The HP Photosmart C6280 is a bit of an oddity. Despite being a member of HP's consumer Photosmart line, this $200 all-in-one inkjet offers features normally associated with office multifunctions, such as a built-in duplexer and networking, but lacks an important photo-oriented feature: a PictBridge port. It's also missing easily navigable menus and great image quality. For our $200, we prefer the Canon Pixma MP600 because it's faster overall, produces high-quality prints, offers a better feature set, and is easier to use.
The all-in-one HP Photosmart C6280 uses the same design as single-function Photosmarts. It sits 17.6 inches wide, 17.4 inches deep, and 7.4 inches tall, and a weight 22.6 pounds. The scanner lid opens to reveal an A4 size flatbed scanner. You get four memory card slots, but oddly, no PictBridge USB port, a major omission on a photo-oriented printer in this price range. The PictBridge port would let you print directly from PictBridge cameras, videocams, and camera phones.
The control panel is well-organized and easy to understand. The 2.4-inch LCD is mounted on a swiveling panel, which lets you optimize your viewing angle. The standard four way rocker button, an OK button, and back button let you peruse menus and photos. Copy and Scan tasks get their own dedicated menu and task start buttons. The photo-dedicated buttons include menu and start, as well as red-eye removal and photo reprints.
The paper-handling system is also standard for HP. The cassette comprises three layers: at the bottom is the main input tray, capable of holding up to 100 sheets of plain paper. Above that sits the dedicated 4x6 photo paper tray (up to 20 sheets), which engages automatically when you direct the printer to print on 4x6 paper. And at the top sits the output tray, which flips up so you can load photo paper. Both input trays also pull out for easy loading.
The Photosmart C6280 employs six-color printing and uses individual ink tanks, which is ideal for reducing ink waste. Despite the fact that HP now offers a multitier ink program with different tank capacities for different kinds of users, the C6280 tanks only come in one capacity. The black tank costs $18 to replace, while the color tanks cost $10 each; it will cost $68 to replace the whole lot. Based on HP's estimated yields for each cartridge, we calculated that a black-only page will cost approximately 2.5 cents, while a full-color (i.e., six-color) print will cost approximately 10 cents. The recommended monthly print volume is 3,000 pages, so it's best suited for users with light print needs.
The feature set for the Photosmart C6280 is standard for HP and for all-in-ones in its price range, though it does offer a few extras not often found on this type of multifunction. For example, it comes network-ready with an Ethernet port in the rear (you can opt to connect to a single PC via USB, too). It also has a built-in auto-duplexer so the machine can automatically make double-sided prints without any effort on your part.
When making photocopies, you can do up to 50 copies at once and scale between 50 percent and 400 percent, using either preset values or in increments of 1 percent. You can crop your original document or photo and preview copies, as well, which is great for reducing paper waste. When scanning, your options include scan and reprint, scan to memory card, or scan to PC. Scan and reprint is essentially the same thing as making a copy, but it's geared for photographs in particular--instead of just copying a print as you would normally do on a copier, you can make a photo reprint. You can crop the image, apply color treatments, tweak settings such as brightness, and change the size/layout of the resulting print. The crop option is a bit limited, though: You can only zoom in/out using preset values, so it's hard to get the exact crop you want using just the control panel. Features we didn't find include 2- or 4-on-1 copy and image repeat.
Scan to PC options include saving the file to your PC, attaching it to an e-mail, or opening in one of several programs, including Word and HP's photo-editing software, HP Photosmart Essentials. If you scan to a program that allows text editing, the scan will be performed using optical character recognition software. Available file formats include JPEG, TIFF, PDF, bitmap, and rich text file. Finally, scanning to memory card is a handy option that lets you save scans directly to an inserted memory card. The scans are saved as JPEGs.
Memory card options include sharing, saving, and printing photos. The top-level menu offers a View option and a Print option, but they both boil down to the same thing: choose photos to print, make any changes you need, and print. The Print option starts by having you pick a print size or layout and then choosing photos. The View option goes directly to a six-image thumbnail view. With either option, the select-all-and-print choice is buried, which we think should be a top-level option. With both options, you also have to go through a print preview step for each image before you get the option to tell the printer that you want to select more photos before printing. We prefer if you could just move from image to image and select the number of prints you want of each (using the up and down keys). As you go through your photos, you can make changes, such as rotating, cropping, applying color treatments and frames, removing red-eye, and so on. As mentioned before, the crop feature is limited because it only zooms in and out in preset increments.