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I saw this printer advertised back in July when I was trying to get to grips with all the photo's stored on my hard drive. I'm never without my digital camera, in fact I probably use it daily but the photo's always end up getting shoved onto my computer and forgotten about. If anyone else is reading this and knowing exactly what I mean then I would definitely recommend the HP Photosmart A626 to them!
The HP Photosmart A626 is a compact photo printer designed solely for photo printing. It can print on paper up to 5" x 7" although I tend to print standard postcard sized prints of 4" x 6" (A6).
It boasts printing speeds of up to 39 seconds per 10x15cm colour print, although in my experience it usually takes more like 60 seconds per colour print (still not bad for good quality prints).
As I mentioned the A626 is a compact photo printer and it really is compact! It measures roughly 10" high x 5" high x 4 ½" deep. It has a fold out carry handle on the top designed to make carrying the printer around with you easier. I'm not sure how practical it would be to actually go out with your printer, but I found the handle useful for moving my printer from room to room as I started new projects.
It is a very stylish printer as printers go, with piano black finish on the outside with a contrasting pale teal plastic on the inside. It takes up very little space on a desk and when not it use it can be neatly stored in a drawer unlike larger photo printers.
The printer can be used through a PC with USB connections or wirelessly via a Bluetooth adapter which must be bought separately, although I find it easier to use it as a standalone printer without the PC. It runs from mains electricity and does not have a battery.
To start using the printer you pull down the front panel which automatically pops out the paper shoot and LCD panel so you are ready to go.
Underneath the front panel there are lots of slots for inserting memory cards. It accepts all the different memory cards I have ever heard of aswell as being pictbridge compatible so no matter what form of memory your digital camera uses this printer is bound to accept it. All of the slots are marked clearly as to what sort of card they accept so you don't have to try each slot to find the right one.
My camera takes SD cards so I have only been using them for my printer but the A626 also accepts XD, CF and MS/Duo.
The best thing about this printer and the thing that sold it to me is the 12cm LCD Colour TOUCHSCREEN display. I absolutely love it! It makes the printer so much easier to use than other standalone printers.
Once the printer is switched on it prompts you to insert your memory card to begin. Once that is done it immediately loads all the photo's on your card which can be flicked through with a tap of your finger on the screen. To select a photo just tap it with your finger and you will be given the option of editing the photo or 'getting creative'.
In the editing menu you can choose to crop the photo, remove red-eye or alter the photo brightness. These options sound like they are going to be complicated to do without a computer but if anything, I find it even simpler.
Once you select 'REMOVE RED-EYE' the printer automatically detects and removes any red-eye in the photo and adjusting the brightness is a case of sliding your finger up and down the screen as you would expect. Cropping is a little more complicated but completely self explanatory so even somebody who has never used a computer could master it straight away.
The selected photo will come up large on the LCD with a highlighted square which is the area that will be cropped. There are buttons to change the orientation of the cropping area from landscape to portrait and + zoom and - zoom buttons to change the size of the area. You can use your finger to drag the highlighted area to the area you would like cropped, such as somebody's face.
The really fun thing about this printer is the 'GET CREATIVE' option. The A626 gives you 6 different ways of personalizing your photo's including adding a frame, caption or clip art and printing album pages. There is even a way of making people in your photo's look slimmer!
One of the simpler ways to personalise your photos is to add a frame. There a loads of frames to choose from and they are sorted into 4 categories; Seasons, Kids, Daily Life and Special Events. Seasons includes all the obvious themes like summer and winter but it also has all the public holiday themes such as Christmas, Halloween, Valentines day...ect.
Kids has options for new babies aswell as older children and children's birthdays.
I have used the Daily Life frames more than any others. This category has frames with sports themes, pets, family and general frames.
In the Special events category you will find wedding frames, travel, birthday, party..ect.
All in all, there is a good choice of frames for every occasion you can think of.
