Having just written about my new laser printer, I guess it was only a matter of time before Argos, the God of Laminated Catalogues decreed that my other printer should pack up on me just when I was having an 'expensive' month.
My first 'all-in-one', an HP C5180 had given sterling service for the first 10½ months of its first year in my possession until sadly it developed a fault that couldn't be cleared. A month later, after much to-ing and fro-ing with HP's Support Desk (was it still under warranty or wasn't it, the manufacturing date being yonks before the purchase date), I was delivered a 'refurbished' replacement (it being by now an obsolete model). Thus, with my warranty re-extended by a further 3 months, I was happy. Until, that is, weeks later I came to give it its first full colour printing task, rather than cursory test prints. I managed to retrieve a few pictures of my daughter's charity sky-dive before things started to throw up error messages.
Guess what? It had the same fault that couldn't be cleared by the user!
Frankly I gave up - it had been such a rigmarole getting it replaced in the first instance, including waiting in for UPS twice both for delivery and pick up of the faulty one, losing pay etc. that I decided to vote with my feet and buy something else. It had, after all, only cost me £49 in Tescos, and was therefore probably not worth losing any more sleep (or pay) over!
Then followed a disastrous one-day dalliance* with an Epson Stylus SX600FW during which time it steadfastly refused to be installed as a USB connection, an Ethernet connection or a Wi-fi connection (i.e. it wouldn't install as a printer!), I furiously boxed all £114 of it back up and sent it back to Amazon having concluded that it was faulty, demanding a refund.
(*like a one-night stand only it's in the light and nowhere near as much fun!)
Pity really, it was brimming with extra features, e.g. it was a FAX machine too.
Yessirree, whatever I bought next was going to come from a shop so I had a table to thump when things went wrong.
OH NO, NOT PC WORLD AGAIN!
Well I did try not to shop there, and I did try not to buy another HP product, but bu****-me that's exactly what I ended up doing, partly attracted by the £89 price of the HP C6380 All-In-One and partly by the reasonable £20 3-year warranty. This time I was determined that even if it did fail, it was only going to cost me £36 p.a. not £50 like its predecessor.
The C6380 looks remarkably like the old C5180, with three salient differences.
One, it can now be networked via wi-fi rather than just Ethernet,
Two, it uses different ink in seemingly larger containers and there are five colours not six, and....
Three, it can now handle 'Pictbridge' compatible digital cameras without removing their memory chips - this it can do via a Bluetooth link if you're really 'flash'.
Appearance-wise it's a typical HP machine with a combination of reasonable physical build quality (I'll hold off commenting on its longevity until I find a way to type and cross my fingers at the same time!) and subdued colours, i.e. greys and ivory.
There's an adequate LCD screen from which you 'drive' its menus or view photos inserted via the camera-chip slots. This can be angled to suit your line of sight.
Power is supplied to the rear via a mains adapter rather than pure mains. This keeps the size of the plug down but leaves yet another adapter somewhere for you to kick.
Also at the back are an Ethernet connector for hard-wired network solutions and a USB socket for those that just want a printer connected to a PC.
Curiously there's a front USB socket too but this is for camera file transfer or for inserting a Bluetooth adapter.
Curiously HP has decided to supply you with absolutely NONE of the computer connections you might want. Luckily, having ditched 'a few' printers lately, I was already armed with USB leads a-plenty and Ethernet cabling.
If it wasn't for the non-standard mains-adapter, would they even have included a mains lead?
I guess I'm supposed to be grateful that they've included ink cartridges!
There's a Basics Guide, CD-ROM and that about wraps up what's in the box.
SETTING UP - Or "Oh No, Here We Go Again!"
If you read my Samsung opinion, you'll know that getting a printer networked is not always without its frustrations, and HP doesn't 'disappoint' in this respect.
Not only does their software take a very tedious 45 minutes to install, but it has a habit of getting to 96% and stalling, or failing to detect the printer.
I have 3 PCs, two of which installed relatively painlessly, apart from the 45 minutes to see if it had worked, but when it came to my main PC, i.e. the one next to the printer, it took several attempts to get it to 'take'. Some of this was down to over-fussy firewall software that trusts no-one and interrupts the process at random moments meaning that you have to sit there the whole time in case there's yet another 'box to tick'. However, I tried it without the firewall running and it STILL didn't work first time, and that's after it goes through an equally tedious 30 minutes of uninstalling its progress so far.
This machine is somewhat easier to set up for wi-fi than the Samsung laser which had to be hard-wired first even if you were going to make it wireless. For a start, you can tell the printer itself which network to log onto and what the pass-phrase is.
Thus, once set, it becomes part of your network before you even run the software install. If you know how to access your router, you can verify this.
However, this isn't a recipe for instant success. As I said before, I tried about three times to install the software, with and without the firewall running and it was just as I was giving up for the night that I realised I'd done it.
Next morning of course, it had reverted to not being recognised - "Oh golly gosh!" rang out through the house.
I've now reverted to using it hard-wired as a 'proper' Ethernet' connection and it seems (touch wood) 100% stable. At least the C6380 allows for the wireless side to be turned off, so that I'm not offering a free connection to a printer to all within 300 yards, unlike the Samsung!
Frankly, the full software suite is only of use to the PC next to it. Being able to run the scanner from elsewhere in the house is of dubious merit - I'm not even sure that having to shin upstairs to collect a print is that good an idea either!
