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HP PhotoSmart 475 Review

Highs

  • Portable; supports various size formats; presents slideshows

Rating

Our Score 7.5
User Score 7

Lows

  • Average print quality; cheap construction; expensive
HP has taken the portable printer from an output device to a multipurpose machine ...

Summary

At first it was enough for photo printer makers to add a portable model to their mix. Now that most companies sell one, a little more creativity is required to separate one from the pack. HP has stepped up to the challenge with the Photosmart 475 ($279), a.k.a. GoGo, an unabashedly cute tagalong that prints not only the requisite 4 x 6 prints but 5 x 7 enlargements too. GoGo went a step further, adding 1.5 gigabytes of internal storage that can pack up to 1,000 images. Take it to the next family party, hook it up to a TV and you can run a slide show that lasts all afternoon.

Design and Features

It’s hard to believe a gadget this small could put out 5 x 7 prints. Measuring 9.8 x 4.5 x 4.8 inches, the 3.3-pounder is easy on the eyes and on the arm. A built-in handle makes it easy to tote but it doesn’t feel like it could stand a bumpy ride in the family minivan. HP packed my review unit in a nifty–and well-padded–case which I’d recommend as an option to protect what feels like flimsy paper trays and guides.

Connectivity options are standard including a USB port, PictBridge compatibility for connection to PictBridge cameras and card slots for SD, CompactFlash, Memory Stick and XD. If you have an old Fuji or Olympus Smart Media-based camera, you have to hope it has a USB jack because there’s no slot for the retired format.

Additional features include a composite video out jack for connection to a TV and the ability to save pics to CD-ROMs using an external burner. The latter is one of those more-trouble-than-it’s-worth features. I can’t see finding another outlet, hooking up a CD burner and starting a slow burn. It’s much easier to use a PC and mouse, but it’s nice to have the choice. If your PC hard drive is overweight, the feature is that much more appealing.

Internal storage is useful for those who don’t want to have to boot up a PC just to dump photos from the camera’s memory card. Organizing 1,000 images after transfer from the memory card or camera can be tedious. The HP software organizes pics according to month, which helps, but the process is clunky using directional buttons and a 2.5-inch LCD screen.

Setup and Use

Setup was logical and straightforward; no complaints. As I pulled up the paper guide and pulled out the tray the entire ensemble felt a bit rickety, though. My first dozen prints went through fine but after I exhausted my initial paper supply I didn’t get a good fit with paper in the tray. The result? One of my 4 x 6 prints was slightly off kilter leaving some slanted white strips where the image should have been. I adjusted it but the paper guides could be more rigid.

Operation wasn’t as intuitive as it could have been. On two occasions I had to cancel the printing because I had somehow scheduled a 15-print run when I only wanted a single image. I also had to order multiple prints of the same image one by one rather than being able to multiple prints of the same image.

Menu operations are clear, offering image enhancement, cropping and brightness adjustment. The manual redeye reduction, although time-consuming, seemed well worth the investment. A back button to navigate the submenus more quickly would be a welcome addition.

The slideshow function is better utilized on a big screen than on the 2.5-inch display. The display works well for making minor edits and adding creative touches including clip art, captions and frames which are sure to be a hit on the party circuit.

I played around in the menu system for quite a while trying to find the 5 x 7 setting to make an enlargement. I gave up and decided to put the paper in and see what happened. Smart little printer. It knew it was a 5 x 7 photo sheet and printed accordingly. That’s user friendliness.

Using the display layout feature, you can also select index mode, wallet size prints and passport photo size. It sure beats the pictures you get at the amusement park.

HP PhotoSmart 475
Image Courtesy of Hewlett Packard

Performance

HP quotes a minimum 4 x 6 print time of 60 seconds with the Photosmart 475. Their images must have been simpler than mine. My best print time was 1:35 for a 4 x 6 with the automatic redeye fix turned off. In redeye reduction mode, the same image emerged after 2:09. I printed a 5 x 7–with no redeye fix–in 2:30. Those won’t break any speed records, but at least it got the red out.

Print quality was for the most part good for a portable printer. You wouldn’t trust the big-time family memories to the GoGo but it churns out prints with decent detail and rich color. In a comparison of the same image printed on the GoGo and Epson’s PictureMate portable, I found the Epson print to have a smoother surface but less vibrant colors than the HP prints. I needed to step up the brightness on the HP which had a hard time with whites and skin tones. The HP prints were sharper but showed texture on the paper around outlines. Both printers displayed digital artifacts when presented with difficult backgrounds.

The HP prints came out sticky to the touch compared with the Epson’s that were dry on delivery. For those concerned about withstanding spills, the Epson pics could repel water while the HP’s smudged.

Conclusion

HP has taken the portable printer from an output device to a multipurpose machine that stores images, presents slideshows and prints in various sizes and formats. At $279, it’s a bit pricey given its average quality and light plastic construction, especially given the ever-plummeting price of full-size photo printers offering better quality.

But it’s a handy little digicam peripheral that offers extra convenience on top of simple functionality. It may be the start of a whole new category.

Pros:

–          Very portable

–          Simple to use

–          Works great with a digital camera

–          Supports various size formats

Cons:

–          Average picture quality

–          Expensive

–          Cheap construction

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