The HP Photosmart A626 is a compact photo printer that features a special 4.8-inch touch-screen display and stylus to make printing photos easier than ever. Equipped with a small carrying handle, the attractive, boom box-shaped A626 is designed for you to carry along on trips or special occasions. The A626’s interface is intuitive and innovative, but like the larger, more expensive version of this printer—the Photosmart A826 ( )—the A626’s print quality suffers from dull-looking dark prints. The A626 uses a tri-color ink system, which includes cyan, magenta, and yellow; this means that blacks are processed, or a combination of those three colors, as opposed to a true black ink. As a result, test prints with the A626 lacked depth and shadow detail; the quality of black-and-white photos was especially inferior. But if you’re a scrapbooker or shutterbug looking for a quick, easy way to immortalize your memories in print, the A626 shouldn’t disappoint.
Weighing slightly more than three pounds, the A626 is a breeze to unpack and set up. After plugging in the power cord, installing an ink cartridge, loading some paper, and inserting a memory card, you’ll be ready to print. The A626 supports all the major memory cards—CompactFlash Type I and II, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard/Secure MultiMediaCard and xD-Picture Card—so you shouldn’t be left out.
Unlike most compact photo printers, the A626 has an input tray that can be adjusted to print on various paper sizes—up to 4-by-12-inch panoramas. Our Top Product in the compact photo printer category, the Epson PictureMate Zoom PM 290 ( ), produced stellar prints, but can only print 4-by-6-inch photos. You’ll probably print standard 4-by-6-inch photos most often, but you might occasionally want to print larger or scenic photos. If that’s the case, you’ll appreciate the flexibility offered by the A626.
Though the A626 supports various paper sizes, the input tray capacity is surprisingly small, holding a maximum of 20 sheets. The input tray is accessible by prying open a cover on the back of the printer, leaving very little space to load paper. The A626’s design could be improved to offer both easier access to its input tray as well as greater paper capacity.
The A626’s strength is its innovative, user-friendly interface. While using this printer, I never had to consult the user manual. Even when it ran out of ink or paper, the printer’s bright screen displayed instructions on how to reload the media. The A626 also makes it straightforward to apply more advanced edits to your photos, such as effects, clip art, and cropping.
In terms of print quality, the A626 leaves something to be desired. The A626’s photos appear somewhat flat and dull; under light, you’ll see that dark colors look a little blotted. I got the best results when printing brighter photos on HP Premium Plus Photo paper. Still, despite the printer’s issues with dark prints, if you’re not nitpicky, the A626’s photos look pleasing.
In my testing, the A626 turned in average results for print speed, taking 1 minute and 38 seconds to print a single 4-by-6-inch photo at best quality. This isn’t a painfully long time to wait for a photo to print, but the Epson PictureMate Zoom printed photos much faster, taking 42 seconds to perform the same test.
|Color photo quality||Good|
|Black-and-white photo quality||Fair|
Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor
|Five 4-by-6-inch photos||6:57|
Scale = Minutes: Seconds
|Number of inks||Three|
|Cost per 4-by-6-inch print||29 cents (HP 110 series pack cost $35 and yields 120 photos)|
|Memory cards||CompactFlash Type I and II, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard/Secure MultiMediaCard, xD-Picture Card|
|Printer resolution||Up to 4,800 x 1,200 dpi|
|Special features||Touch-screen interactive menu; stylus|
Macworld’s buying advice
Attractive, easy-to-use, and innovative, the A626 should make a good travel partner for scrapbookers and hobbyists. The ability to print up to 4-by-12-inch panoramas is a very useful option, but the A626’s small paper capacity is a strange, questionable limitation. The printer’s weakness lies in its mediocre ability to print dark or black-and-white photos. But if you’re not the nitpicky type and you’re looking for a user-friendly, fun printer to bring to parties and events, the A626 is a good choice.
[ Brian Chen is an assistant editor at Macworld.]HP Photosmart A626