At around £260, the Photosmart C8180 sits in Hewlett-Packard's lineup as one of its most expensive all-in-one (AIO) players. This printer, scanner and copier has a suite of features for the amateur photo enthusiast that includes a touchscreen display, built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity, a slide scanner and a dual paper feed tray.
The design of the C8180 is similar to the rest of the printers in the Photosmart series, but this particular model has a few notable hardware additions that you won't find in most all-in-ones. Unlike most printers, the C8180 has a swiveled touchscreen that lets you control all the software functions including photo editing, wireless setup and management, and scanning jobs.
The touchscreen eliminates button clutter and frees up the rest of the front panel for simple buttons that control one-touch red-eye removal as well as a few others for start, stop and cancel. The front of the C8180 also has a memory card bay with slots for Compact Flash, xD, SD/MMC and Memory Stick cards.
Although HP flaunts the C8180 as a full-featured AIO for the home and office, it lacks a fax machine and an auto-document feeder that you can find on for less money. You'll also notice a unique hardware feature on the front of the C8180: a LightScribe drive that lets you archive your data directly from a USB key or an external memory card to a CD/DVD.
We're not disputing its utility, but we wish HP could've found a way to include the drive alongside an ADF and fax instead of omitting them entirely. In either case, we must compliment HP on the build quality and design of the C8180. The rounded corners and silver/white overlay contribute to its overall appeal; this printer will look great alongside any desk setup.
You have three options for connecting your computer to the printer: wired via the included USB cable, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. We can confidently state that the Photosmart C8180 is the easiest Wi-Fi printer we've used to date. Other printers make you pour through pages and pages of instructions and ultimately force you to set up the connection via an ad-hoc network, but the C8180 distills the process down to a simple pairing between the printer and your computer.
In fact, there are no onscreen instructions; you set everything up through the digital LCD on the faceplate itself. From open box to first print, the entire Wi-Fi setup took less than five minutes.
Another unique feature to the C8180 is its dual paper input tray. This is bound to be one of those "Why didn't we think of that?" headaches for HP's competitors, and it really is genius. The C8180 has two separate paper trays: one for larger A4 paper and another for smaller A6 media. This small hardware addition saves time and desk space by allowing the user to manually select which paper tray will spool from the device, but most of the time the C8180 will choose automatically depending on the job.
The C8180 uses six separate ink cartridges -- black, light cyan, light magenta, cyan, magenta and yellow -- and each has its own dedicated bay underneath the hood. We're happy to see that each cartridge is easily replaceable at a fairly reasonable price. Most cartridges cost around £12, which is reasonable for a photo printer at this price.
HP includes its standard one-year warranty with the Photosmart C8180.
HP's Web site also has easy-to-use features including FAQs, driver downloads and troubleshooting tips.
The C8180 printed much slower in all three of our test categories compared with other printers in the same price range. The discrepancy is most obvious in photo prints -- the HP printed almost half a page per minute slower.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Thankfully, there's more to be said for the HP's photo quality than its print speed. The text documents we tested on the C8180 came out very clear with bright, outstanding colours and dark black lines. The colour spread came out even with zero fuzziness or jagged edges, even at smaller points.
The printer also produced very pleasing A6 photos with accurate colour reproduction in skin tone and an even hue across the page. Some of the lighter colours appear undersaturated, even on HP's own Premium Glossy Photo Paper, but overall these prints will satisfy some of the most nitpicky photo enthusiasts.
Like many of the printers in HP's Photosmart series, the C8180 produces better quality colour scans than grayscales. We noticed a significant amount of compression in the grayscale scans with serious gradation issues at the dark end of the spectrum. This problem is almost nonexistent when scanning colour prints, where we were actually impressed with the level of evident detail and representation.
The HP C8180's photo quality is better than average and the hardware is well-designed, but the lack of an auto-document feeder and painfully slow print speed prevent us from giving this otherwise excellent rating.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday