Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.Our HP Photosmart 245 came with an optional carrying case that looks like a camera bag (sold separately for $35). The bag holds the printer itself--a compact, little rectangle measuring 8.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches high by 3.5 inches deep and weighing less than 3 pounds--with room left over for extra ink cartridges, photo paper, and the included AC power adapter. (A DC car adapter is sold sold separately for $40.) We only wish that the Photosmart 245 could run on a battery, as does the much more expensive Canon CP-300.
The Photosmart 245's output tray sits on top of the input tray, but there's also a slot in the back of the printer to provide a straight-through paper path for stiff paper stock. The front panel of the printer folds out to reveal an input tray and an array of slots for digital media. The Photosmart 245 will print directly from CompactFlash I and II, MultiMediaCards, Secure Digital, SmartMedia, Sony Memory Sticks, and xD-Picture Cards. You can also print from your PC or an HP Direct Print digital camera. On the very top of the HP Photosmart 245, you'll find a 1.8-inch color LCD and an easy-to-use control panel. The buttons manipulate and print digital images from digital media or your digital camera. On the LCD, scroll through up to 2,000 images, select 1 or more, and either print it as is by pressing the print button or make adjustments, such as changing the number of copies, cropping the photo, adjusting the brightness, or adding frames. The printer holds 20 sheets (about average) of 4x6, A6, Hagaki, or L-size photo paper.
The Photosmart 245 comes with HP's standard photo-printer software package, which includes HP Director. Director lets you access and use all of your devices--such as scanners, digital cameras, and printers--through one interface. You'll also get the HP Photo and Imaging Gallery software, which creates albums, e-mails photos, scans them if you have a scanner, and provides some basic editing tools, such as those for cropping, resizing, and rotating images. The HP Memories Disc software saves images to a disc in slide-show, album, or archive format and also creates index pages and jewel-case inserts.
The Photosmart 245 drivers are easy to use, and they are oriented toward fine-tuning photos. A more advanced driver function called HP Digital Photography, for example, offers a series of photo-related tweaking options, such as red-eye removal, digital flash, smart focus, and smoothing. The HP Photosmart 245 is fast but not exceptionally so. It printed a test 4x6-inch photo at 2.4 minutes per page (mpp). While this was faster than its sibling, the HP Photosmart 145, the HP Photosmart 245 was much slower than the 1.5mpp obtained from the Canon CP-300.
The Photosmart 245 did a very good job printing our complex test-photo document. The skin-tone elements were lifelike, colors were vibrant, and the printer handled tricky juxtapositions easily. However, we saw some dithering in skin tones and elsewhere in the document, so the results fell slightly short of being the best photos we've seen lately. We think that the slight drop in quality is due in part to the Photosmart 245's three-color inkjet technology--something we haven't seen in years. This printer holds only one ink cartridge at a time: either a tricolor cartridge with cyan, magenta, and yellow inks or an HP Photo Gray cartridge (for black-and-white-photo printing). Any blacks in your color photos will be a composite of all available colors if you're using a tricolor cartridge. Luckily, because the Photosmart 245 prints only photos, the composite nature of the black is not discernable to the unaided eye. Ink can be purchased from HP's Web site at $35 for a color cartridge and $25 for the HP Photo Gray cartridge.
Inkjet color-photo speed test (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Minutes per page.|
|Color-photo printer quality|