CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Take the HP Photosmart Premium Fax all-in-one, strip away the fax machine and auto-document feeder and you have the HP Photosmart C6380. It retains all the features you need to bring your photos to life: 9,600 by 2,400dpi flatbed scanner, dual paper feed printer, standalone copier, multipurpose card reader, and wireless networking. After a thorough testing, our only gripe is that the output quality suffers from minor hiccups and lighter saturation than more expensive printers on the market. Still, at $200, the Photosmart C6380 hits the sweet spot for the photo enthusiast who wants an all-in-one without the hassle of a fax machine.
Design and features
Compared with the rounded corners and circular shape of the Photosmart Premium Fax all-in-one, the C6380 carves out a much leaner figure. Its short stature (17.79 inches long by 15.97 inches wide by and 8.17 inches deep) and rectangular control panel across the front of the device still looks like a classic printer, but with a modern twist: a 2.4-inch color LCD pops up out of the front-left corner. The screen swivels back and forth, and you can even set it flush against the printer in a variety of positions. The onscreen menus are easy to navigate, and we especially like that the top corner of the home screen contains a small graphical representation of a cartridge that shows you when it's time to buy more ink.
Whereas other printers clutter up the control panel with unnecessary buttons and stickers, we like the C6380's simplicity. Across the front, there's a directional pad and a corresponding "OK" button, a few photo editing shortcuts like zoom and red-eye removal, direct copy and scan buttons, and a "print photos" button that pulls images directly from the card reader on the bottom of the device. There's a PictBridge compatible USB port for direct printing from a digital camera as well.
The C6380 handles inbound paper and outbound prints with dual paper trays that sit on top of one another at the base of the printer. HP continues to impress us with its dual input trays: one for standard 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper, and a separate drawer for smaller 3.5 inch by 5 inch photo paper, which eliminates the need to swap out paper. It's a huge convenience that will save you a lot of time and hassle over the course of this printer's life cycle. The driver comes setup to automatically choose the correct type of media for a particular job, but you can also manually override it to choose one yourself.
The C6380 is also equipped with 802.11b/g wireless connectivity and a small LED on the far right of the control panel indicates connection status with a green light. HP has streamlined the wireless setup process for all of its printers and the C6380 is no exception. You can either access the wireless "wizard" directly through the settings in the printer's menu or use the driver CD to set up an ad-hoc wireless connection through USB. Both ways are incredibly easy and should have you up and running on a Mac or PC in less than 5 minutes. Finally, there's an Ethernet port on the back of the printer for connecting the C6380 directly to a wired network.
In our experience, no other printer comes close to HP's full service Photosmart Essential software. The easy-to-use software takes seconds to install during the initial setup, guiding you along the photo printing process with both text and videos that clearly illustrate the directions. Photosmart Essential is exactly what casual users need as a much simpler way to edit and alter their photos, especially if they don't want to dive into dedicated (read: complicated) editing software. The rest of the driver software is straightforward and includes a small pop-up window every time you assign a job to the printer, but we wish it showed the page status of the print job in addition to the ink levels in the cartridges.
Lifting open the front cover reveals the C6380's five separate ink cartridges: one large black cartridge for photos, and the standard black, cyan, magenta, and yellow. Each standard cartridge costs $10 to replace, but HP also offers XL economy priced versions as well, which we'll use for our cost-per-page analysis. Each XL colored ink (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow) costs $18 apiece for 750 color pages and the XL photo black cartridge costs $35 for 800 pages.. With those costs, a page of color will run you 2.4 cents and a page of photo black will cost 4.3 cents. Those prices are in line with today's average cost per page for an all-in-one printer.
We put the HP Photosmart C6380 up against some of the fastest all-in-one printers we've tested. While it's certainly not the fastest of the bunch, it held its ground and churned out prints at a competitive speed. It couldn't beat out the HP Photosmart Premium Fax all-in-one in printing out a page of text or graphics, but it did stomp the competition in our presentation test, rolling out 4.44 pages per minute compared with the Kodak ESP5's 2.21 pages per minute at the opposite end of the spectrum. All of the printers in the running printed a 3 inch by 5 inch photo at the same general rate, but the Epson Artisan 800 remains the leader at an impressive 2.82 color pages per minute.
|Photo speed (1 sheet)||Color graphics speed||Presentation speed||Color text speed|
Print quality is one of the only areas where the C6380 can use improvement. Although the output isn't the worst we've seen, it's not up to task with other all-in-ones we've tested from HP. The text prints were generally very good with a bit of stair stepping in smaller fonts, but graphics and photos were marred with a dull blue cast across the spectrum and visible without magnification. In addition, we saw significant graininess in large color blocks including portraits and shading. Overall, we're satisfied with the print quality of the C6380, and it's definitely fine for casual home users who want to print out snapshots and text, but dedicated photographers should seek out a more professional-oriented printer.
Service and support
HP backs the Photosmart Premium Fax all-in-one with its standard one-year warranty that includes 24-hour toll-free phone support with the option to upgrade to an additional two years of service for a small fee. In addition, HP offers an added Accidental Damage Protection and a Pick Up and Return program where an authorized courier will pick up your failed equipment and deliver it directly to an HP-designated repair facility. The HP Web site also features online classes, FAQs, driver downloads, troubleshooting tips, as well as a new shopping buddy that puts you in a chat room with a HP sales representative to answer your questions before you buy.
Find out more about how we test printers.