The HP Photosmart C4280 is not the prettiest or fastest all-in-one in this roundup, nor does it print the best photos. It's not the cheapest either, and yet it's the only one without PictBridge and it doesn't offer optional Bluetooth. But it is the sleekest and most attractive of the bunch. And it handles basic printing and scanning just fine, which, at $99, could be just what the everyday business user wants.
The C4280 sports a glossy-white and matte-gray exterior, rounded edges, and a flush control panel. With a lightweight 11-pound frame housing a smattering of buttons and a small 1.5-inch LCD screen, the C4280 is very portable and easy to use. We like that the included software, HP Photosmart Essential, automatically saves scanned documents as well as original photos. Editing photos, however, wasn't as easy, as the editing functions are designated by picture icons, not words.
Photos look sharper with the C4280 than they do with the Lexmark x3550, but they're still faded compared with those from the Canon Pixma MP600. In an outdoor portrait, for instance, our subject's hair appeared a pale shade of yellow instead of a rich dirty blonde. In a picture taken indoors, a toddler's feet, lined and dirty after playing outdoors, printed a flat orange. Finally, the photos printed wet, and even after they dried, the paper still felt flimsier than the other brands we tested.
We were impressed with the C4280's color copies on plain paper, however. The colors were reasonably accurate and unlike with the MP600 and 5300's copies, our subject's eyes looked blue-albeit a much darker shade than on the photo paper-not black.
We were also pleased with the C4280's performance as a general printer; it finished our mix of business documents in 6 minutes and 2 seconds, way behind the Canon model but better than the 6:56 from the Kodak entry. The fine 5-point print was a bit blurry, but the color graphics were as good as any we've seen.
For photos, the C4280's speeds were mediocre. It had the second-slowest speeds, taking 1 minute and 2 seconds on average to print 4 x 6-inch prints and 2 minutes and 47 seconds for 8 x10s . It was also a bit slow as a scanner, taking almost a minute for both black-and-white and color processing. Lastly, the C4280 had the second-slowest times for both our black-and-white and color copying tests.
At only $99, the HP Photosmart C4280 is still a good deal. It would be best for a small office that needs good photos on regular paper, say for real estate purposes. It's fast enough for most uses but won't impress anyone with its speed. On the other hand, for eighty dollars more you can have the best output, faster.
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