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HP Deskjet 450cbi review: HP Deskjet 450cbi

HP Deskjet 450cbi

Christopher Robertson Senior Director of Product
7 min read

HP's new entry into the portable-printing market offers plenty of versatility for on-the-go projects. The 450cbi's Bluetooth and infrared support lets it print wirelessly from desktops, notebooks, and even some PDAs. Plus, the 450 can handle difficult jobs, such as double-sided printing, and photo prints of up to 4,800x1,200dpi. It has a sleek design and produces good-quality prints to boot, but it's extremely slow and, at more than 4.5 pounds, isn't exactly a joy to cart around. All in all, the 450 is fine for strong travelers or anyone who demands printouts anywhere, anytime. But if you really need high-quality output, try the larger, less expensive HP Deskjet 5550.


HP Deskjet 450cbi

The Good

Supports Bluetooth and infrared for wireless printing; battery is robust enough to use while printing.

The Bad

A bit heavy to carry around; slow; expensive.

The Bottom Line

The Deskjet 450cbi makes it easy to print on the go, but its quality isn't good enough for important docs.

Smaller than a breadbox.

The Deskjet 450cbi is a small, sleek-looking machine that's the shape of a large purse that your grandma might carry around. With its paper trays closed, this inkjet measures a tight 13.3 inches wide by 3.2 inches deep by 6.5 inches high and will snugly fit into your luggage or even a briefcase. But perhaps because of its sturdy construction, this printer weighs about 4.5 pounds--not too heavy (a low-average weight for notebooks) but not light as a feather either. Carrying it around during the commute got a bit tiresome.
Setting up and installing the HP Deskjet 450cbi takes just a few minutes. The box contains a handy poster that walks you through the entire process. And thanks to its USB port, the 450cbi works with both Macs and PCs. But although this printer ships with a proprietary parallel cable, it doesn't include a USB cable; you'll have to buy one separately.
The 450cbi uses two ink cartridges: one black and one color. Replacing the cartridges is a simple process, and unlike the Epson Stylus Photo 960, the 450cbi can still print if one of the cartridges is empty or has been removed. The front-panel LED blinks in a number of different colors to alert you to problems, such as a low battery or ink levels, as well as a printer jam. (You'll need to consult your manual for a full list of warnings.)
Ink installation doesn't take long either. Like the flap on a purse, the printer lid snaps open to serve as a paper input tray, revealing a smaller panel which, when opened, gives access to the printer's innards, where the ink cartridges slide easily into the bay. In case you plan on traveling, the 450cbi comes with a removable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. According to HP, the battery can last for up to 350 pages for regular print jobs and fewer with more intensive duties. Although we didn't officially test battery life, the 450cbi's cell never ran down while we carted it around. To recharge the battery, you have to attach it to the 450 for about an hour while the printer is plugged in to an AC outlet.

Open for business.

No output tray.

Being a portable printer, the 450 doesn't handle paper with the greatest of ease. Oddly, HP lacks an output tray, so printouts simply land on your desk willy-nilly. And the input paper tray holds only up to 45 sheets of plain paper, 10 envelopes, or one transparency at a time. But thankfully, the printer accepts standard photo papers; legal- and letter-sized plain paper; and transparencies, labels, and card stock up of to 0.12 inches thick (3mm).
One issue to be aware of: During setup, while you install the printer driver and software from the included CD, a prompt asks if you want to install myPrintMileage, an app that periodically sends information to HP about your printer status and usage. HP uses the information to create your customized printer analysis in its records. Using that info, HP can make recommendations and send you firmware updates. You can opt out of the myPrintMileage program either during the installation or through the Toolbox after installing. Since HP doesn't share this information with other companies, we're neutral on whether you should opt in; it's up to you.
The 450 is packed with snazzy features that make it compatible with PCs, media cards, and even some cell phones and handhelds. You have your standard USB and parallel ports for PC printing (Macs can connect via USB only). But the 450 can also print directly from any Palm OS 3.0 or Pocket PC device via infrared and Bluetooth; just beam the document to the printer. On the downside, you must purchase a separate CompactFlash Bluetooth card (about $100) if you want to use this option; the card fits into a CompactFlash slot in the back of the printer. The 450cbi's media-card slots allow you to print directly from CompactFlash Type I and II cards as long as the files you're printing are in Digital Print Order format. Just slide the card into the port on the printer's backside.

Card slot for Bluetooth capability.

