The HP Photosmart 8750 Professional comes in a relatively attractive brown-and-metallic-gray plastic case with a pop-up monochrome LCD screen for computer-free printing. Paper travels in a U-shaped path from a front tray or straight through via a feeder in the back for heavier stock. As a result, there's no paper holder protruding from the top as with the Epson models, yielding a lower profile despite the unit's 25-inch width. The 8750 does fill a serious chunk of desk space, about 25 inches square when loaded with 13x19-inch sheets. The paper holder and output trays telescope out to handle letter-size or larger sheets, and while these work fine, the extended portions feel a bit wobbly. If someone were to fall against them, they'd probably break, so we suggest you locate the printer well back from the edge of a desk or in a low-traffic area.
In the rear, the Photosmart 8750 offers USB 2.0 for connection to a PC and an Ethernet port for network installation. Up front, there's a USB 1.1 port for HP's Bluetooth option or for direct connection to any PictBridge-compatible camera or USB flash drives. Four uncovered slots accept CompactFlash I/II, SD/MMC, Memory Stick, and xD-Picture cards for direct printing.
It's easy to understand and navigate the controls using the LCD screen, and operations such as canceling print jobs execute immediately without any delay of the software application. The HP driver interface, despite its many options, balances helpful shortcuts with full controls for tweaking color and output. Hardware controls are straightforward and simple. As with all inkjets, the 8750 offers a helpful pop-up window that lets you know when to change ink cartridges. But unlike Epson's approach, which simply halts printing when a cartridge runs out, HP's pop-up advises that you may continue printing until print quality becomes unacceptable, in the same manner that the Canon does.
The HP Photosmart 8750 Professional uses nine dye-based primaries delivered in three tricolor cartridges. It ships with a standard tricolor of cyan, magenta, and yellow; a Blue Photo cartridge with light cyan, light magenta, and blue; and a Photo Gray cartridge that includes light gray, dark gray, and black. The Blue Photo cartridge is meant for printing scenes with heavy blue influences, such as skies and ocean. You can also swap the Blue Photo cartridge with the standard Photo ink cartridge (light cyan, light magenta, and black). Having two shades of gray and black allows the printer to produce neutral black and white prints, without the color casts common in composite grays. The print menu offers the option to print solely with the grays for completely neutral black-and-white output.
Unfortunately, as with all the HP consumer inkjets, you must toss an entire cartridge when one of the inks runs out, a potentially costly concern. On the upside, however, HP does offer high-capacity alternatives for some of them.
From its built-in Ethernet port to the extensive list of paper formats, you can tell the Photosmart 8750 is designed for serious photographers, though it doesn't support roll papers or printing directly onto CDs. The driver supports sRGB, Adobe RBG, or printer-managed color and has the ability to control ink saturation, brightness, and tone as well as ink volume and dry time.
If you don't want all that control, you can use print-menu shortcuts. For example, when you respond to the menu question "What do you want to do?" by selecting "Photo-quality printing with white borders," the software automatically chooses Best print quality, HP Premium Plus photo paper, and landscape orientation. The print menu also offers image adjustments for users printing directly from a camera or a memory card. Slider scales let you adjust red-eye, contrast, digital flash, smart focus, sharpness, and smoothing. You can even adjust ink volume--the amount of ink applied to a page--and the print dry time.
The HP Photosmart 8750 Professional isn't a particularly speedy printer by any yardstick. It took a little more than five minutes to print our 8x10-inch color test photo on HP's Premium Plus photo paper on the Best quality setting, about 60 percent slower than the Epson R1800 and more than 75 percent behind the Canon i9900's class-leading performance. No one expected the 8750 to be a fast text printer, and it plugged along at about the same pace as its medium-format photo competitors in our text tests.
The 8750's printheads are integrated into the ink cartridges, so even in a worst-case situation, you can solve clogging problems simply by disposing of the offending cartridge. However, over the course of 30 days of operation, complete with multiday downtimes, the Photosmart 8750 never produced streaks, gaps, or other signs of printhead issues. In fact, overall, it was remarkably consistent in operation and was easy to use. It responds quickly and decisively to job cancellations, more so than the R1800, which can become downright petulant if you cancel a print job or otherwise change your mind about what you've asked it to do.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Photo speed||Text speed|
In side-by-side output comparisons, the Photosmart 8750's color output matched the reasonably broad dynamic range and gamut of the R1800, though neither was quite as good as the i9900 for highlight and shadow detail. The 8750 enhances the blue gamut by devoting one of the three cartridges to blue hues (blue, light cyan, and light magenta). This enables the printer to enhance blue tones in an image to a remarkable degree; suffice it to say that the Photosmart 8750 excels at printing scenes with many blue tones, such as images of water, sky, and clouds. In fact, you may have to swap in the standard photo ink cartridge for the Blue Photo; the latter produces too intense a cyan, which rendered flesh tones that made people look oxygen-deprived as well as overly cool bright whites. This is a driver issue rather than a hardware issue, however, so it's not a deal killer. At the very least, you'll have your color-profiling work cut out for you.
For black-and-white, the HP's gray inks provide a distinct neutrality edge over the R1800, which creates composite grays, but using process black doesn't necessarily ensure more neutrality; for instance, the i9900's composite grays were almost identical to the HP's. Furthermore, Epson's pigment inks seem to show less variance in color under different light sources than the dye inks from HP and Canon.
Despite its relatively large droplets--4pl vs. the R1800's 1.5pl and the i9900's 2pl--there's relatively little graininess in the 8750's photo prints. However, vector curves do show slight jaggies. Text printed using the graphics setting looks exceptionally good--some of the best we've ever seen--which makes this a good choice for noncontract proofs of page layouts. That is, as long as you keep the prints away from liquids: you can smear a print from the Photosmart 8750 with a wet finger.
If you plan to mount prints under glass, then the Photosmart 8750 will do fine. But if prints are likely to be passed around where drinks could be present, consider laminating these shots for extra protection.
Hewlett-Packard maintains 24-hour phone support seven days a week for most products, including the HP Photosmart 8750 Professional, at 800/474-6836; in the United States, support is available in English and Spanish. In addition, HP maintains an extensive Web site with access to ink cartridges, spare parts, manuals in PDF; FAQs, drivers, and updates, and an online chat option for contacting a technician.