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HP Photosmart 5520 review – not the photo printer you’re looking for

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £70
inc VAT

Although it's a useful home printer and scanner, this MFP produces some of the worst photos we've seen


We’re not fans of the overly simplistic scanner interface, either, although it’s not quite as irritating as some of HP’s previous attempts. The MFP has a maximum scan resolution of 1,200 x 2,400dpi. Our scans were accurately coloured but the driver applied excessive sharpening during the scanning process, which introduced distortion and artefacts to the image. We’ve seen this issue with other recent Photosmart MFPs. Scan speeds were rather slow, too – the Preview is actually a 150dpi scan which takes 23 seconds.

Beyond that, a 300dpi A4 scan took 38 seconds, a 600dpi 6x4in scan took 46 seconds and a 1,200dpi photo scan took a creaking two minutes and 37 seconds. If you’re planning on scanning troves of old family photo albums, it’s worth having a read of our guide. While it won’t help with the slow scanning speed of the Photosmart 5520 itself, having an efficient workflow should save you time elsewhere. Scanning multiple photos simultaneously will certainly help mitigate some of the slowness of the Photosmart 5520’s scanning process.

The Photosmart 5520 is more of a versatile all-rounder than a dedicated photo printer, although the entire Photosmart range is supposed to provide a more image-friendly alternative to HP’s business-like Officejet printers. Its plain paper document printing is excellent, with clear, sharp text on our mono letter and great-looking text and illustrations on our colour business document. Even draft text looked good enough for day-to-day use, with only slight jaggedness on some letters. Print speeds are a quick 13.4ppm for mono text, 3.8ppm for colour and 13.8ppm for draft.

HP Photosmart 5520

Unfortunately, photo quality is genuinely poor, particularly on anything involving large areas of dark colour. A black sky was rendered as a washed-out greyish blue, while other dark prints lacked any sort of contrast, with all detail lost in a wash of grey. Red and yellow tones are pleasingly bright and the prints are sharp, but overall quality isn’t good enough for display purposes.

Print costs are low, at least, with a total cost of 9.1p per page of mixed black and colour document printing and 2.7p per mono page. Photos printed on HP’s Advanced Photo Paper also proved to be relatively inexpensive in total, with a 6x4in print costing 22.2p and an A4 print coming out at 85.3p. However, the ink makes up a surprising part of this cost – over 11p in the case of the 6x4in photo and around 47p for A4.

Because of its poor photo quality, we’ve only given the Photosmart 5520 thee stars, despite its other merits as a low-cost home MFP. It’s a decent all-rounder but a substandard photo printer. It’s also now over three years old and has been superseded by a whole range of faster, higher quality MFPs that cost the same yet produce significantly better results and pack in more features.

Unless you happen to find a Photosmart 5520 at an incredibly low price, anyone buying a printer in 2016 that is even considering occasionally printing photos should look instead to Canon’s excellent PIXMA MG5650. It admittedly has controls that take a while to get used to, but there’s no doubting its ability to produce beautiful photo prints. It’s also fast when it comes to regular printing, doesn’t cost the earth to refill, and thanks to recent price cuts should only set you back about £50 from Argos making it a considerably better choice.

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Basic Specifications

Maximum native print resolution4,800×1,200dpi
Max optical resolution1,200×2,400dpi
Output bit depth24-bit

Quoted Speeds

Quoted speed, mono A411ppm
Quoted speed, colour A48ppm

Tested Print Speeds

Time for two 10x8in photos 1.04m 33s
Time for six 6x4in photos 1.06m 11s

Physical and Environmental

Standard printer interfacesUSB, 802.11n wireless
Optional printer interfacesnone
Duty cycle1,000 pages monthly maximum duty cycle

Paper Handling

Maximum paper sizeA4
Maximum paper weight300gsm
Standard paper inputs1
Standard paper input capacity80
Maximum paper inputs1
Maximum paper input capacity80
Duplex (code, cost if option)No


Printer technologythermal inkjet
Supported operating systemsWindows XP/Vista/7/8, MacOS X 10.6+
Other inkjet features6.7cm colour screen

Buying Information

Consumable parts and prices£16
Price per colour A4 page6.4p
Quoted life of supplied black cartridge250 pages (ISO/IEC 24711)
Quoted life of supplied colour cartridge(s)300 pages each (ISO/IEC 24711)
Warrantyone year RTB

Print Quality

Number of ink colours4
Number of ink cartridges4
Maximum number of ink colours4
Maximum number of cartridges4
Quoted photo durability108 years
Quoted photo durability sourceWilhelm Imaging Research

Tested Scan Speeds

Full scan area preview23s
A4 document at 150dpiN/A
A4 document at 300dpi38s
6x4in photo at 600dpi46s
6x4in photo at 1200dpi2m 37s

Tested Copy Speeds

Time for single A4 mono copy 1.018s
Time for single A4 colour copy 1.019s
Time for 10 A4 copies using feeder 2.0N/A

Photo Features

PictBridge supportNo
Borderless printingA4
Direct (PC-less) printingYes
Supported memory cardsSD, MMC, Memory Stick Duo
CD printingNo

Copy Features

Maximum number of copies50
Max mono copy resolution600x600dpi
Max colour copy resolution600x600dpi

Fax Features

Max mono fax resolutionN/A
Fax memory (maximum mono pages)N/A