Multifunction device

6 Nov 2003

Product: HP psc 1350 Printer/Scanner/Copier
Price: €240

There is no doubt that multifunction devices are valuable options for home users and teleworkers, but the conventional wisdom is that business users in general are better served by dedicated tools. All-in-ones have to make compromises in their specifications, so they can end up being middling at everything but with no single function really comparable to a specialist device. We may have to revise that traditional prejudice, because the new Hewlett-Packard psc 1350 is a modestly priced printer, scanner and copier that compares very favourably with any combination of separates in its price range.

The secret is probably that it is aimed fair and square at users with a penchant for photographs and colour images. So it combines a photographic quality printer with a fast 600x2400dpi A4 scanner, more than adequate for all but professional studios.

The neat trick is just that – very neat indeed, since the whole package is contained in a small rectangular shape just 170mm high and with a 426x259mm footprint. That is not much smaller than an A3 sheet. One of its most appealing design features is that the scanner lid is hinged on the long side – logical and easier to use. The fact that it is unusual shows how convention (and the marketing departments) dictate design in so many areas of IT equipment. There is also a particularly clear and simple control panel with proper colour-coded buttons.

Although there is a very comprehensive software suite bundled with the HP psc1350 (it takes over 25 minutes to install and set up) it is designed to work also in standalone mode as a photo printer and copier. Copying is easily controlled by black/colour/quantity buttons. For users of digital cameras, the psc 1350 has a set of five slots for the most popular memory cards, from SecureDigital favoured by HP itself to CompactFlash and Sony MemoryStick. Just insert the card from your camera and the images will be downloaded to your PC or wherever you choose.

Or you can simply print them, either as a proof sheet (set of small images) or on whatever paper size you choose. A clever feature is that the proof sheet is printed with tick boxes beside each image, so you can mark by hand which ones you want to store, delete or print right away. The marked sheet is simply scanned to give the unit its instructions.

As an all-round desk side companion, this is a most useful tool. Mono text and graphic prints are pin-sharp and reasonably speedy for an inkjet – about 7-8ppm for normal quality text and maybe half that for pages including colour type or images, copying a little slower still. Photo printing is simply slow, perhaps not surprisingly, but the quality on photographic paper is well up to any other printer in this price bracket.

The psc 1350 uses either a standard three-colour ink cartridge or a special photographic one (replacing the black) to give six colour printing for photos. This worked well in terms of results, but swapping the cartridges caused a lot of error messages, re-inserting and general twiddling. In fairness, this was about the only small gripe and is worth mentioning only because it is likely to be a fairly frequent operation, even for photo enthusiasts, given the relative costs of the cartridges.

As mentioned, the accompanying Image Zone software is generous and covers the imaging requirements of all but the most dedicated amateurs – but it consumes a staggering 1.2gigabytes of hard disk space. This puts even the notoriously resource-hungry products of Microsoft in the ha’penny place! It is designed to act as a sort of central resource (HP Director) for all image-handling applications on your PC, especially those from matching HP devices – presumably a camera since the psc1350 is an all-in-one. It has effective versions of the usual image-editing and enhancement tools (and an especially good red-eye remover!) but is really optimised for home users with programs for instant share (Web email or posting to sites) and HP Memories Disc creations of family albums and presentations on CD. Business users may find more value from the ReadIris Pro OCR software in the bundle. The bottom line, however, is that for €240 RRP this is a neat deskside companion and no mean performer at its core ‘psc’ functions – print, scan, copy.

By Leslie Faughnan