The HP Photosmart A826 is a kiosk-shaped compact photo printer that features a 7in touchscreen and a stylus.
Designed for what HP calls "busy mums", the HP Photosmart A826 streamlines the process of printing photos: it's as easy as inserting a photo storage card, tapping a screen, and touching the Print icon.
Although the HP Photosmart A826's touchscreen interface is a great innovation, its print quality could use some work: in our testing, dark prints looked flat and a little bland. Despite this imperfection, the HP Photosmart A826 is a solid device with a unique interface that should set a positive precedent in the printer market.
There's something important to note about the HP Photosmart A826: even though it is a compact photo printer, that doesn't mean it's portable. Measuring 373x384x264mm with its output and paper trays open and ready to use, the HP Photosmart A826 is larger than other compact photo printers we've tested.
The HP Photosmart A826 also lacks a handle, so it'd be impractical to try to carry this device around on trips or to events.
Rather, the HP Photosmart A826 is designed to serve as a personal kiosk or home photo centre. Still, the printer could use something to make it easier to grip, in case you wanted to move it from one room to another in your home, for example. The smooth, egg-shaped design makes the HP Photosmart A826 slippery and difficult to hold.
The HP Photosmart A826's strength lies in its innovative interface. It's so innovative, in fact, that it caught the attention of several passersby, who stopped by just to look at it. The menu is very intuitive, and we were able to crop photos, add or remove effects, type captions, add frames, and insert clip art with zero hassle. We never had to consult the user manual because the printer operation was completely straightforward.
The HP Photosmart A826's ink-level status is clearly displayed in the upper-lefthand corner of the screen, so you'll know when it's almost time to change the cartridge. To top it off, the HP Photosmart A826 offers an option to view your photos in a slideshow, beautifully displayed on the printer's large, bright screen.
The HP Photosmart A826 uses a tri-colour ink system (cyan, magenta, and yellow), which means that its blacks are processed - that is, made up of the aforementioned three colours combined rather than coming from a separate cartridge of black ink. As a result, shadows appear to lack depth, making images look a little flat and dull. The printer performed better with brighter images, and you'll get the best results when printing on HP's Premium Plus photo paper. Despite my complaint about processed blacks, the HP Photosmart A826's photos look pleasing overall.
When it came to speed, the HP Photosmart A826's performance was about average; it took 1 minute and 29 seconds to print a single photo in our testing at best settings. By way of comparison, the Epson PictureMate Zoom took 42 seconds, less than half the time, to perform the same test.
The HP Photosmart A826 is a great choice for beginning photographers who want to print their digital photos as easily as possible. The printer's case design could use some improvement for greater ease of handling, and dark prints appear a little dull; but overall, the A826 is an attractive, fun device made just for its intended consumer group, hobbyists and scrapbookers. At £182 inc VAT, the A826 isn't cheap, but its innovative, user-friendly interface makes this printer a worthy investment, and you can use it as a photo and slideshow viewer.