Reviewer: Alex Kidman
HP’s Photosmart C4180 is a no-nonsense, relatively inexpensive multifunction printer that handles colour well, but is hampered by uneven ink delivery and some fiddly printing procedures.
The C4180 covers the three main bases of any multifunction printer – printing, scanning and copying – at a reasonable budget price given its feature set. HP’s recent obsession has been with pushing its photo printing prowess – and especially the prowess of its Vivera ink – and for the most part the C4180 doesn’t disappoint, even just with the basic colour and black ink cartridges.
The C4180 uses a two cartridge printing setup, with a combination of either a colour or photo cartridge or colour and black cartridge. You’ll need to factor the cost of the photo cartridge into your buying equation however, as out of the box you get only the colour and black cartridges, and that’s all we were able to test with.
Included software covers easy access to photo printing and simple editing, along with scanner and copying applications. These functions are reproduced on the C4180’s 6.1 cm LCD display if you’re using memory cards, although the C4180 doesn’t support Pictbridge printing.
You’re clearly not meant to peer around the back of the C4180, as it almost looks like there’s a missing bit; the rear of the printer body houses nothing but air and the cable arrays for power and USB connectivity.
Instead, you will need to run your eyes over the left-hand side, as it houses the paper tray for 4×6 photo paper. This is a curious arrangement that uses a paper caddy; when you want to print aÂ photo you pop it out of the side of the printer, then fit it to the main paper tray (having removed any A4 sheets present) prior to printing. In the C4180’s favour, it’s a nice quick photo printer, which is beneficial, as this is otherwise a fiddly and time-consuming task.
On the subject of being fiddly, we also struggled to get the C4180 to recognise its own cartridges. When loading a new cartridge, the C4180 checks that it’s an official HP-branded unit, and our test model rejected the black cartridge three times before deciding it was OK. We’re not sure if the placement head is very finicky, or if we had a slightly duff black cartridge head, but either way this is a setup that favours HP and offers little to the buyer, bar frustration.
The C4180 performed well in basic printing tasks, sending out full cover A4 test pages in under 30 seconds each. Photos (15 x 10 cm/6 x 4 inches) printed at an astonishingly quick 90 seconds. That’s with the colour and black cartridges, however; the photo cartridge may offer different speeds and is more ink-efficient than burning up colour ink this way.
Still, we were quite pleased with the colour reproduction on just the colour tank, which means it’s a useful backup if you need a photo for a relative in a hurry and can’t find or don’t have the photo tank handy.
Scanning was slightly less impressive, with some page blurring at lower resolutions and rather low scanning speeds at more legible settings.
One thing we noticed when printing on standard A4 sheets was how relatively damp our full coverage test pages came out, as if the C4180 was dumping more ink onto the page than the paper’s capacity to easily soak it up. Leaving the pages for a minute or so did allow them to dry properly, but if you’re likely to want to snatch up prints the moment they come off the rollers, be aware that you might end up taking off some of the print with it. This wasn’t a problem replicated in our photo tests, but then photo paper is typically more absorbent anyway.
The C4180 offers a decent value printing, scanning and copying solution, but it is let down by some rather fiddly procedures for loading paper and new ink cartridges.