The HP Photosmart C6280 is a bit of an oddity. Despite being a member of HP's consumer Photosmart line, this all-in-one inkjet offers features normally associated with office multifunctions, such as a built-in duplexer and networking, but lacks an important photo-oriented feature: a PictBridge port. It's also missing easily navigable menus and great image quality. For our money, we prefer the Canon Pixma MP600 because it's faster overall, produces high-quality prints, offers a better feature set, and is easier to use.
The all-in-one HP Photosmart C6280 uses the same design as single-function Photosmarts. It sits 44.7cm wide, 44.2cm deep, and 18.8cm tall, and a weight 10.3 kilograms. The scanner lid opens to reveal an A4 size flatbed scanner. You get four memory card slots, but oddly, no PictBridge USB port, a major omission on a photo-oriented printer in this price range. The PictBridge port would let you print directly from PictBridge cameras, videocams, and camera phones.
The control panel is well-organised and easy to understand. The 2.4-inch LCD is mounted on a swiveling panel, which lets you optimise your viewing angle. The standard four way rocker button, an OK button, and back button let you peruse menus and photos. Copy and Scan tasks get their own dedicated menu and task start buttons. The photo-dedicated buttons include menu and start, as well as red-eye removal and photo reprints.
The paper-handling system is also standard for HP. The cassette comprises three layers: at the bottom is the main input tray, capable of holding up to 100 sheets of plain paper. Above that sits the dedicated 4x6 photo paper tray (up to 20 sheets), which engages automatically when you direct the printer to print on 4x6 paper. And at the top sits the output tray, which flips up so you can load photo paper. Both input trays also pull out for easy loading.
The Photosmart C6280 employs six-colour printing and uses individual ink tanks, which is ideal for reducing ink waste. Despite the fact that HP now offers a multitier ink program with different tank capacities for different kinds of users, the C6280 tanks only come in one capacity.
The feature set for the Photosmart C6280 is standard for HP and for all-in-ones in its price range, though it does offer a few extras not often found on this type of multifunction. For example, it comes network-ready with an Ethernet port in the rear (you can opt to connect to a single PC via USB, too). It also has a built-in auto-duplexer so the machine can automatically make double-sided prints without any effort on your part.
When making photocopies, you can do up to 50 copies at once and scale between 50 percent and 400 percent, using either preset values or in increments of 1 percent. You can crop your original document or photo and preview copies, as well, which is great for reducing paper waste. When scanning, your options include scan and reprint, scan to memory card, or scan to PC. Scan and reprint is essentially the same thing as making a copy, but it's geared for photographs in particular -- instead of just copying a print as you would normally do on a copier, you can make a photo reprint. You can crop the image, apply colour treatments, tweak settings such as brightness, and change the size/layout of the resulting print. The crop option is a bit limited, though: You can only zoom in/out using preset values, so it's hard to get the exact crop you want using just the control panel. Features we didn't find include 2- or 4-on-1 copy and image repeat.
Scan to PC options include saving the file to your PC, attaching it to an e-mail, or opening in one of several programs, including Word and HP's photo-editing software, HP Photosmart Essentials. If you scan to a program that allows text editing, the scan will be performed using optical character recognition software. Available file formats include JPEG, TIFF, PDF, bitmap, and rich text file. Finally, scanning to memory card is a handy option that lets you save scans directly to an inserted memory card. The scans are saved as JPEGs.
Memory card options include sharing, saving, and printing photos. The top-level menu offers a View option and a Print option, but they both boil down to the same thing: choose photos to print, make any changes you need, and print. The Print option starts by having you pick a print size or layout and then choosing photos. The View option goes directly to a six-image thumbnail view. With either option, the select-all-and-print choice is buried, which we think should be a top-level option. With both options, you also have to go through a print preview step for each image before you get the option to tell the printer that you want to select more photos before printing. We prefer if you could just move from image to image and select the number of prints you want of each (using the up and down keys). As you go through your photos, you can make changes, such as rotating, cropping, applying colour treatments and frames, removing red-eye, and so on. As mentioned before, the crop feature is limited because it only zooms in and out in preset increments.
Other memory card print options include creating album pages with various layouts, creating panorama prints, and making wallet and passport prints. Share options include attaching photos to e-mail or uploading them to Snapfish, HP's online photo sharing service, and inviting others to view them. Finally, you can save the contents of your memory card to your PC, designating where you want the files saved (via Photosmart Essential). One option the Photosmart C6280 lacks is the ability to search the card by date, handy if you're prone to taking lots of photos without first offloading files. It also doesn't allow you to print a scannable index of the contents of your cards. You can print an index, but doing so is a bit convoluted. HP needs to work on making its menus and processes more intuitive and user-friendly.
In CNET Labs' tests, the HP Photosmart C6280 was all over the map when compared to other similarly-priced all-in-ones. It was in the middle of the pack with text printing, with a score of 5.19 pages per minute, behind the Canon Pixma MP600's 7.88 pages per minute. It scored 2.53 pages per minute with colour graphics prints, on par with both the Canon and the Kodak EasyShare 5300. Of the group it was, by far, the slowest with 4x6 photo prints, scoring just 0.47 page per minute, a far cry from the 1.08 pages per minute posted by the Kodak and the lightning-fast 2.33 pages per minute from the Canon. On the other hand, it beat the pack by more than 1 page per minute while scanning in greyscale, with a score of 7.98 pages per minute, but fell to the back of the pack again with colour scanning, scoring a pokey 3.38 pages per minute.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The quality of the Photosmart C6280's prints and scans were a bit disappointing. The black text print showed a rich, dark black, but it was marred by a lot of wicking and fuzzy edges, even though we printed on coated inkjet paper. The colour graphics print suffered from the same wicking and fuzziness, and added graininess to the mix. Colour blocks weren't as smooth as we'd like, the photo elements were grainy, and the printer had trouble with the barcode patterns, rendering them blurry. The 4x6 photo prints were also grainy and suffered from compression in the dark end of the greyscale, resulting in lost detail in darker areas of the print. The photo could benefit from improved sharpness as well.
We were disappointed by the quality of the greyscale scan. We saw compression on both ends of the greyscale, so light areas were overblown and dark areas were muddied and without detail. Also, the scan just wasn't as sharp as we'd like to see. Happily, the colour scan was much better. Colours were true and details were reasonably sharp. Overall, we liked the quality produced by the Canon Pixma MP600 much better.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP backs the Photosmart C6280 with a standard one-year warranty and you can chat live online with tech support, also 24-7. HP's site has drivers, software downloads, FAQs, and troubleshooting guides, as well.