The newest addition at the top of HP's photo printer lineup, the Photosmart 8450, replaces last year's high-end offering, the HP Photosmart 7960, which earned solid marks for its photo-print quality and plethora of direct-printing options. We expect good things out of the 8450, which introduces photo enthusiasts to HP's new Vivera ink set and accompanying printhead technology. The overall result, HP claims, is more-vibrant, longer-lasting output as well as increased speed.
Upside: According to numbers from Wilhelm Imaging Research, widely regarded as the gold standard in print-longevity research, the new Vivera inks add 15 to 20 years to the life of eight-color ink prints when used in conjunction with HP's new high-end Premium Plus Photo paper; this means that HP-produced prints stored under glass can last more than 100 years. In addition to the new inks, HP has improved control over drop-size variation and the printer's color look-up tables. The combined effect, the company hopes, is improved color accuracy and better-looking output. HP also claims to have shaved 30 seconds off the rated photo-print time (we dinged the 7690 for its sluggishness). Like its big brother, the HP Photosmart 8450 comes loaded with direct-printing options: you can print directly from any PictBridge-compatible digital camera via the USB port and from an array of digital media slots on the printer's front panel (CompactFlash I and II, MMC, SD, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, and xD cards). And now you can also print photos from any Bluetooth-enabled camera phone or PDA.
Downside: HP still clings to the combo ink cartridges with built-in printheads, which tends to keep consumables costs up. That's a major drawback for photo enthusiasts.
Outlook: At $300 (list price), the 8450 costs slightly more than competing models. Based on specs alone, the HP Photosmart 8450 looks like it might turn out to be a good choice for nascent photo enthusiasts, but as always, we'll withhold judgment until we get it to CNET Labs for testing.