The HP Deskjet 460c is a portable color inkjet aimed squarely at traveling business people who need to be able to print documents on the go, whether it's in a hotel room or on an airplane. Its speeds are on par with the competition's, though its performance isn't as consistent as that of the similar Canon Pixma iP90v. The Deskjet 460c produces excellent text prints, but its graphics and photo prints leave a lot to be desired, which isn't too big a deal when you consider the printer's intended use. For text output on the go, the $250 HP Deskjet 460 makes a worthy travel companion.
Like the Canon's portable inkjet, the $250 Pixma iP90v, the Deskjet 460 isn't cheap. Unlike the Canon, HP's portable printer gives you the option for Wi-Fi printing. The iP90v does include wireless printing (via IrDA), which allows you to print from IrDA-enabled phones and PDAs. But Wi-Fi printing is preferred because several people can print directly from computers on the same network (useful, for example, at an offsite meeting). In the end, deciding between these two portable printers is relatively straightforward: for better graphics and photo quality, go with the Canon, but if you foresee a need for Wi-Fi printing, choose the HP model.
Several versions of the Deskjet 460 are available, ranging in price from $250 to $350, depending on included features. All models are based on the same base model; add-ons include a battery and wireless adapters. The table below illustrates the various models. (All models include USB connectivity.)
|460wf||$350||Includes battery, Wi-Fi adapter|
|460wbt||$350||Includes battery, Bluetooth adapter|
The HP Deskjet 460 printers are reasonably compact for portable inkjet printers, but they're still large enough and heavy enough that you wouldn't want to carry them around unless you really need to. They sit 13.4 inches wide, 6.5 inches deep, and 3.3 inches tall, and weigh 4.5 pounds without the power adapter or battery. They're slightly larger and heavier than the Pixma iP90v. While the printer is small enough to be tucked into some laptop bags, the assorted peripherals--the power adapter and extra ink cartridges, for example--make us wish the printer came bundled with a carrying bag to house the printer and its accoutrements.
The control panel is limited to a couple of buttons and indicator lights. The buttons include power, cancel, and resume, while the lights tell you whether the battery (if applicable) is charging and warns you of low ink levels. On the rear of the printer are two USB ports: one for connecting the printer to a PC and a second for PictBridge devices and USB flash drives. On the side are two memory card slots--one CF and the other SD/MMC.
Aside from printing from memory cards, the CF slot is used to enable wireless printing over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, using an appropriate adapter. If you're printing over Wi-Fi, a three-way switch on the rear of the printer lets you toggle between three different wireless profiles for up to three PCs or wireless networks. This is a great feature if you move the printer regularly between, for example, your office, your home, and a particular airport. For the same price as the base model Deskjet 460c, the Canon Pixma iP90v includes an IrDA (infrared) port for printing wirelessly from a phone or PDA.
The paper handling system is simple. The top cover folds up to serve as the paper input support, which has adjustable paper guides and can hold up to 50 sheets of plain paper. A small flap folds open from the front edge of the printer to reveal the output area. The flap doesn't serve as an output tray, though, so you'll have to set your printer back from the table's edge or be on hand to catch the pages as they exit the printer.
A small problem we noticed is that the paper feed mechanism has some difficulty with photo paper. Specifically, when we put a batch of about 10 sheets (4x6 inch) in, it couldn't pick up the first sheet to start a print job. It tried several times and eventually gave up with an error. If we helped it along by pushing the first sheet manually, the feeder was able to grab it and print, but then it'd get stuck on the second sheet. The problem went away when we had fewer than four sheets of photo paper in the feeder. We didn't experience the same problem when using plain paper. Overall, it's a minor problem, but something to be aware of if you need to do batch prints of photos.
The Deskjet 460 printers use a two-tank ink system. The black ink comes in only one size and prints about 450 pages for $20. The tri-color tank comes in regular ($25; 260 prints) and high-capacity ($35; 450 prints) sizes. Using the larger tank for best value, we estimate that a black-only print will cost about 4.4 cents per page, while a four-color page will cost about 12.2 cents per page. Both costs are very reasonable for an inkjet printer, especially for a portable one such as this, though they're a hair more than the per-page costs of the iP90v.
In CNET Labs' tests, the HP Deskjet 460 trailed the Canon Pixma iP90v in text speeds, though it was slightly faster with color graphics prints. It scored 4.88ppm for black text, well behind the Canon's score of 6.24ppm. When printing color graphics, it produced prints at a rate of 1.89ppm, just ahead of the Canon's 1.42ppm. The Deskjet 460 is a bit slower than the Canon at 4x6 photo prints: 0.53ppm for the HP versus 0.68ppm for the Canon.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The text quality prints showed near-laser-quality prints. To the naked eye, the text prints were pretty much perfect: dark black, sharp characters, and clean lines. The color graphics print didn't fare quite as well, though we still found them impressive. While we liked the saturation, the light end of the grayscale was blown out, resulting in lost details in some photo elements. Additionally, we noticed some graininess in the same photo areas. The 4x6 photo prints fared the worst; prints were grainy, and the details were blurry. These results aren't surprising, though. The Deskjet 460 is geared for traveling businesspeople who need the ability to print documents anywhere. The photo prints are good enough for casual snapshots, though.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP backs the Deskjet 460 series printers with a standard one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available 24-7, or you can send an e-mail to tech support. HP's site also offers drivers, documentation and manuals, software, FAQs, and setup features.