Size matters. Especially when you’re talking of good things in small packages.
All of 9.9x4.6x5.2”, this compact, portable, sub-1.5kg, thermal inkjet colour photo printer is not much brawn but has lots of brains. Click a photograph with your cellphone, switch on the printer—even if it’s not hooked to a PC—and simply Bluetooth the picture for a print. Just like that. Else, stick a memory stick or card (from your camera or mobile) carrying your photos into the A626 and print what you want. Right then, right there. Again, no PC required within miles.
The A626 is a dedicated photo printer that boasts of a 4.8” touch-sensitive screen interface, which also acts as a picture preview window. You can use your fingertips—or the accompanying stylus pen—to operate the printer as well as edit, crop, zoom or add special effects to pictures via the touch screen. Capable of printing colour 4,800x1,200dpi resolutions, it comes with 64 megabytes of installed RAM (which is also its maximum). A built-in carrying handle and an optional internal battery enhance its portability.
In terms of media handling, the A626 can cope with 4x6, 4x6.5 , 4x8, 5x7” and 4x12” (panorama) photo paper to deliver borderless prints. The flip-open input and output trays of this sheet-fed device have an optimum capacity of 20 sheets each.
For direct printing from a USB connected PC, it uses PictBridge and PCL 3 language simulation and is compatible with Vista/XP flavours of Windows and MacOS X.
If you don’t want to hook the A626 to a PC, so be it. Like we said, pop the memory card out of your phone or camera and plop it into the printer’s memory slots, using the touch screen interface to select, edit and print what you want. Apart from a memory stick, supported cards include a MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card, SmartMedia Card, XD-Picture Card, Memory Stick Pro, CompactFlash Card type I, and CompactFlash Card type II. As far as expansion and connectivity goes, it has one USB port and is Bluetooth aware.
On print quality, the A626’s output is colour-rich, crisp, bright and thoroughly professional. The overall quality is good, but not spectacular. Worth commending is its uncanny prowess of making puny 2 megapixel phone camera photos look excellent. The HP Vivera produces lab-quality photos that claim “superior smudge and smear resistance” while offering “long-lasting fade resistance” at the same time. In its operation, the printer is so amazingly easy to use that you need to be a real bumble bee to botch things up. All basic photo editing and picture enhancing abilities are built-in. You can personalize photos using a library of more than 200 creative elements including clip art graphics, frames and pre-designed album pages.
On the downside, the A626’s output is a shade darker than the original photo you feed it. The printer employs a cyan-magenta-yellow HP 110 Tri-color cartridge and its blacks are not pure, inky black. It’s a mite slow at nearly a minute-and-a-half per print.
It could have been less flimsy; however, using heavier duty materials would have made the printer a bulkier luggage.
A cartridge costs Rs800, and, according to HP, lasts 75-80 prints. This number would depend on the kind of pictures you are printing. The dominance of one colour tone in a number of photos will obviously affect the final count of good quality prints. In our tests—which predominantly comprised photos of darker hues—it took about 55-60 prints for the inks to show any signs of depletion.
Is the A626 worth it? Yes, it is. Whether you’re a trigger-happy shoot-at-sight shutterbug, designated (unofficial) enshriner of family occasions and events or a nimble cellphone lensman always looking to capture cheesy moments, the A626 is one of the best on-demand, any time photo printing solutions around. Consider it seriously if you’re serious about fun.
It may not be as inexpensive as your friendly photo lab, but the sheer convenience of being able to print professional-looking photographs at will without trudging all the way to a lab to immortalize your memories overrides that, doesn’t it?