Ever since Hewlett-Packard rejoined the Mac ink-jet market it’s been trying to regain the market share it once enjoyed – before Epson ruled the roost. The new 930C is the latest attempt to do just that.
The HP 930C has an impressive resolution – 2,400-x-1,200dpi – but the printer won’t ever use that resolution, unless you insist on it. The normal printing mode uses PhotoREtIII – HP’s image-enhancement technology – that gets photographic results at 600-x-600dpi. It’s as good as the maximum resolution, but much faster. Even in the professional publishing business, 300dpi is the maximum resolution needed. Therefore, original images at over 600dpi are rare, and mostly pointless. HP is eager to get the message across that with PhotoREtIII and its layered ink, the results are as good as any higher resolution print.
The quality of photographic images is difficult to judge, because if you look closely there’s a certain amount of banding and speckles. However, if you’re close enough to see this, your nose will be touching the paper. When viewing the images from a normal distance, few or no artifacts are visible. When printed on glossy paper, the difference between the HP print and a photographic print from Boots is minor.
But, when you compare the HP print to one from the equivalent Epson there are differences. When the print is examined closely, there’s a banding pattern that shows up in some areas, and there’s also some graininess. The Epson print is smoother, with less graininess. The HP, though, is around £70 cheaper than the Epson Stylus Photo 870.
The 930C also has a few extra gadgets that make it a more attractive deal. While everybody likes the idea of printing beautiful, glossy pictures, real life often demands more mundane printing. For instance, black-&-white text, printing out emails, directions or invoices.
Most printers have a draft mode that allows quick-&-dirty printing, and sometimes those prints are barely legible. The 930C has a draft mode, but it’s still readable. The speed reached around 3.5 pages per minute (ppm) in our tests – though HP claims that 7ppm is possible.
For more important documents, normal or best mode slows to around one ppm – but the text is blacker than most lasers are capable of.
Pound for pound, you’re getting more from this printer than any of the competition. It isn’t the ultimate in photo quality, but it’s close enough not to matter. It’s a good all-round printer, and most people want text and photographs. The DeskJet 970C M Series is a top buy.