The HP Photosmart C4580 All-in-One is a multifunction inkjet printer, but unlike its general-purpose competitors, it focuses on photo features. It doesn't have small-office functions such as fax support or an automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanner/copier tasks. But the $129 printer does a good job of meeting the varied needs of a typical home computer user, and it produces beautiful glossy photo prints.
The C4580's case is glossy white, which is a welcome departure from the black and gray designs used on many printers these days. The front control panel is extraordinarily simple, with six buttons and a 1.5-inch color LCD display. The prompts for the dynamic keys are clear, and navigation is quick and easy. HP bundles the printer with its own photo-editing and management software, as well as optical character recognition (OCR) software that converts a scanned image to text that you can edit.
The C4580 can connect to a PC using a USB cable, or it can attach to a network through 802.11b/g Wi-Fi support. It also can print images from its 4-in-1 memory card reader. One high-end feature included in this bargain printer is its inclusion of a Web page interface; you can easily monitor the printer's status and ink levels from any computer on the network, which can be handy if it's located in another room.
One weakness of the C4580's design is that it has no paper tray to catch the output pages. Also, the printed documentation is thinner than what you get with some competing products; you'll have to rely more on the documentation files that come on the installation CD.
The C4580 offers only wireless network support; there's no wired Ethernet option. Furthermore, you have to configure the printer so that it is either using the USB connection or a wireless connection; you cannot have both active at the same time. Despite receiving an error message in running the installation software a second time to switch over to the wireless connection, the configuration worked fine.
Speeds were acceptable, if not fast, for this class of device. Using its wireless connection, the C4580 managed 3.3 pages per minute on our five-page test document, and printed a 4 x 6 photo in 1 minute and 19 seconds. That's better than theBrother MFC-490CWperformed, but not as good as theCanon Pixma MP620. Over USB, the C4580 printed the five-page document at a rate of 3.1 ppm, and the 4 x 6 photo in 1:18. Scanning took 26 seconds for a page, and 42 seconds to make a color copy--both times slower than the Brother MFC-490CW and Canon Pixma MP620.
Not surprisingly, the C4580 created excellent photo prints, even without using the special photo-ink cartridge in place of the standard black-ink cartridge. Prints showed excellent detail, smooth gradients, and good color rendition.
As the $129 HP Photosmart C4580 is primarily a photo printer; it performed better in that respect than the similarly priced Canon and Brother devices. However, while it acquitted itself adequately for office tasks such as scanning and copying, it's not as strong in those departments as the Brother MFC-490CW. Still, the C4580 is a good photo printer that is versatile enough to handle just about any home computing task.