Though the design of an all-in-one is unlikely to stir any sort of emotional response within us, the C6380 is nevertheless a very attractive unit, bedecked in a crisp white finish with silver accoutrements. Paper consumables are all accessed from two trays at the front, with A4 paper sitting on the lowest shelf, and smaller photo papers loaded from the higher shelf, within a plastic container that is drawn into the unit during the printing process.
At a moderate 7.45kg, the C6380 is relatively lightweight, though the materials do not feel cheap. Sporting a 2.4-inch tilting screen at the top left and a flat bed scanner across the top of the unit, both feel sturdy rather than flimsy.
As an all-in-one, the C6380 has print, scan and copy functionalities (but no fax). Extra connectivity is provided through wireless (802.11b/g), Ethernet, and an optional Bluetooth adapter (not provided).
One of the big drawcards of the C6380 is its ability to print borderless photos up to A4 size. It has five separate coloured ink tanks, which are all independently replaceable, using HP's own Vivera ink.
At the front of the unit are the standard PictBridge connectors for all common memory card formats, and a USB port. We were disappointed not to see a document feeder provided with the C6380, though considering this is not generally a unit designed primarily for office usage, this is only a minor downside.
The C6380 can be used as a standalone unit or attached to a computer. Firstly, we printed some 4x6-inch (10x15 cm) prints from a standard SD card. Pleasingly, the time from pressing start to the final result emerging from the printer took roughly 31 seconds, though this time does depend on the size and the amount of detail and colour in the shot. We found that, depending on the photo, print time ranged anywhere between 31 seconds and 50 seconds per printout of this size, from a 14.7-megapixel source image.
Overall, the quality of the final print was particularly impressive. Deep blacks were characteristic throughout all the photos, skin tones were very accurate, and there was no bleeding of colour or jagged edges whatsoever. For an A4 photo page, the C6380 spat out a borderless colour print in 1 min 35 seconds.
After the standalone test, we proceeded to install the software on a computer. The process was painless, though it did take a good 10 minutes to fully install everything. Fortunately there was an excellent graphical instruction booklet provided in the box to take us through the process step-by-step. The included software does a good job of making the most common tasks (scanning, printing photos) as easy as possible, including a graphical display of ink levels without having to go into the printer settings.
During the printing process, we were very pleased with the almost whisper-quiet operation of the unit. Our hopes were dashed, though, when our ears were met with the clunking noises and loud operation after the printout had finished. The sounds did dissipate with continued use though, and we assume they were to do with aligning the cartridges and cleaning the print heads. Still, the noise was quite disconcerting.
Printing a single page of plain black and white text took 9 seconds, from sending the job to the printer to the final page being dropped on the document tray. The resulting text was highly readable, and even fonts in size 6 were easy to see. Surprisingly, larger fonts were not as crisp as their smaller counterparts, though this was only noticeable on close examination. A typical OCR scan took 16.5 seconds and the resulting document was very accurate and managed to determine most, if not all of our text correctly. Scanning a photo was similarly successful, but the finished image did have a small amount of graininess in high contrast areas. Colour prints on plain A4 paper were slightly disappointing, mostly because they didn't live up to the vibrant colours we saw when printing on photo paper. There were also some issues with the paper curling as the ink was drying.
Considering there are five separate cartridges that need to be replaced, the cost of consumables for the C6380 may present a problem for any sort of intensive workload. At the time of writing, cartridges for the printer were available at an average of AU$16 per unit online, though this still does work out to be around AU$80 to replace the whole set in one go.
The C6380 is an incredibly versatile and capable all-in-one, ideal for the home or small office situation that doesn't need faxing capabilities, or an automatic document feeder. Though there are a few problems (mostly to do with the noise of the unit during startup and post-printing) we can still recommend the C6380 as a versatile printer to cope with most photo, document and scanning needs.