HP PhotoSmart 7520

HP PhotoSmart 7520

Inkjet multifunction printer

The HP PhotoSmart 7520 is on the border between ‘home’ and ‘home office’ multifunction printers.

The PhotoSmart 7520 is a large and heavy beast, at 454 x 455 x 220mm and 8.61kg. It includes a fully-enclosed, 125-sheet paper tray, and a separate 60-sheet tray for photo paper up to 5 x 7 inches in size. It has both a flatbed and sheet-fed scanner, which scans up to 1200 DPI.

Unlike the common two-colour and four-colour setups, the PhotoSmart 7520 uses a five-colour printing process with Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and a dedicated ‘Photo Black’. Black-and-white print costs work out to around 11 cents/page, average for inkjet multifunctions. Colour prints are much pricier and around 5-10 cents above the average at 42 cents/page. As always, the cost of high-quality photo prints is substantially higher, and dependent on the saturation/dominant hues of the image.

Print quality was good, with laser-quality text and sharp, richly coloured images. Like most of the inkjet printers we test, the PhotoSmart 7520 oversaturates photographs in a way that most users will find attractive. If you prefer more sedate, natural colours, prepare to do a lot of tweaking in the settings, or choose another printer.

HP has endowed the PhotoSmart 7520 with a massive 4.33-inch colour touchscreen, which makes setting up the printer and operating its standalone functions easy.

The printer includes some basic control and scanning software for the PC, but its real drawcard (or so HP would like you to think) is the selection of apps available via the printer’s touchscreen. These include a lot of licensed content for kids, such as paper airplanes, colouring pages from DreamWorks movies and Tintin, and so forth. It all works, but seems a little pointless. We did really like the ‘HP Quick Forms’ app, though, which lets you quickly print off a few sheets of blank lined paper, graph paper, sheet music or the like.

Managing all of the on-printer apps is a bit of a pain – it’s one of the very few things you can’t do on the printer itself. In fact, you can’t even do it via the included PC utility: you have to sign up with HP and manage the apps via its ePrintCenter website.

The PhotoSmart 7520 is very much designed as a network-connected device, and has wi-fi 802.11b/g/n built in. It can either connect to an existing wireless network, or broadcast its own network that you can connect PCs, smartphones and tablets to when you want to print.

Print speed was a little strange in our standard tests – the printer managed only a mediocre 7.1 pages/minute for black text (first page out in 15 seconds), but a much more impressive 10.1 pages/minute for black-and-white graphics (first page in 18 seconds). This is the opposite of what we’d expect – in all previous tests, text speed has exceeded graphical speed.

Colour graphics averaged a very quick 5.4 pages/minute, first page out in 29 seconds, and full-page A4 photos took just under three minutes per image.

We’re at the point where anything from $50 to $500 should churn out a pretty amazing photo print, and that’s exactly what we found here. Yes, quality is good, but is it vastly better than the $100 multifunctions we tested in March? Not really. You’d buy the PhotoSmart 7520 for its speed, network connectivity and standalone features – not because of some huge leap in quality from the ‘next model down’.

This review was first published in the May issue of PC World New Zealand.

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