HP Photosmart C4780

Wireless networking and touch-sensitive controls help set HP's Photosmart C4780 apart from other entry-level color inkjet multifunction printers. Unfortunately the model comes with outrageous prices for its ink, and it has an extremely limited design.

The Photosmart C4780 offers a few extras and admirable support for its low price ($130 at this writing). Connectivity includes Wi-Fi and USB, plus two media slots for MS, SD, and xD cards. The 1.45-inch color touchscreen is very easy to use, as is HP's onscreen Solution Center software, which centralizes printer settings, status, and other utilities. Its Help section offers much more useful support information (including animations) than the anemic HTML-based user guide.

The unit's performance was adequate in our . Print speeds were average overall: 7.6 pages per minute for plain-text pages, 2.5 ppm for graphics. Text was dark charcoal rather than black, but looked very crisp even in small-point and ornate fonts. Other colors in our test printouts tended to be slightly oversaturated yet still looked natural. There was some visible banding in large areas of continuous color. Scan speeds were dismally slow; however the images showed accurate, if slightly pixelated, colors, and precise lines.

The Photosmart C4780's paper handling is adequate for light use, but it's a klunky design. The thick, plastic 80-sheet input tray drops open from the front of the printer; a sturdy plastic extension folds out to accommodate legal-size paper. Printed or copied output (up to 15 sheets) falls right on top of the input stack, which looks and feels awkward. Automatic duplexing is not available, but the driver will walk you through the steps manually.

Replacement inks for the C4780 were among the most expensive on the market at the time of this review. A 600-page, high-yield black cartridge costs $35, or 5.8 cents a page for black output. A 440-page, high-yield tricolor cartridge costs $42, or 9.3 cents a page. A graphics page using all four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) costs 15.1 cents a page. Standard cartridges aren't worth considering unless you print or copy only occasionally, as the cost per page is 7.5 cents for black and 19.6 cents for four-color cartridges, respectively.

Attractive, easy-to-use controls and decent output quality might be enough to recommend the HP Photosmart C4780--if the cost of ink weren't so high. It could be a passable choice if you need wireless and don't print much.