Tool Review

HP Photosmart 7230

A Photo Quality Printer

By Peter Bates

  HP Photosmart 7230

In the current economic climate, many of us are branching out in our consulting practices to reach new markets. One of these branches is providing services for individuals and companies, such as brochures, newsletters, and bulk mailings. The HP Photosmart Photo Printer 7230 may prove useful to you in these efforts.

Until recently, color inkjet printers were consigned to the lower depths of serious reproduction work. They were fine for printing a page of business cards or gaudy pie charts, but for quality color photos, forget it. Now, that has changed with the introduction of a new breed of inkjet printer, the photo printer. The Canon Bubble Jets that come packaged with your new computer use only the four CMYK colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This limits them when it comes to reproducing a photograph. However, the photo printers add two more colors to the mix, light cyan and light magenta, to capture more of the subtleties of photographic color. How well does the HP Photosmart 7230 work? Let's see.

I scanned two 8 x 10 photographs with my three-year old HP Scanjet 5200 scanner, using 400, then 600 dpi resolution. The first was an offset printed page, a group photograph of 100 people in front of a brick building. The second was a professional portrait of a blond woman with a cat taken with a medium format camera and printed on high-grade photo paper. What were my results?

For the most part, the printer reproduced both scanned images quite faithfully. For the first image, the scanner didn't pick up the microdots from the offset printing page, so of course the printer couldn't either. The result was impressive: vivid yellows, non-washed out whites, brilliant reds that don't bleed a bit. I examined the printout with a magnifying glass and found only two tiny streaks, virtually invisible to the unaided eye. This was a tough test, because the scanner's output was imperfect to start with. The second image scanned better, and when printed on HP photo paper, the image was indistinguishable from one obtained from a photo lab, right down to the cat's whiskers. Perhaps only one person in a thousand would be able to tell it was a digitally printed image.

On the negative side, the printer is slow. An 8 x 10 image takes about two minutes to print, a speed hardly conducive to bulk printing. The best use I can find for this tool is printing collateral material on demand, such as ten copies of your multi-color brochure or a sample page to show to a client before sending it to a print shop. You can remove one of the color cartridges and replace it with a black one so that you can print text copy, but why bother? Buy a cheap laser printer for your text printing. Conversely, don't waste money on a speedier color laser printer expecting the same results as the HP Photosmart output. Color laser images are just not very sharp.

Note that this printer is capable of bypassing your computer by loading digital images directly from the four major types of digital camera memory cards. I wasn't able to test this feature, but I assume it works. Photo printers from other companies, when compared to standard jet printers, usually offer similar advantages and disadvantages. For more information on the Hewlett-Packard Photosmart Photo Printer 7230, log onto www.hp.com. Note that Hewlett-Packard also offers a higher-priced printer, the 7550. It prints faster and uses separate cartridges for each of six colors too.

Peter Bates runs Bates Communications, a publication, promotion, and web design company. He can be reached at or www.batescommunications.net.