The HP Photosmart C4680 covers just the basics. It has a USB connector but no ethernet or media-card slots. Its single input tray maxes out at 80 sheets. It has no output tray: prints or copies simply drop on top of the input stack-to a maximum of 15 sheets, according to HP.

The input-tray panel unfolds awkwardly and noisily; HP says this is normal, but we thought it made the HP Photosmart C4680 feel badly constructed. Manual duplexing is available with on-screen prompts from the printer driver.

The HP Photosmart C4680's best attributes are its control panel and support software. A 1.5in LCD displays menu options. You select your choices using touch-sensitive, backlit LCD "buttons". HP's excellent Solution Center software, which loads automatically during the standard installation, provides a simple and streamlined interface for printer status, tasks, and projects.

The HP Photosmart C4680's output quality is better than its speed. Plain, black text looked crisp. Colour photos showed a small degree of banding and graininess but otherwise varied from washed-out fleshtones to precise contours and shadowing in inanimate objects. Scanned output showed sharp detail and colours that were a little dark.

But it's just not very fast: in our tests, using the HP Photosmart C4680's default ("normal") mode, the machine managed just 7.4 pages per minute (ppm) printing plain-black text and 2.3 ppm printing graphics - below the average of other inkjet MFPs we've tested, and far short of HP's claims of 29 ppm using just black ink and 23 ppm using all four colours.

The HP Photosmart C4680's biggest drawback by far, though, is the cost of its ink. Using standard-sized black and tricolour cartridges (lasting 200 and 165 pages, respectively), the C4680 costs more than nearly every other colour inkjet MFP we've reviewed to date. And high-yield supplies are small consolation.

OUR VERDICT

The HP Photosmart C4680 would be a decent choice for a light-duty home MFP, given its nice output and friendly controls. However, if you print or copy a lot, look for a faster machine with much lower ink prices.