If you select a photo setting higher than the 450cbi's maximum input of 1,200x1,200dpi, the built-in HP PhotoREt III technology optimizes the printer to produce enhanced photos at a 4,800x1,200dpi, according to HP. The printer's native PhotoREt technology uses tiny ink-drop sizes (5 picolitres) and an algorithm to lay down up to 29 ink drops per dot, generating a wider range of directly printable colors and enhancing detail. Since the 450cbi contains 16MB of RAM and 4MB of ROM (whereas most cheap inkjets have less than 1MB of RAM, and even higher-end printers rarely have as much as the Deskjet 450cbi), it takes less time uploading your files from the PC to the printer itself.
The driver CD contains some handy software utilities, too, as well as some that seem less useful, such as the aforementioned myPrintMileage. For example, the ZoomSmart utility lets you resize your documents and images before you print. Other driver settings let you set various printing methods, such as duplex printing (manual), booklet printing, tiling, and inserting watermarks. The print driver software allows you to change color settings for printing in grayscale or sepia and to adjust saturation, brightness, and color-tone levels. The CD's HP Digital Photo settings allow you to change contrast, clean up digital flashes, add focus and sharpness, and smooth out photos; in our tests, this utility allowed us to improve our photos to our specifications.
As for the 450cbi's performance, there's good news and bad news. The bad news first: The HP DeskJet 450 is one of the slowest USB printers we've ever tested. You get only 1.47 pages per minute (ppm) for simple black-and-white text pages. Granted, the printer was built for portability, but any busy traveler would appreciate faster output. For color pages, the 450 pulled a slightly more respectable 4.3 minutes for our 8x10-inch test photo. Still we wouldn't recommend the 450 for large print jobs of any variety.

Bargain-basement ink costs.

Fortunately, you needn't worry about the 450cbi's long-term ink costs. In our Labs' testing, text pages cost an average of 4.5 cents per page, while color pages cost 22 cents each. Both the 450cbi's prices are cheaper than those of many other inkjets we've tested and match those of many higher-end printers, such as the Canon S9000. For more detail on our test methodology, see the CNET Labs site.
Although certainly not on a par with high-end photo printers, the HP didn't completely fail our output quality tests for a portable printer. True, our printer jury found all of the 450cbi's output very light and washed out. (You can counteract some of this effect by using the print utility to manually set the ink volume used.) But in our text tests on plain paper, the letters were well formed, with clean lines. On our coated-paper tests, text looked more jagged and rough. One note: CNET Labs performed its coated-paper test on HP Bright White paper, which is only a small step above plain printer paper. By contrast, text looked much clearer with a true high-resolution paper.
Color prints also suffered from undersaturation; they appeared somewhat pastel-like compared to the source copy and suffered from some pixelation. But details looked clear and lines well formed for both plain and coated paper. Our photo test pages were fair in quality; the image was soft and hazy, with too much red, causing skin tones to appear slightly off. Where the camera's flash reflected off the foreheads of our two human subjects, a funky sheen made the skin tone look pixelated and smudged.

Inkjet printer text speed
Pages per minute (longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Deskjet 6122
Canon i850
Canon S830D
HP Deskjet 450cbi
Inkjet printer color photo speed
Minutes to print a color photograph (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Canon i850
Canon S830D
HP Deskjet 6122
HP Deskjet 450cbi
Inkjet printer quality
Plain paper Coated paper Plain paper Coated paper Photo paper 
 Canon i850•••••••••••••
 Canon S830D••••••••••••
 HP Deskjet 450cbi•••••••••••
 HP Deskjet 6122••••••

As with most printers, the HP Deskjet 450cbi comes with a one-year warranty, but you can upgrade your warranty to three years for $199--which costs more than the printer itself. You're entitled to free phone support for the length of warranty via a toll number, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT. You can also call toll-free, automated phone support. After the warranty has expired, support calls cost $2.50 per minute, up to a maximum of $25. HP's voice-activated tech support is easy to navigate, and you don't have to wait long (less than a minute in our three test calls) to connect to a support technician who can quickly and concisely answer your question.
Before you call anyone, though, you should check the printer's 42-page user guide that covers basic troubleshooting, configuration information, how to use different media types, and how to print from different devices. The guide is in several languages but has no index--which won't help when you're looking for a specific piece of info not highlighted in the table of contents. Then consult the company's Web site for software updates, printing tips, and manuals. Web support also includes FAQs, troubleshooting tips, discussion groups, and even information on how to recycle printer products.


HP Deskjet 450cbi

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 10Performance 5Support 7