three-colour inkjet, print speed, USB Hi-Speed, PictBridge USB, 134x252x117mm
HP’s Photosmart A636 is the only mini-photo printer here to use inkjet rather than dye sublimation technology.
It’s also the only inkjet that takes a single three-colour print cartridge rather than individual ink tanks. HP supplies an ‘introductory’ cartridge in order to get you started.
Although the squat A636 takes up no more desk space than Canon’s ES30, it takes up more space in use. The advantage of this printer is that it can print 7x5in and 12x4in panoramas, as well as 6x4in photos.
This screen is touch-sensitive, and the user interface is clear and simple to use. It’s also quicker than the Canon ES30’s at browsing through photos stored on memory cards. Printing from a memory card is simply a matter of finding your photo and pressing the print button, but printing from a PC is equally simple. Particularly welcome is HP’s decision to store the driver on the printer itself, so it installs as soon as you connect a USB cable. Automatic paper size and type detection means it’s hard to mess up a print, making the A636 an ideal photo printer for technophobes.
Three-colour inkjets have long since been ousted by printers with extra inks, but look at the A636’s output and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it from even a quality dye-sub print. The only giveaway is its inability to handle areas of subtle shading, but this is a minor shortcoming that few people will notice. There was no banding on prints, and blacks were among the best we’ve seen from a printer that uses cyan, magenta and yellow inks to form black. Prints were immediately dry to the touch, too.
Taking around nine minutes to output six postcard-sized prints, HP’s A636 isn’t the fastest mini-photo printer available, and the occasional misaligned print marred photos with white borders. Prints aren’t too expensive, though. A 140-sheet pack with ink costs £32, equating to 23p per photo. Add the A636’s ability to print 7x5in and panoramic photos, and it’s our pick of the mini printers.
|Maximum paper size
|Maximum native print resolution
Physical and Environmental
|Standard printer interfaces
|USB Hi-Speed, PictBridge USB
|Noise (in normal use)
|Power consumption standby
|Power consumption idle
|Power consumption active
|Maximum paper size
|Maximum paper weight
|Standard paper inputs
|Supported operating systems
|Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X 10.4/10.5
|one year RTB