The album section is very similar to the frames. It allows you to create a finished page that is read to put into your album. This is absolutely fantastic for anyone that does scrapbooks as you can either choose to have up to 4 plain photos on your page or you can have themes added, very similar to the choice given in the frames section.
Tapping on 'Caption' brings up a full QWERTY Keyboard on the LCD touch screen. You can type in what you'd like the caption to read exactly how you would on a normal keyboard. You then get a selection of fonts and colours to choose from so you can really personalise the writing. The caption is automatically placed in the middle of the photo but you can use your finger to move it around the screen, rotate and change the size of the words.
This is my favourite of all the creative options. You can use your finger or a stylus to draw whatever you like on the photo. You could add Moustaches, hats, draw on a t-shirt...ect, or you could add a caption in your own handwriting. I never get fed up of this option! I use it to date photos and add captions but I occasionally print off a funny photo and send it to relatives. You can change the size and colour of the line and there is also an eraser incase you go wrong.
There is a huge selection of different clip arts to choose from, sorted into categories; Seasons, Kids, Daily Life and Special events. Some of the funner clip arts include adding silly hats and paw prints but there are also some lovely floral pictures and banners that would look lovely on the front of a card. Once you have chosen the images they can be adjusted and dragged & dropped where you'd like them.
This gives you the option of printing your photo in Black & White, Sepia, Antique or Metallic. You can also Solarise your pictures or even slim them down for more flattering photos!
There is always a printer symbol on the screen so if you want to print at any time just tap the display and it instantly starts printing. If you get distracted and leave the printer for a few minutes it starts displaying a slideshow of your pictures as a screensaver. I have also read that it can play back videos from your memory cards, but I have never tested this function.
I find it easier to use my finger to navigate the touch screen, but HP do supply a stylus with the printer. It can be stored in a nifty little slot next to the display so it doesn't get lost, but even if it does HP will replace it for free as long as the printer in under warranty.
The HP A626 takes up to paper size 5"x7". Hp recommend their own brand although I always use cheap self adhesive glossy paper bought from eBay and I genuinely can not tell the difference in quality.
As for ink it takes an HP Tri-Colour Inkjet 110 Ink cartridge. All 3 colours and the black ink are in the 1 cartridge.
They are available direct from www.hp.co.uk for £16 but I have seen them for sale in Curry's for £24 each.
I buy mine from amazon.com for around £13 each.
Installing the ink cartridge is so simple. There is a door on the front of the printer which pulls open. The cartridges have ridges on them so it is easy to reach in and pull the empty one out. The fresh cartridge just needs to have it's plastic wrapped pulled off then it is ready to push into place. You will know when it's in as it 'snaps' into place. I have had several printers and this is by far the simplest when it comes to changing ink.
I have owned an HP A626 since July and I have only needed to change the ink cartridge once. I would say I am a moderate user. When I first got the printer I was printing all my old pictures daily so I used the ink faster than the average user would. Now I've caught up on my album I only use the printer every now and then when I have a good batch of photos to print.
One problem I have just recently encountered is problems with the ink cartridge. As I mentioned, I don't print every week any more and the ink cartridge dried up and blocked the nozzles. I looked up the problem on HP technical support page and found instructions on cleaning the cartridge with water and cotton wool. Since then, I have had no problems so it must be simply a case of cleaning the ink. The printer has a self cleaning mode which HP recommends you use regularly to help stop clogged ink cartridges which I must confess, I never used before I had this problem.
One thing I haven't mentioned in detail is the quality of the prints. For me, the prints are as good as any other photo printer I have tried. I wont say they are as good as professional prints but they are not far off. I have framed several of my prints and they look fantastic on the shelf. There are no lines and the pictures are nice and clear and bright. I buy cheap, self adhesive paper from eBay but Hp recommended their own paper for better quality prints that last for many years.
The HP A626 is no longer available directly from HP as they have developed new models, however it can be purchased from www.amazon.co.uk for £98 and i have seen them in ebay shops for around £60.