Snapshot printers, beware: HP's new Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer sets a high standard - and rewards impatient, on-the-go users.

This midpriced inkjet-based HP Photosmart A636 is fast: 6x4in photos came out in less than a minute; other snapshot printers we've tested took almost twice as long. Most colours looked realistic, with good detail except in dark areas.

Our only gripes: flesh tones appeared a bit orange, and the HP Photosmart A636's monochrome photos had a pink tinge.

In connecting the HP Photosmart A636 to a computer, you must provide your own USB cable (HP doesn't include one), but the driver, stored in the printer's firmware, automatically installs itself.

No computer? No problem. Insert a media card into one of the HP Photosmart A636's many slots to start.

Printing options include captions, clip art, frames, and effects such as sepia toning and cartooning; you also get simple editing tools. The HP Photosmart A636 takes an unusually wide range of media sizes, from 6x4in photos to panoramic (12x4in) to 7x5in.

A few of the Photosmart A636's controls perplexed us (for example, lowering the LCD is difficult), but overall it is easy to use.

And a little confession: we actually missed the versatile HP Photosmart A636 after testing it.

OUR VERDICT

If you need a quick and versatile photo printer that won't break the bank, and can live with minor image defects, look no further than the HP Photosmart A636.