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The HP Photosmart C7180 is a big machine, and it requires a big chunk of desktop real estate. It measures 18.3 inches wide, 15.4 inches deep, and 8.5 inches tall, and it weighs a hefty 26 pounds. The scanner can accommodate up to A4-size originals. The printer lacks an automatic document feeder, more commonly found on office-oriented machines, so you won't be able to scan legal-size documents, nor can you perform batch copies or scans. The scanner lid detaches entirely so that you can scan or copy very thick originals. On the underside of the scanner lid, there's an attachment that holds slides and negatives for scanning. The padded platen protector detaches from the scanner lid to allow for slide and negative scanning.
On the front of the printer live four media card slots and a USB PictBridge port, which allow for PC-free printing. The media card slots accept most of the major card types--such as CompactFlash (Types I and II), Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, and Secure MultiMedia Card--though you'll need an adapter (not included) for a few cards. The Photosmart C7180 also has built-in Bluetooth, so you can print wirelessly from a Bluetooth-enabled PDA, phone, or camera. (Most printers allow you to plug in only a Bluetooth adapter to the PictBridge port.)
The Photosmart C7180 has a three-in-one paper-handling system. The very bottom of the paper cartridge is the paper input tray, which can hold up to 100 sheets of plain paper. Adjustable paper guides help you keep different sizes of paper in order, and the guides extend to hold legal-size paper. Sitting atop the regular paper tray is a dedicated 4x6-photo paper tray, which can hold up to 20 sheets. Finally, the top of the cassette serves as the output tray, and an extension flap helps corral longer prints. Both input trays pull out partially for filling, and the output tray flips up to allow easier access to the input trays. We wish the printer had a second input option in the rear so that you could keep plain paper in the cassette, even while you were printing on specialty papers.
The printer's control panel is front mounted on a shelf that swivels through about 45 degrees, starting from a complete vertical (flush with the front side of the printer). Situated in the center of the panel is a gorgeous, 3.6-inch color LCD. On the left is an alphanumeric keypad; menu-launch buttons for copy, scan, and fax; and start buttons for each task. To the right of the LCD are menu-navigation buttons, including a back button, and zoom buttons for viewing an individual photo vs. an index view. Additional photo-centric buttons allow you turn photo fix on and off, make reprints, e-mail photos from a media card, and initiate film/slide scans.
Accessing the ink tanks on the Photosmart C7180 couldn't be easier. Simply lift the scanner portion of the printer, and you'll find six front-mounted tanks. In most printers, the tanks are directly attached to the printhead, meaning the printer must be powered on to access them. Not so with the C7180. The C7180 employs a six-ink system: black, yellow, light cyan, cyan, light magenta, and magenta. Each tank has its own labeled spot so that you know where they go. The 10mL black tank costs $17.99 to replace, while the 4mL color tanks cost $9.99 each. HP estimates that it costs 2.5 cents per page to print black text, about the same as for Canon's top photo all-in-ones. HP's color prints are more expensive than Canon's, though, at about 7.1 cents per page.
Setting up the Photosmart C7180 is an exercise in patience. The process is simple enough--just insert the CD to install drivers and software--but it takes a long time, requiring nearly 20 minutes to install on our machine. The printer supports both Mac and Windows operating systems and is networkable, so everyone on your network can share. Even better, it has built-in 802.11g wireless capability, a rarity for non-office-oriented printers. The setup menu makes it easy to find available networks and to enter a password if the network you want to access is secured.
One of the surprising features of the HP Photosmart C7180 is the inclusion of fax capability, which is normally reserved for office-oriented printers. The included user guide helps you set up the fax according to your equipment type--DSL, regular phone line, and so forth--and the way you want to handle incoming faxes with regard to answering machines and the like. Using the fax menu, you can change the resolution of your faxes, send a broadcast fax to multiple numbers, and set up a delayed fax. One feature we didn't see was the ability to hold and print incoming faxes at a later time, though this feature is more common on office-oriented all-in-ones.
The scan menu shows all the features we'd expect to see on an all-in-one in this price range. When scanning photos, you can scan to print or to storage, either to the PC or a media card. When scanning to a media card, you can save the file only as a JPEG. When scanning photos or documents to your computer, you can save it as a file; scan it to a number of different programs, including Word, PowerPoint, and Paint; or scan it into a viewer, such as HP's own Document Viewer or Photosmart Express (for manipulating photos). One feature we didn't find on the C7180 that we like is the ability to automatically scan the document into a number of formats, including JPEG, TIFF, or PDF. (The Pixma MP950 has this ability.) Aside from documents and photos, you can scan up to four slides or six negatives at once. The included negative scanner attachment makes it easy to know how to line up the negatives and slides correctly.
The copy features are typical and straightforward. You can make up to 50 copies at once, either by keying in the numbers directly on the keypad or by using the direction keys. You can also adjust the copy quality, reduce or enlarge, optimize for the type of original, and designate paper type and size.
Befitting the name, the Photosmart C7180 offers the most options when dealing with photos. As mentioned before, you can print directly from a PictBridge camera or memory cards, bypassing the PC. When previewing images on a memory card, you have the option of scrolling through them individually or zooming out to see a photo index view. You can scroll through the photos on the preview LCD and click OK for the ones you want to print; you can indicate how many prints you want of each image. When you're done selecting, you can select the size and the type of paper and verify your selections before printing. What this printer is missing is a feature like Canon's photo index print, which allows you to print an index of all the images on a card, bubble in the prints you want, make adjustments such as red-eye reduction, and choose the type and size of the paper. When you're through, you simply scan the index and the printer takes care of the rest. This is a much faster and less painful way to deal with memory cards that hold a lot of photos. That said, with a touch of a button on the C7180, you can attach photos to e-mail, make reprints, and enhance photos (red-eye reduction and enhanced lighting), so it's not without its charms.
The HP Photosmart C7180 is a photo-centric printer so we didn't expect fast text print speeds--it printed text at 5.28 pages per minute. For comparison, the comparably priced photo-centric Canon MP950 and Canon MP800R printed text pages at 8.86ppm and 7.97ppm, respectively. Unfortunately, we were disappointed by its photo and scan speeds, too. The HP printed 4x6 photos at 0.89ppm, whereas the Canon MP800R printed photos at 1.84ppm (the MP950 was even slower than the HP). The HP C7180 was the slowest of the three at scanning: 3.94ppm for black-and-white scans and 3.97ppm for color scans.
|Color scan speed||Grayscale scan speed||Photo speed||Text speed|
In terms of print quality, the Photosmart C7180 excelled at photo prints and did a nice job with scans, but its text and graphics prints left a lot to be desired. The text had a generally fuzzy quality to it, and the edges of the characters were very jagged, even to the naked eye. Also, the text never looked truly black, more like a very dark gray. The color graphics prints suffered a similar sort of washed-out quality: none of the colors were saturated, and color blocks revealed noticeable graininess. At least the gradients were mostly smooth. On the flip side, the 4x6 photo print looked great: details were sharp, colors were bright and vibrant, and skin tones looked true. The color scan was also impressive, with true reproduction of colors and sharp details. The grayscale scan wasn't quite as good, but we still liked it for its sharpness. The only problem we noticed was a bit of compression in the dark end of the grayscale, which resulted in lost details in shadows.
|Color scan||Grayscale scan||Photo||Graphics on inkjet paper||Text on inkjet paper|
Service and support
HP backs the Photosmart C7180 with a standard one-year warranty. While it's under warranty, you can get free, toll-free phone support 24/7. HP's Web site has downloadable drivers, software, and manuals; e-mail tech support; online chat with tech support; FAQs; and a troubleshooting guide.