HP Photosmart A646 review

The HP Photosmart A646 compact photo printer offers a few surprising features for its mid-range price. Most snapshot printers take just one size of media, but the A646 accepts three: 4 x 6in (the size of our test photos), 4 x 12in (panoramic), and 5 x 7in.

On the inside front panel are two media slots for Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card. The A646 also has a PictBridge port and built-in Bluetooth support. Interestingly, the printer chassis is made from more than 30 per cent recycled plastic and the carrying case is constructed entirely from recycled plastic bottles. However, while the case design implies portability, HP doesn’t offer an optional battery pack with the A646.

On the Photosmart A646’s display panel is a 3.45in colour touch-screen LCD, flanked by touch-sensitive controls. You can browse and select menu options using your finger or the included stylus. It’s fun to try the many available photo enhancements, including borders, captions, and clip art. You can also create a doodle overlay or apply a retro look.

The printer comes with plenty of onboard editing and printing features, including borders, pet-eye fix (it’s red-eye for pets but allowing for the fact that the glowing eyes you get in animal photography aren’t always red as they are in humans), a slimming feature, blemish removal and sepia tones. You can also run a slideshow from the screen.

The Photosmart A646 performed fairly well in our tests. It kicked out each of our test photos in less than a minute at normal settings. Aside from flesh tones that were orange enough to be jarring, most colours were bright and well balanced. All images showed a nice level of depth and detail.

The print cartridge is housed in a front compartment. Simple colour labels inside the cover show how to remove and insert the cartridge, but it can be tricky. After our first attempt, an error message appeared on the LCD, and an animated clip showed how to insert it properly. For the best possible ink costs, buy the combination ink/paper packs.

OUR VERDICT

So is the HP Photosmart A646 the snapshot printer for you? It falls a little short on flesh tones and ink costs. On the other hand, it lets you print on more sizes of paper than the competition, and it offers lots of fun, on-board editing options. We liked it.

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