Macworld recently posted our reviews of two letter-size, all-in-one photo inkjets: HP’s Photosmart C7280 and Epson’s Stylus Photo RX680. While neither of those printers would be considered “pro-level,” they are both a good value for what they are: six-color photo printers that do additional duty as general-purpose printers and scanners/copiers. (While the reviews are understandably Mac-centric, we’ve tested both printers on Windows-based systems as well.)
Photosmart C7280: bargain utility printer with big features
The C7280 lists for $300, but you can find it on Amazon right now for $165 (with free shipping). At that price, it’s a very good buy, with multiple connectivity options (802.11n wireless, Ethernet, USB); a built-in duplexer; secondary tray for 4" by 6" and 5" by 7" photo paper; and a sheet feeder for the copier. We had a couple of minor issues with the wireless networking, but once you have it up and running, it’s a great general-purpose inkjet printer. And, if you use it wirelessly, you can still scan directly to computers on your network that have the HP driver software installed. This is a great feature, one we’ve found extremely helpful in the months we’ve been using the printer.
The C7280 does a very good job as a photo printer, especially when you use HP’s Premium Plus line of photo papers, which produces much better output than the cheaper Advanced Glossy papers.
(One thing to be aware of with the C7280 is that there is no way to turn printer color management off, which means that you can’t use custom ICC profiles to print on other media types. This really won’t be a worry to most people: the C7280 will print good photos on HP’s papers.)
Stylus Photo RX680: good photo-centric all-in-one
Epson’s RX680 lists for $200, but you can find it priced online from $130 to $160 (Amazon). As a photo printer, it produces better prints out of the chute than the C7280, but it’s a bit flimsier than the HP unit (some of the reviews on Amazon and elsewhere point this out). It’s also USB-only, which makes it harder to network, but it has two paper trays capable of handling paper from 4" by 6" to letter- and legal-size and also has a duplexer built-in (the duplexers on both printers are removable, however). The RX680 does a good job of printing plain-paper documents, although you’ll need to use heavier-than-normal plain paper (like Epson’s Premium Bright White paper) with the duplexer: we’ve had a few issues—and seen reports elsewhere—that really cheap plain paper jams the unit.
The RX680 is a great printer if you spend more time working with photos: the scanner component has some great features for restoring old photographs, and it has Epson’s time-tested photo quality.