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HP Deskjet 5940

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General-purpose ink-jets don’t get a lot of respect. They’re not the best at anything—laser printers can print sharper text more quickly, photo printers can produce smoother, more pleasing pictures, and so on. But a good general-purpose ink-jet, like the HP Deskjet 5940 , will print cleaner text more economically than a photo printer and produce better photographs than a color laser printer, and all while costing much less than either of those other types of printers.

The Deskjet 5940 is easy to set up. It connects to your Mac via USB 2.0 and also includes a PictBridge USB port on the front for printing directly from PictBridge-compatible digital cameras. Unlike some ink-jets that use individual cartridges for each ink, the Deskjet 5940 uses just two cartridges to hold its four inks—one black and one tricolor cartridge with cyan, magenta and yellow inks. That means if you run out of yellow ink, for instance, you need to toss and replace any remaining cyan and magenta inks. Although this may seem like a downside, it allows the Deskjet 5940 to do something most other general-purpose ink-jets can’t. You can remove the black ink cartridge and install an optional photo tricolor cartridge (with black, light magenta and light cyan inks), thus converting the Deskjet 5940 into a six-color photo printer.

But even with its standard ink configuration, the Deskjet 5940 did a really good job with photos. The colors on our standard Macworld test print were a close match to our control print, being just a touch too lively in some of the reds, but still very pleasing. Upon very close inspection, dots are visible, giving the photo a slightly grainy appearance. So, unless you’re as picky as I’m paid to be, you won’t feel the need to swap out cartridges in order to be happy with the Deskjet 5940’s photo prints.

Text printed with the Deskjet 5940 was excellent and nearly as clean and sharp as text from most laser printers. There were a couple of small quality issues with our graphics test page with a couple of jumps in the color gradients and visible dots in lighter images, but the printer still managed to get a Good rating for graphics.

In most of our speed tests, the Deskjet 5940 was an average performer. It completed our 10-page Microsoft Word document and 8-by-10-inch photo print tests with times in the middle of the pack when compared to our other, recently tested ink-jet printers. Our 4-page PDF test, however, took an extremely long time to print—nearly 19 minutes at highest resolution.

timed trials

10-page Word test 1:45
22MB Photoshop image 6:08
4-page PDF 18:54

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

jury tests

Text quality Excellent
Photo quality Very Good
Graphics quality Good

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

How We Tested —We test each printer via USB 2.0 connected to a dual-1GHz Power Mac G4 running OS X 10.3.9. We record the amount of time it took each printer to print a 10-page Microsoft Word document at Normal or Good mode and an 8-by-10-inch photo print of a 22MB file from Adobe Photoshop CS2 at Best mode. We look at many types of documents and rated the quality of each printer’s text, photo and graphic prints as either Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, or Unacceptable.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung


Number of ink cartridges Four inks/two cartridges
Cost to replace all ink cartridges $45
Connections USB 2.0
Printer resolution 4800 dpi optimized
Special features PictBridge USB port for direct-from-camera printing. Can be converted into 6-color photo printer with optional cartridges.

Macworld’s buying advice

The Deskjet 5940 is a good all-around performer, with excellent text-printing capabilities and very good photo quality. Though it was poky on one of our speed tests, this printer is a good fit if you’re looking for an affordable, general-purpose color ink-jet.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]

HP Deskjet 5940
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