You can apply effects and border styles in addition to the common red-eye removal, cropping, and auto-fix functions.
The front panel folds down to act as an output tray, revealing four media slots that accept all the major memory card formats. You can print directly from a card in a media slot, or straight from your camera using PictBridge. You can also print images from a USB flash drive or use HP's optional Bluetooth adapter to print wirelessly from compatible camera phones or PDAs. The included HP Photosmart Express and HP Photosmart Essential software package handles image manipulation on your PC, helps to organise your images, and lets you share photos with family and friends through HP's Snapfish Web site.
The rear panel tilts back to serve as an input tray that holds up to 20 4x6in sheets. The A616 can also print 5x7in photos and 4x12in panoramas.
The A616 uses three inks (no black) that come in a combined cartridge. You get one cartridge good for 55 prints in the box with the printer, but no paper. For our testing we used HP Advanced Photo Paper, which is thin and glossy like photo lab paper. Some HP paper is marked on the back so that HP printers can automatically detect the paper type. Unfortunately, the marks showed through to the printed side on our lighter prints.
Overall the A616 produced attractive prints, but each of our samples showed different flaws. We noticed overly bronzed skin tones, murky shadows, dull colours, and grainy dithering, depending on the subject. Print speeds were a little disappointing too: black-and-white images emerged at a sluggish 0.6 pages per minute (ppm), while colour prints averaged an even slower 0.5ppm.
In two informal moisture tests, we looked for defects after sprinkling water on week-old (and therefore dry) snapshot prints. Then we dunked them in water for 30 seconds and wiped them dry. The A616's prints didn't show any obvious ill effects after either test.
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