HP scanners, printer, camera

Introduction

HP has launched more than 60 products in the past month. It’s difficult to keep up with such output, but we’ve narrowed it down to five products from the HP Labs. First up is the PhotoSmart 735 digital camera. This is a no-nonsense model that probably won’t impress your friends like the Canon Digital IXUS or some other flashy model. But the plain looks hide a respectable 3x optical zoom and a 3.2mp resolution. The specs aren’t groundbreaking – but a couple of years ago, you’d be paying over £500 for this kind of thing. The ace in the hole is the price tag: you can get this camera, including its 16MB built-in memory, for just £199 including VAT. It isn’t the best camera money can buy, but it might be the best digital camera £199 can buy. Prints among men
Next on the list is a simple inkjet printer, the DeskJet 5150. This is also a fairly drab-looking box, but it has hidden talents. Costing only £85, the 5150 lacks some of the automation found in more-expensive models. There’s no auto-paper-sensing, so you need to tell it when you’re using glossy paper. But this is no great hardship – and considering the price, the 5150 is still a great deal. It uses PhotoREt III as standard, which means colour photography output quality is very good, even at low resolution. If you install the optional six-ink photo-colour cartridge, the quality goes from good to fantastic – PhotoREt IV is enabled when the cartridge is installed. It would be nice if there was no need to change the cartridge to print photos at best quality, but at the price, it’s a great deal. There are also three new scanners. All based on the same unit, they are aimed at document scanning rather than graphics uses. The difference is in many ways nonexistent, having more to do with how a product is marketed than anything else. So although these scanners have features such as document feeders and OCR functions, they’re still just as capable as any consumer graphics scanner. It’s a bit of a novelty to have document scanners pitched to the Mac market. HP has offered scanners with document feeders for years, but until now Mac support has been sparse. The ScanJet 8200 is the base model. While it doesn’t sport a document feeder, it does have the same super-high 4,800dpi resolution as the rest of the range. Quite what the average office would do with such resolution, I’m unsure. Resolution matters
Remember, resolution is a measure of quantity – not quality. Unless you intend to scan things like slides and blow them up to 16 times their original size, the 4,800dpi resolution shouldn’t be the main reason to choose this scanner. It’s a nice feature, but not the most important one. There is a transparency adaptor, but not the kind with a moving light found on professional graphics scanners. It’s good enough for most uses, though. The connectivity is USB 2.0, backwards-compatible with USB 1.1, making for swift scans. Another speed enhancer is the dual-resolution CCD, with 4,800 and 600dpi for faster greyscale scanning. Bundled software is the HP Photo and Imaging software, ReadIris, and Photoshop Elements 2.0. Like more consumer-oriented scanners, there are simple-to-use buttons on the front of the scanner to launch scanning and copying applications. The next model up, the ScanJet 8250, is identical, but with a document feeder included. The document feeder can manage 15 pages per minute, though our USB 1.0 connection slowed that somewhat. It can also scan both sides of a sheet using its duplex capability. It’s a good trick, and I’m sure it would have performed better with a USB 2.0 or SCSI connection. Feed me now
The ScanJet 8290 is the big-daddy scanner. Its document feeder can get through a claimed 25 pages per minute, but the other big draw is the document-management software. Unfortunately, the software in question is Windows-only, and Macs get the same software bundle as the 8250. The scanners are pretty good, but there’s one drawback: price. Scanners designed for business tend to be more expensive, for no other reason than that the manufacturers can get away with it. Sure, they’re rugged and office-friendly, but £449 for the base unit that doesn’t include a document feeder is way too expensive. You could buy an incredible scanner for a fraction of the price from – wait for it – HP. The ScanJet 3970 offers similar features (though at lower resolution) for just £82; the 8200 isn’t radically different from that model. The addition of a sheet feeder adds a hefty £300 to the price of the 8250. The faster sheet feeder and the Windows-only software hikes the price of the 8290 up to an insane £1,449. This might make sense in a Windows-based environment, but not if you’re using a Mac.
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