In the case of remote PCs, I'd not bother with the 'official' software disc, except as a source of drivers and just get myself a freeware copy of Apple Bonjour, which is a dream of simplicity to run and set the C6380 up as a printer alone. You can still access the scanner via the C6380's 'embedded' web page at the network address on your system (probably something like 192.168.1.10x) or, by typing its 'hostname' into the URL box of your browser. In my case it's HP6716C. This puts you through to several pages of information (ink levels, network setting etc) but more notably gives you access to the scanner from anywhere on your network.
Even now I'm getting periodic messages that the printer is 'offline' but I put this down to its Energy Star power saving mode, whereby it dozes off after a period of inactivity. Of course, it would be nice if the paper manual mentioned this, rather than leave me to surmise. There is a full blown manual available from the hp.com/support web site but it's got 331 pages, for crying out loud!
AH YES BUT DOES IT WORK?
Well I have to admit that I'm impressed with its colour results on decent paper - the test prints run during installation are just stunning, but then with a dots-per-inch of up to 9600, they damned well ought to be.
Monochrome text is fine, but I've got my laser for cheaper B+W so I wouldn't mind if it wasn't.
It's early days to comment on ink use, especially as the first set of cartridges are usually less full than anything you buy afterwards, but I've already tracked down replacements at under £9.00 each.
Assuming that you acquiesced and allowed it to load everything, you get quite a daunting array of facilities, under the umbrella of the grandiosely-named HP Solution Center (sic).
It's from here that you get the chance to run the scanner, although as a standard TWAIN device, my copy of Paint Shop Pro will also kick it into life.
One of your scanning options is to take a page of text, and via the OCR (optical character recognition) software that's included, dump it straight to MS Word which is pretty useful. I tried it with a print of the first page of this opinion and all it got wrong was failing to recognise the ½ symbol in 10½ , putting 10Yz instead.
Scanning photos is equally easy, and you have the option of scanning and copying straightaway or sending to a file on disk.
As per usual, HP are assuming that you've never seen any graphics packages before and so supply HP Photosmart Essential for you to manipulate your photo collection. Photosmart "Superfluous" might be nearer the mark in my case.
WHAT IT CAN DO ON ITS OWN
Without a PC running, the C6380 can still operate over a wide range of activities.
It can scan straight to paper, in effect making it a one-sheet photocopier, both in B&W and colour.
It can accept a 'Pictbridge' connection direct from a compatible digital camera, and take orders from it as to what needs printing etc.
Likewise, you can insert the chip from most digital cameras, since it will accept chips right through from the somewhat bulky and dated Compact Flash cards through to SD, XD and Sony Memory Sticks. You can even plug a card reader or flash drive into the front USB port to handle chip types not catered for by the former.
Of course if your camera or even mobile phone can send its pictures via Bluetooth, the addition of a cheap adapter for the USB port will allow this form of file transfer too.
You can also work on the dreaded 'red eye reduction' from the front panel.
You can use it as a source of templates for specialist stationery, for example, it prints a rather nice pale blue-lined graph paper, various feint-ruled pages and what it calls a check-list, which is a ruled page with tick boxes.
PLEASED I GOT IT?
I guess so, but if that sounds a bit lukewarm, I'm still smarting over the way its predecessor turned into a pile of poo after only a year of domestic use. Therefore I'm not going to effuse over it just yet. Still there's always that 3-year warranty this time!
Now having two trays, one for postcards, one for A4; that I do like!
Paper both goes in and comes out at the front, which I also like as it suits where I've positioned it perfectly. Only paper jams necessitate access from the rear.
NOT SO NIFTY
Not a show-stopper for me, but the lid to the scanner does not have any flexibility - it's just hinged, which rather puts the dampers on trying to fit a book under there. Previous scanners have either had removable lids or expanding hinges.
Max Copying\Scanning Speed: Up to 33 ppm (mono) / up to 31 ppm (colour) - not sure how you'd prove this as it's strictly a one-at-a-time affair.
Max Copying\Scanning Resolution: Up to 600 x 600 dpi (mono) / up to 4800 x 4800 dpi (colour)
Max Printing Speed: Up to 33 ppm (mono) / up to 31 ppm (colour)
Max Printing Resolution: Up to 600 x 600 dpi (mono) / up to 9600 x 2400 dpi (colour)
Scanning: 4800 dpi
Display: 2.4" diagonal
Original Size: Legal (216 x 356 mm) (max)
Original Type: Sheets
Media Size: Legal (216 x 356 mm) (max)
Media Type: Transparencies, envelopes, plain paper, cards, labels, photo paper
Standard Media Capacity: 125 sheets
Output Trays Capacity: 50 sheets
PC Connection: Hi-Speed USB, Ethernet 10 Base-T, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g
That's about it really - a decent price for a decent specification.
Let's hope it last a bit longer than the other one!
This printer was supplied to me by my company because I work from home and need a printer that can scan and copy, as well as provide great quality prints. It's a very useful printer, with the HP software making scanning and printing a doddle.
It has card readers so you don't have to upload your photos to your computer before printing, although I always back-up my pics anyway.
The copier aspect works well enough, and the menu allows you to adjust lightness/darkness etc.
The scanner works a lot better when initiated using the HP software rather than using the scan button on the printer itself.
Best of all is the wireless on this machine - I managed to get it hooked up to my laptop running Vista with no problems, although I was unable to get the wireless working with my work laptop. However I think that is due to problems with the laptop rather than the printer so I wouldn't let if put you off.
My only gripe with the printer is that it takes forever to start up - chugs away for ages preparing itself! Also the ink cartridges are expensive.