The A636 provides a variety of fun, creative ways to edit your photos, using more than 300 stock elements, including borders, frames, clip art, and even drawing on the screen. Choosing the 'create' option within a picture brings up a menu of features, including 'clip art', 'design gallery', 'greeting card', 'caption', 'albums' and 'draw'. Best of all, the interface lets you combine elements to really put your imagination to the test.
Our favourite supplemental component is 'draw', which brings up 20 different colours and three brush sizes to help you draw and paint over pictures. Afterwards, you have the option to save the new image to an external card or continue printing without saving, which saves room on the card by placing the image in the A636's 64MB memory bank. After the image is printed, the file is immediately deleted to conserve space.
In a pleasing touch, HP has added a slideshow to the feature set. Users can select individual photos for display or instruct the printer to scroll through random images on the card. The slideshow will also turn on automatically if the printer is inactive for more than 5 minutes.
The A636 performed at a relatively similar speed to the A626, printing 0.63 pages per minute. While this is about average for a small, single-function printer, it still doesn't come close to the quickest portable photo printer, the Epson PictureMate Dash PM260, which leads the pack at 1.42 pages per minute. It's also slower than the CP770, a dye-sublimation printer that uses heat to place four layers of ink over the paper.
The A636 shows significant improvement over the A626 in terms of print quality. The colour blocks that seemed grainy before are now crisp and clearly detailed. The colour spectrum remains solid and well defined, with sharp edges that seem to pop off the page. We used HP's recommended Advanced Photo Paper and saw that skin tones were very accurate.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
With loads of software versatility, a clean design and vastly improved picture quality compared to the A626, we're comfortable recommending the HP Photosmart A636 above rival printers.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet