The $300 HP Photosmart C6180 is a photo printer by name but has office-printer tendencies by function. The inclusion of an automatic document feeder, built-in networking (including wireless), and fax functionality make it attractive as an office printer, but its task speeds are too slow for all but the smallest offices. It offers great print quality, but it lacks photo features. While it excels in neither role, it's a decent all-around all-in-one for a home user who wants a machine that can do everything. If your needs tend to the office functions and you have to have faster task speeds, the comparably priced Canon Pixma MP830 is a good choice, though you lose fax functionality and a bit of print quality. If you're leaning toward a truly photocentric all-in-one, check out the $200 Canon Pixma MP600.
The HP Photosmart C6180 AIO is quite compact for a multifunction that includes a flatbed scanner. It measures 17.5 inches wide, 15.2 inches deep, and 9.2 inches tall, and weighs nearly 23 pounds. There are handwell-like indentations on either side of the printer, but it would be a stretch to call them handwells, as they are too shallow to serve as such.
The automatic document feeder (ADF) sits atop the scanner lid and can hold up to 50 sheets of letter- or A4-size paper or 35 sheets of legal-length paper. Though the flatbed scanner can accommodate only A4 originals, you can scan legal-size documents using the ADF.
Mounted on the front of the printer are four media card readers and a PictBridge-enabled USB port. The media card slots can take a wide range of cards, though some require adapters. You can connect PictBridge cameras to the USB port to print photos directly, or you can attach a USB storage device, such as a thumbdrive or a hard drive.
The C6180 AIO employs HP's consolidated paper system. The main input tray pulls out partway for easier loading, and adjustable paper guides help you align everything from envelopes to legal paper. Above the main paper cassette is a dedicated photo paper tray that holds 4x6 sheets and smaller. Finally, above both inputs is the output tray, which flips up to allow access to the input trays. A small window in the output tray lets you see whether the photo tray is empty.
The control panel on the C6180 is quite busy because each function has its own set of buttons, including menu and start buttons. Additionally, there is an alphanumeric keypad, menu navigation buttons, and some photo shortcut buttons, including zoom, preview, reprints, and Photo Fix. Rounding out the control panel is a 2.4-inch color LCD display that pivots through a range of almost 90 degrees so you can optimize the viewing angle.
The HP Photosmart C6180 employs a six-ink/six-cartridge print system. Because the tanks aren't attached directly to the printhead, changing them (even while the printer is powered down) is a snap. Black cartridges cost $18 and each color cartridge costs $10, so changing the whole lot will cost you $68. Based on HP's estimates of cartridge yields, we estimate that a black page costs about 2.7 cents and a full-color page costs just over 10 cents. The color estimates for both the Canon Pixma MP830 and the Dell Photo 966 are lower.
The Photosmart C6180 comes chockablock full of features that blend a photo-oriented printer with a more business-minded one. You can connect to the printer directly via USB or mount it on a network so everyone can share. Even better, you can network the printer wirelessly, as it comes with a built-in wireless print server.
The C6180 includes built-in fax, which is more commonly found on office AIOs. The setup manual walks you through various fax configurations, depending on the type of phone line and accessories you have (such as answering machines). You can program up to 60 individual speed dial numbers and up to 60 groups. If you subscribe to caller ID, you can also turn on junk-fax blocking, which blocks faxes from numbers you designate. One minor problem we encountered was an organization issue: we pressed the Fax Menu button, expecting to find an option that would allow us to program speed-dial numbers but we didn't. Eventually, we found it by pressing the printer's general Setup button, which isn't intuitive.
The copy and scan functions offer the array of features we've come to expect from HP. When copying, you can select the type of original (to maximize copy quality), change the number of copies, crop, change paper size, and so on. You can also reduce or enlarge the original, either using preset values or custom, from 50 percent to 400 percent. When scanning, you can save the document to your PC or to a memory device connected to the PictBridge port; reprint the scanned document; have it attached to an outgoing e-mail; or scan it into a number of programs (such as Word, Paint, or PowerPoint) or into one of HP's bundled utilities for editing. Unfortunately, when scanning to a file, you can't choose the format (for example, TIFF or PDF): it's automatically saved as a GIF. Nor can you choose the destination--it defaults to your My Documents folder. You get more options if you initiate the scan from HP's bundled Solution Center utility, as opposed to using the control panel. And unlike the more expensive C7180, you can't scan negatives or slides on the C6180.
When you insert a memory card into one of the slots, you have a number of options. First, you can save all of the photos from the card to your PC. Second, if you've set up the printer on a network, you can e-mail photos. And, finally, you can print them directly off the memory card, but the PC-free photo printing options are limited on the C6180. Basically, you can print all the photos in one fell swoop or step through the photos on the card, choose which ones you want to print, select among a few paper sizes and layout options, and print. You can do some minor editing as well, including adjusting the brightness, adding a frame, or altering the color effects, but if you want to do any major editing, you'll need to print from your PC using HP's bundled software (or a third-party photo editing program).
Oddly, the print-all feature is a bit buried. We think it should be a near-top level option; instead, you have to select the first photo to be printed before you're presented with the option. If you choose to print all, you can print one photo per page, several per page, or an index sheet on 8.5x11 paper. The index sheet gives you the file name but not the photo number. And it only serves as a reference. Some HP multifunction photo printers and most Canon multifunction printers such as the Canon Pixma MP830 allow you to use an index sheet to select photos to be printed. Considering that the C6180 is a photo-centric printer with a flatbed scanner, we're surprised by the omission.
In CNET Labs' speed tests, the HP Photosmart C6180 gave a middle-of-the-road performance compared to other all-in-ones in its price range. It printed black text at a rate of 5.36ppm, faster than the Lexmark X9350 (4.93ppm) but much slower than the Canon Pixma MP830 (7.70ppm). It printed 4x6 photos at a rate of 0.6ppm, more than twice as slow as the Pixma MP830's 1.83ppm. Grayscale images were scanned at a rate of 7.26ppm and color images at a rate of 2.99ppm, the slowest of the pack. Using the automatic document feeder, it made copies at a rate of 2.26ppm, again, twice as slow as the Pixma MP830's 5.80ppm.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Copy Speed||Color Scan Speed||GrayScale Scan Speed||Photo Speed||Text Speed|
What the C6180 lacked in speed, it made up for in print quality. Text printed on inkjet paper was clean, dark, and sharp. The color graphics page displayed smooth color gradients, pleasing saturation, good handling of photo elements, and overall sharp detail. We printed both types of documents on regular copy paper, too, and as expected, the results weren't as good. This is to be expected, though, as inkjet printers usually require inkjet paper for optimal performance (copy paper results in faded colors and more wicking). The 4x6 photo print on HP photo paper also impressed us: it showed sharp details and good skin tones, but could've been a bit brighter overall.
The scans were generally good, though the color scan was a bit soft and the grayscale scan showed compression in the dark end of the grayscale. This was evident in the loss of detail in dark areas of the photo element.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Color Scan||GrayScale Scan||Photo||Graphics on Inkjet Paper||Text on Inkjet Paper|
Service and support
HP backs the Photosmart C6180 AIO with a standard one-year warranty, which is on par with the competition, though you can also pay to extend the warranty. While under warranty, you can get free, toll-free phone support 24-7. HP's Web site has downloadable drivers, software, and manuals; e-mail and online chat tech support; FAQs; and a troubleshooting guide.