HP Photosmart D5160 photo printer

The $90 HP Photosmart D5160 is a fast, attractive, easy-to-use printer that’s capable of printing directly on ink-jet-ready CDs and DVDs. It also produces decent-looking photos. Although there are a few flaws in the software included with this printer, the D5160’s special features, thoughtful design, and smooth performance make it a good purchase.

The D5160 should take you no longer than five minutes to set up. The printer’s ink carriage holds only two cartridges, which are easy to snap into place. After connecting the device via USB 2.0, installing the software, and loading some media, you’re ready to print photos, CDs and DVDs, and documents.

The D5160’s rounded edges are aesthetically pleasing, and at just 11 pounds, the printer is designed with user convenience in mind. For easy access, the memory-card slots (xD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, CompactFlash I and II, Secure Digital, and MultiMediaCard) for photo printing are located on the front of the printer, below the control panel. The control panel’s buttons are square and about the same size as your fingertips, so they’re easy to press. The input drawers are well designed—a large tray holds letter paper, and a drawer above it holds smaller photo paper. The D5160 won’t clutter your desktop: every tray on this printer has a cover that conceals its contents, so you won’t have pieces of paper sticking out anywhere. These covers will also protect your media from dust.

For printing directly onto CDs and DVDs, the D5160 includes a removable tray, which you can insert into a slot behind a door-like cover. Using the printer’s included software, HP Photosmart Studio, you can easily create a printed disc by choosing images and adding them to a template. When you’re ready to print, simply snap an ink-jet-printable CD or DVD into the tray, insert the tray into its slot, and print.

Printing photos on the D5160 is extremely easy, but there are a few downsides. For example, when printing directly from a memory card, there is no option to change paper type or ink settings. According to HP, the printer treats all photo-paper types the same way. This uniformity defeats the purpose of buying different-quality photo papers. In fact, in my testing colors appeared more accurate on HP’s Advanced Photo Paper than they did on HP’s more expensive Premium Plus Photo paper. When printing images from your Mac, using HP’s included Photosmart Studio software, you can choose to print from the photo tray or change paper types or ink settings—but these settings are hidden in a print dialog box that can be hard to locate.

The D5160’s photo-print quality isn’t great: images look a bit oversharpened, and the reds appear a little too dark. This printer is better for gray-scale- or color-document printing: font characters appear to be relatively smooth, thin lines look well preserved, and colors are consistent overall. Our printed CD and DVD looked good.

As for speed, this printer is fast for an ink-jet. In our testing, it took only 1 minute and 11 seconds to print a four-by-six-inch photo and about three minutes to print an eight-by-ten-inch photo. The D5160 is also fast at printing text. It took only 16 seconds to print a single-page Word document and 1 minute and 44 seconds to print a ten-page Word document.

Timed Trials: Print

10-page Word test 1:44
1-page Word test 0:16
22MB Photoshop image 2:58
4-page PDF 2:10
4 x 6-inch photo 1:11
Five 4 x 6-inch photos 5:21

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

jury tests: print

Graphics: fine lines and gradients Very Good
22MB Photoshop image quality Good
Text quality Very Good

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

How We Tested: We ran all tests with the photo printer connected via USB 2.0 to a 2.66GHz Mac Pro with Mac OS X 10.4.8 installed and 1GB of RAM. We recorded the time it took the printer to print a one-page Word document and a 10-page Word document, as well as the time it took to print a 22MB Photoshop image and a four-page PDF. We then recorded the time it took to print a 4-by-6-inch photo and the time it took to print five 4-by-6-inch photos. A panel of experts examined sample output of the printer to rate its print quality as either Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor in comparison to the output of past photo printers we’ve tested.—Macworld Lab Testing by Brian Chen

specifications

Print resolution 4,800 x 1,200 dpi (color); 1,200 dpi (black)
Connection USB 2.0
Paper sizes CDs and DVDs, executive, index cards, legal, letter, photo (4 x 6, 5 x 7, 4 x 12 panorama, 4 x 24 panorama), U.S. No. 10 envelopes
Cost to replace ink/toner cartridges $45 ($20 for black, $25 for tri-color)
Weight (in pounds) 10.9
Dimensions (height x depth x width, in inches) 6.73 x 18.0 x 15.0
Paper capacity 125 sheets (document), 20 sheets (photo)
Special features CD and DVD load slot

Macworld’s buying advice

Whether you’re looking to produce some attractively printed CDs or DVDs, print some photos to pin on your wall, or print an occasional essay, the low-cost, versatile HP Photosmart D5160 will serve you well. Though limited in customization options, it’s a welcome addition to the low-end printer market.

[ Brian Chen is Macworld ’s assistant editor. ]

HP Photosmart D5160

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