HP Photosmart A716 Compact Photo Printer

Is your photo library maxing out your Mac’s hard drive? If so, HP has come up with an interesting idea. Why not store your photos in your photo printer? Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart A716 Compact Photo Printer features a 4GB internal hard drive that can hold thousands of photos, mounts on your desktop just like any other drive when the printer is connected via USB, and because it’s portable, it lets you print photos from your in-printer library anywhere you happen to be.

HP’s A716 can print 4-by-6-inch photos as well as 5-by-7-inch photos and panoramic prints, all without borders, something no other company’s portable photo printer that we’ve tested can do. It also comes with an AV cable and a remote control, which allows you to display your photo library as a slide show on your TV set. So why am I not jumping up and down for joy? Because the print quality just isn’t that great.

The printer ships with a trial pack of HP’s Advanced photo paper, and most of the speed and durability claims by HP refer to tests performed with this paper. Advanced photo prints are quick drying, water resistant, and smudge-proof. However, the Advanced photo paper is not HP’s best quality paper. That title belongs to the Premium Plus line of photo paper.

Prints using the Premium Plus paper are much more saturated and guaranteed to last longer than the Advanced photo prints. The downsides to the Premium Plus paper are that it doesn’t dry as fast as the Advanced photo paper, the prints exhibit some bronzing (a metallic sheen viewable at an angle), especially in dark areas of photographs, and the paper is more expensive. Without other photos to compare to, the Advanced photo prints look perfectly acceptable, even good. But when viewed next to Premium Plus paper, there is clearly a difference. Neither of the prints looks as good as prints from the Epson PictureMate PM280 Flash (   ), though, which are as saturated as the Premium Plus prints, but without the bronzing.

The Photosmart A716 claims to print a photo in about 38 seconds. But if you want the best quality, it will take a little under two minutes—which is on the slower side of the portable photo printers we’ve tested.

The Photosmart A716 is HP’s top-of-the-line portable photo printer: It has all the bells and whistles, such as a large 2.5-inch color LCD and an internal 4GB hard drive for easy photo storage. It’s easy to see how handy an on-board drive would be for people who don’t want to involve computers in their photo printing workflow. You could also use this drive to either maintain a backup copy of your photos, or as a portable “greatest hits” version of your photo library. When I saved photos from a memory card to the internal hard drive, I could see them on my Mac when connected to it via USB, as the drive mounted automatically on my Mac’s desktop.

The printer features card slots to support most of the popular types of camera memory cards and offers a PictBridge USB port for connecting and printing directly from your digital camera. It also prints wirelessly and comes with a composite cable that allows you to view your photos on a TV. The included remote control even lets you navigate through your pictures, as well as select, edit, and print the photos you see on your television screen.

In terms of portability, the handle is a nice touch, but the optional battery is a must for those who want to do more than just carry the printer somewhere. For $50, HP says the optional battery lets you print upwards of 75 photos between charges. A battery was not included with our evaluation model, so I can’t verify that claim.

There are other, lower-cost variations of this printer with fewer features. For example, if you can live with a 0.1-inch-smaller preview LCD and without the internal hard drive, the A616 costs $50 less.

timed trials

4x6-inch Photo 1:52
Ten 4x6-inch Photos 8:38

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

jury tests

Color photo quality Good

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

specifications

Number of inks 3 inks, 1 cartridge
Cost per 4x6-inch print 29 cents—glossy paper and ink for 120 prints, $35.
Connections USB 2.0; Pictbridge USB; CompactFlash; xD card, Secure Digital (SD), Memory Stick.
Printer resolution 1200 dpi
Special features Can print 5x7-inch pictures and panoramas; connects to TV; remote control; 4GB internal memory.

Macworld’s buying advice

The HP Photosmart A716’s photo quality isn’t as good as some of the other portable photo printers we’ve tested. But it has a multitude of nice features, such as a built-in hard drive, water- and smudge-resistant prints available in a variety of sizes up to 4-by-12-inch panoramas, a handle, and an optional battery that make it attractive to people looking for an easy-to-use, portable photo printer.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]

HP Photosmart A716 Compact Photo Printer

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