It's difficult to believe that you can create an all-in-one model with printing, scanning and copying features for just £30, but that's exactly what HP has managed with the supremely cheap Deskjet 1050A. So just how well does it perform and does it suffer from the high replacement ink cartridge prices that afflict many budget models?
The 1050A follows the blueprint for budget inkjet printers quite closely. Firstly, it's made from matte grey plastic. Although the chassis feels a bit flimsy, the styling of this model is actually quite easy on the eye thanks to its nicely rounded edges. There's no LCD screen, sadly, but there are dedicated buttons for black and white and colour scanning, along with a cancel button and a power button.
Rather than using a cassette-style paper try, sheets are fed into the printing mechanism via a vertical paper tray at the back and are spewed out in a flip-down paper out-tray at the front. The paper in-tray can hold up to 60 sheets at a time, which should be enough for the casual printer users that this model is aimed at.
The printer lacks the extras that you'll find on mid and high-end models. For example, it doesn’t have a duplexer, so it can’t automatically print on two sides of a page. There's also no dedicated photo paper try and the scanner doesn't have an automatic document feeder. It lacks Wi-Fi or Ethernet support, but in its defence, these are all features we wouldn't expect to find on such a cheap model.
As long as you pay attention to the installation instruction sheet, you shouldn't have much problem setting this model up. First of all, you need to take the protective tapes off, then connect the external power supply, turn on the power and slot the two ink cartridges into the permanent print head.
This is slightly fiddly to get at as there isn’t much clearance for you to get your fingers in. Once this is done, the 1050A prints an alignment page, which you then place on the scanner and press one of the scan buttons to align the print heads. After that's finished you can load up the software on your PC from the installation disc and connect the printer via USB.
Scanning and copying
The top of the printer is home to a traditional flat-bed scanner which uses a basic contact image sensor. This has a maximum optical resolution of 1,200 dpi. The results it produces aren’t amazing, but they're good enough for most basic scanning tasks.
The printer is reasonably quick to use for photocopying, as it managed to produce a copy of our black and white test page in 21 seconds. The copy quality was perfectly acceptable too, as text looked dark and inky, while there was a fair amount of detail retained in the pictures on our test page.
Speed, quality and cost
This model's black and white print speed is actually relatively quick. It printed our 10-page black and white text document in 1 minute 51 seconds. It's also pretty speedy at printing snaps, taking 1 minute 2 seconds to print our 4x6-inch photo.
It's much slower when it comes to producing graphics output, however. Our colour 10-page presentation took 5 minutes 1 second to complete, while 10 pages of our colour graphics test document took 5 minutes 43 seconds.
Print quality on text is a bit of a mixed bag. Letters aren’t as neatly formed as they are on mid-range models and there were noticeable gaps on the thin edges of the loops on characters such as 'g's and 'e's. Text did quite dark on the page, though, and didn't feather like on some models we've seen.
Its graphics performance was better. Colours looked bold and strong, and large areas of colour were almost totally devoid of banding, which is very impressive. Photos prints don’t look too bad, although colours are more muted than on more expensive models. Annoyingly, it also seemed incapable of doing borderless printing for snaps.
Usually with a printer that has such a low price tag, we'd expect the manufacturer to try to claw back some revenue by charging high prices for ink. Yet the 1050A turns out to be relatively economical to run, by budget printer standards. Using the high-capacity cartridges, and the best prices we could find online, it worked out at 4p per page for a black and white page and 5.5p per page for colour sheets. Both those prices including 0.7p for paper costs.
It's difficult to find much wrong with the 1050A considering its rock bottom price tag. We wouldn’t recommend it for those who do a lot of printing, but for casual users its low price tag, combined with the decent print quality and affordable running costs, make it a safe bet.