The photo kiosks that you find in retail stores are the height of convenience. The HP Photosmart A826 Home Photo Center, a dedicated photo printer, brings that convenience home. Just plug in a memory card or USB key, then use the large touch screen to edit your images, preview them, and print. (The A826 can print from PictBridge cameras and computers as well, but you can’t use the touch screen with them.)
The touch screen is roughly 7 Inches across the bottom, 5.5 inches across the top, and 4 inches high. Within the screen is a full-color display area that lets you preview photos at 4.2 inches diagonally, a huge size for a home photo printer. The touch-screen menus are intuitive enough for most people to follow without additional instructions. You can touch by hand or use the mom reliable stylus that’s provided.
The A826’s output quality was more than decent, but no match for the best photo printers or a high-end photo Lab. It turned in true photo quality, though occasional brightness adjustments were needed. Colors were sometimes too punchy, which could be a deal breaker, depending on your taste. Prints were reasonably rugged: They resisted scratching, the effects of running water, and fading. (HP claims a print lifetime of more than 200 years in dark storage, more than 50 years if behind glass, and more than 10 year if exposed to air.)
The A826 can produce standard prints at up to 5 by 7 Inches and panoramas up to 4 by 12 inches. Cost per print is a bit on the high side (29.2 cents per 4-by-6, for packs with enough ink and paper for 120 photos.) Though acceptable, the A826’s print speed was unimpressive. When printing from a computer, it avenged 1 minute 27seconds for a 4-by-6 print.
Minor lapses in speed and output quality, coupled with high initial cost plus high cost per print, kept it from earning an Editors’ Choice. Still, it’s a more than worthy choice as a home photo printer, especially with its splendid touch screen.Price rangeHP Photosmart A826 Home Photo Center: $249.99Check This Out:HP PHOTOSMART A320: Cheap Portable Photo PrinterXerox Phaser 8560MFP/D: As Solid as Its InkHP Officejet Pro K5400dtn Color Printer: Laser-Class Ink Jet