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HP Photosmart 230 review: HP Photosmart 230

HP Photosmart 230

Jim Freund
4 min read
Among the entries in HP's Photosmart series of printers, two are dedicated to photos only--no text, no graphics--although the HP Photosmart 230 is more upscale than its predecessor, the 130. Its snazzy LCD lets you preview, edit, and print pictures without a computer. The 230 is particularly well suited for digital photographers on the go. It prints photos directly from digital cameras and almost any standard-format memory card. Better still, its photo quality is right on the money, though it's limited to 4x6 photo paper or index cards and wallet-sized pictures. It's not much for speed, but given the quality and price of the output, who cares?

LCD screen for PC-free printing.
This compact and sturdy inkjet resembles a small, gray toaster. When the printer is open and functioning, its entire footprint is smaller than a bread box, taking up approximately 9 by 15 by 6 inches. Although this inkjet is a little heavy, you can purchase a carrying case for around $35 to make it truly portable. This unit requires some assembly. You must install the software first; then, when prompted, you turn on the power and plug in a USB cable (purchased separately). You shouldn't have many questions, but if you do, the clear, concise manual should answer most of your concerns.
The control buttons on top of the unit are simple to understand and use. A Save button lets you upload pictures to your computer. And the small LCD lets you access menus and call up status reports, as well as preview and edit photos. The sturdy front-loading paper tray can hold up to 20 9mil or 26 7mil stock. Equally convenient is the ink cartridge tray that lies cleverly hidden behind a front panel. Above the paper tray, you'll find four memory card slots that can collectively read CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Secure Digital, and Multi-Media formats.

Reads various media cards.

Easy-to-load ink.

On the rear of the unit lies the input for the power adapter and the USB port. You can use the latter to connect to your computer or directly to a digital camera.

The Photosmart 230 requires a single tricolor cartridge for photos only. One such cartridge comes with your new printer. There's no black cartridge, which is typical for many photo-only cartridges.

One cartridge for photos only.

Edit picture directly on LCD.

HP bundles its standard photo and imaging software, which includes HP Image Editor for editing and managing images, and a Memories disc for storing photo albums. If you're serious about your snapshots, it's probably wise to invest in higher-end imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop 7.0 with more-advanced editing tools.
If your photos need very little editing, you can skip the PC apps altogether and use the printer's LCD-based menu system to add color effects (such as sepia), adjust brightness, zoom, print an index page (be sure to use an index card for this option, rather than expensive glossy paper), or even assemble a slide show. This option also comes in handy when you wish to print directly from a media card or a digital camera.

At standard resolution, the 230 outpaces larger photo printers, taking just a bit less time to produce a 4x6 photo than our lab techs take to boil a three-minute egg. Despite the 230's speedy execution, the images came out sharp and the colors very accurate when output to glossy paper in CNET Labs' tests, though images printed on index cards were undersaturated. Furthermore, in both our lab and informal tests, we noted a tendency toward slightly red skin tones, which imaging software can correct.
Naturally, printing photographs is an ink-intensive endeavor. We didn't run formal ink-drain tests, but based on the large amount of ink needed for a photograph, we figure those near-$25 cartridges will add up, especially if you tend to print at higher resolutions. The 230's highest resolution (4,800x1,200 optimized dpi) will take plenty of time and consume enough ink to make you wish that one of those front slots were for your ATM card; let's not give HP such ideas, though.

Inkjet color speed test (photo)
Minutes per page; shorter bars indicate better performance

Sony DPP-EX5 (3x5)
HP Photosmart 130 (4x6)
HP Photosmart 230 (4x6)

Photo printer quality
Poor   ••Fair   •••Good   ••••Excellent
 Photo printer Color image
on photo paper
 HP Photosmart 130 (4x6) ••••
 HP Photosmart 230 (4x6) •••
 Sony DPP-EX5 (3x5) •••
The 230 comes with HP's standard one-year limited hardware warranty and 90 days of software support. You can buy a three-year extended warranty for $69.99. HP's Web site includes driver and software downloads, PDF manuals, troubleshooting info, FAQs, and e-mail support. While the information on the site appears to be accurate, it is not as comprehensive as we'd like. However, it is easy to navigate and won't lead you through blind alleys of information before directing you to e-mail or phone support.
The free phone support is available from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays PT. In our test call, we had an excellent experience. We reached a human being within three minutes on a Saturday afternoon, and the technician we spoke to was polite, knowledgeable, and thorough. We never had the impression we were being rushed.

HP Photosmart 230

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Support 9