HP proudly announces that the Photosmart 8250 is capable of printing a 4" x 6" photo in 14 seconds. That's true, but obviously not at maximum resolution, nor on the best paper. Even so, the results are excellent. An A4 photo took 2 minutes 35 seconds to print, which puts the HP close to Canon, which had a big lead in this particular area. But do note that that speed won't be achieved under all conditions.
One of the particularities of HP was using a specific, "absorbent" paper, whereas the competition used microporous paper. This kind of paper allows for faster printing because the ink sets into the paper faster. Absorbent paper, on the other hand, results in photos with a longer life span - more than 100 years, HP claims (be sure and check back with us on that in December 2105...). The Photosmart 8250 can use both types of paper. So you can go for speed (which is what we did for our tests) or longevity in your photos.
Of course, it's not easy for the user to tell if paper is of the absorbent or microporous type. But here again, HP has made things easier. HP papers now have a miniature bar code on the reverse side that lets the printer automatically determine the type of paper via a sensor. This is a smart move on the part of HP, because even if using separate ink cartridges does entail more risk of generic cartridges from third parties appearing, HP is making up for it by encouraging users to buy their paper, which gives them a better profit margin.
Finally, regarding text, the Photosmart carries on the tradition of preceding models by being very fast in draft mode, and it offering print quality that at least equals the quality of normal mode on the competition's printers.
The print quality of the Photosmart 8250 is excellent. The use of six colors results in almost perfect rendering of the lightest colors. We did find that, despite their name, the Vivera inks are a little less brilliant than Canon's inks. So the Photosmart 8250's prints will appeal more to people who prefer matte prints to glossy ones. Black and white, on the other hand, was slightly inferior to what other HP printers can do, since they have the possibility of using a gray photo cartridge dedicated to black-and-white printing.
Cost Per Page
Aside from speed, the area where HP has made the most progress through the use of separate cartridges is cost per page. The tanks have enough capacity to bring the cost to below 30 cents for a 4" x 6" photo, exactly the same cost range as Canon's Pixma iP4200 and iP5200 offer. HP fans must be very pleased.
For a first attempt, this printer is a stroke of genius. Of course, the Photosmart 8250 is fairly bulky and the print quality, especially in text mode, could stand some improvement. But HP has come up with a product with excellent quality that can easily rival Canon and Epson in terms of speed, while offering additional innovative functions that will appeal to consumers who aren't attracted to the conservatism of Canon products.