The HP Photosmart A716 ink-jet based photo printer sits at the high end of the photo printer market. The successor to the Photosmart 475, a new chassis design, an increase in internal memory, support for 5x7 prints, water resistant inks, and extra photo correction tools are some of its new features. While this unit was good value last year, the price point is a little high now, especially when you consider the penetration of cheap dye-sub printers into the home photo printing space, as well as the current cost of photo lab printing.
- Excellent quality daylight prints, good colour, reasonable cost per print, 4GB internal memory.
- Blacks aren't completely accurate
The HP Photosmart A716 is an attractive unit that will definitely appeal to someone who is looking at a home solution for reasonably cheap prints, but the black levels issues may deter those printing photos shot after dark.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
There is a certain level of deja vu when looking at the A716 as it is almost the same as the Photosmart 475. The chassis is a little different, with an all white gloss plastic finish, as apposed to the previous metallic aesthetic. However, the functionality, the position of the card slots and ink cartridges, and even the screen size and navigation buttons are all similar. This isn't surprising for a model upgrade, but we would have liked to see some innovation.
At the maximum print size of 5x7 (borderless), image quality was quite good with only a few noticeable problem areas. Colour reproduction and separation were also good with rich tones and no colour bleeding or fringing. However, like the Photosmart 475, the black levels were not quite up to scratch. Since A716 uses a tri-colour ink tank with no separate tank for black, high detail, low light images look a little brown, purple or even green. This is because black needs to be created by mixing the primary colours and is not true black. While the night time shots were not as brilliant as we would have liked, the day time test photos were exceptional.
The A716 has a carry handle for portability and at the push of a button, the front and rear of the unit open to reveal the input and output paper slots. The front panel opens completely to allow the paper to exit the front of the device. Behind this panel are four media card slots (for SD, xD, MMC and Compact Flash cards) and a Pict-Bridge connector, used to connect directly to a camera or a USB memory stick. The great thing about all these memory slots is that they are detected in Windows independent of the printer as removable storage. This not only gives you a spare flash memory hub, but it makes moving images around your various devices a whole lot easier.
We were quite pleased with the size of the built-in flash memory of this unit. The memory has been increased to 4GB, from the 1GB on the Photosmart 475. Internal memory is particularly handy on a printer as it enables quick transfers of images from your camera for printing later, or can act as a photo archive. The printer also outputs to a television or projector via a simple cable enabling it to do slideshows from a memory card, camera or the internal flash drive. This functionality works well and we had no problems using the included remote control for navigation. Other connectivity options available for the A716 are infra-red and Bluetooth, but the latter is only supported via an adapter which is not supplied.
We tested the printer to ascertain how many prints could be made per ink cartridge and by extension, the cost per print. We have based these figures purely on 4x6 prints and under the assumption that you are purchasing the $59.95 paper and cartridge combo pack. The combo pack contains one tri-colour ink jet cartridge and 120 sheets of paper. We produced 102 prints on one ink cartridge. Based on the cost of the combo pack, this works out to 58 cents per print and leaves us with excess paper. This result is identical to the Photosmart 475 but still isn't cheaper than getting your prints done at a photo lab.
We used a stopwatch test to time how long it takes, on average, to print one photo. We timed five prints of varying degrees of colour and paper fill using an average of those results. The average time for a photo to be printed on this device is 2min 8sec. While this is an improvement on the previous model, it is still slow when compared to other models on the market, especially when the 60-70 second print times of some dye-sub printers are taken into consideration.
The A716 has a 2.5in screen which becomes available when the front and rear panels are lowered. This screen is used to preview and select the images to be printed. The screen is also used for the basic image editing elements of the firmware. While it isn't comparable to dedicated photo editing software, it can correct minor image problems such as low brightness or contrast and can fix red eye. All the on-screen menus are easy to understand and simple to use.
The HP Photosmart A716 is an attractive unit and will definitely appeal to someone who is looking for a home solution for reasonably cheap prints. It prints faster than its predecessor and has an increase in memory but the price point for the unit is a little high compared to the far cheaper dye-sub models on the market. Overall, the image quality is excellent, despite some poor performance in black levels and portability is an added bonus.
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