Electronic Design

Printer: HP PhotoSmart 475 Portable Photo Printer

HP’s Photosmart 475 portable printer weighs in at 3.3 pounds. It has a flip-up carrying handle and comes with a carrying case. It is one of many compact photo printers on the market, but it has a number of features that help it stand out, such as battery operation and an on-board 1.5-Gbyte hard disk. The unit will print over sixty photos when running on batteries.

The printer can directly read and write all common flash media on the market. The transfer ability is very handy because you can download photos from a digital camera, print, and then download the files to a PC when the unit is brought back to the PC. It is possible to transfer files between the removable media and the PC. Plug in a Bluetooth USB adapter and files can be transferred wirelessly. Because you can print directly from any source, it’s possible to print without having a PC around.

The printing specs are impressive. The resolution tops out at 1200dpi and it can handle paper up to 5- by 7- inches. It can even handle longer 4- by 12-inch paper for panorama photos. The pop up LCD provides a sophisticated menu interface that can move through photos, edit photos, add decorative borders, zoom in for better viewing, and even setup slide shows. Photos can be organized in a variety of modes including by date.

The printer uses HP’s Vivera inks. The printer accepts a single ink cartridge so it is best to switch to a black cartridge when printing black and white photos. The color cartridge includes a mix of colors and black. The result is very sharp, lifelike images. The ink is also designed to reduce clogging and smearing. It should be fade resistant for decades especially when used with HP paper, making the photos comparable or better than conventional photographs.

Borderless printing is supported with all paper and the HP software is designed to simplify image processing to generate borderless prints. For example, its cropping feature allows selection of fixed-ratio cropping outlines so you know what you select will be printed properly. No more guessing, stretching, or two-sided boarders. Red eye removal can be automatic, although you may not need if it you get the HP R817 camera we used.

I found printing to be fast and the quality was excellent. It takes about a minute to print a photo. It is easy to see why film cameras have disappeared from general use. The quality of the photos between the two is indistinguishable for prints of this size. The cost is under a quarter for 4- by 6-in. prints. The printer is available in a bundle that includes the HP R817 digital camera that we tested. The two are well matched, which is a major theme for the Best Computer of 2005.

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