The HP Photosmart A826 is the first standalone snapshot printer we've seen that truly attempts to bring the in-store photo kiosk experience into the home. Only its hefty £170 price gives us pause.
The HP Photosmart A826 is all smooth plastic and rounded edges. Its design is pod-like, resembling the 1950s take on futuristic, space-age design -- it would be right at home in Disney's House of the Future exhibit from the late '50s.
It sits about 264mm wide at the base with a narrower top, about 244mm deep, and about 274mm tall. It weighs about a light 3kg. The printer's top panel flips up for paper loading. Unlike most snapshot printers, the paper is fully contained within the body of the printer. You can load up to 100 sheets of 152 by 102mm or 178 by 127mm paper and close the lid, thereby protecting stored paper from dust.
The control panel on the Photosmart A826 couldn't be simpler -- basically, there isn't one. When you flip down the front cover/paper output tray, you're faced with four memory card slots and a PictBridge USB port, as well as a plastic stylus in its own holder.
All of the functionality is accessed through the 178mm (7-inch) touchscreen display. The large screen makes it a pleasure to peruse images, and the screen is nicely responsive to touch, though we found it prefers the stylus to a finger. Also, the stylus doesn't leave unsightly fingerprints.
A small panel on the printer's front hides the single print cartridge. Replacing the print cartridge alone costs about £10, and HP estimates that it will print about 55 152 by 102mm photos.
The Photosmart A826 is geared toward standalone, PC-free use, so most of its features are packed right into the touchscreen. While you can set up the A826 to print from a PC, the four memory card slots and PictBridge port make it easy to print from a memory card or PictBridge device like a camera or camera phone. For wireless printing, HP offers an optional USB Bluetooth adapter.
Setup is simple: Plug in the power, select your language and location and then the printer prompts you to insert a card. When you do, the printer calls up the files in a nine-image thumbnail view. To select a photo for printing and/or editing, simply touch the check box. To zoom in on a single image, touch the centre of the thumbnail. At this point, you can select all of the images or step through them in groups of nine or one by one.