The HP Photosmart C4280 is a low-cost, entry-level photo all-in-one printer that offers very basic features, variable task speeds, and mediocre print quality. We found the feature limitations frustrating, even for a $100 printer; other similarly priced all-in-one printers offer a broader set of features. For the same $100, you can get an all-in-one that offers a lot more features and faster speeds. We really like the Canon Pixma MP460--though it costs about $30 more, you get way more bang for your buck.
The HP Photosmart C4280's design is minimalist. The white-and-gray body is boxy and measures 17.1 inches wide by 11.4 inches deep by 6.4 inches tall. The scanner lid conceals an A4-size flatbed scanner. The front flap folds open to serve as the input and output trays. Paper guides corral the input sheets, and the printed pages simply fall out on top of the input tray paper. An extension arm folds out from the tray to catch the printed sheets as they're ejected from the printer. Because there's only one input tray, you'll have to swap out the media if you want to print on a different type of paper.
Four memory-card slots grace the front of the printer, but the C4280 lacks PictBridge-enabled USB ports. The control panel comprises a simple row of buttons, a small 1.5-inch preview LCD, and a little icon panel. The first set of buttons lets you change copy quality, size, and the number of copies (one to nine copies). The second set of buttons initiates scan, color copy, or mono copy tasks. The control panel is almost too simple, as it limits the number of things you can do in standalone mode (see the Features section). The preview LCD is embedded in the control panel and isn't adjustable, so you may find yourself stretching to catch a good angle.
The Photosmart C4280 uses a two-tank system. For regular printing, you use the black-only cartridge and a tricolor cartridge. When printing photos, you can swap out the black cartridge for a second tricolor photo cartridge for six-color photo prints. Both the black and tricolor cartridges are offered in standard and high-capacity (XL) versions. The standard black costs $15 and is estimated to produce 200 pages, for a per-page cost of 7.5 cents. The XL version costs $30 and prints about 750 pages, at 4 cents per page. The regular color cartridge costs $18 and prints roughly 170 pages for a per-page cost of 18.1 cents for full color (tricolor plus black). The XL color cartridge costs $35 for 520 pages, or 10.7 cents per page. Obviously, if you print even somewhat regularly, you should opt for the XL versions. The XL costs are reasonable for a printer at this price point.
The Photosmart C4280 offers very basic features for an all-in-one printer. When printing photos from a memory card, your only option is to step through the contents of your card manually to choose images. You can't do a select-all or sort by date range, nor can you edit the photos. You can change the image quality (from one star to three stars), choose the borderless option, and change the number of copies (up to nine). We noticed that the preview LCD can be slow to display the next image as you're clicking through, which was mildly frustrating. The screen's small size also makes the preview images difficult to see, which could annoy you when trying to pick the better of two versions of the same picture before printing. Comparably priced all-in-one photo printers like the Canon Pixma MP180 and the Lexmark X5470 offer the ability to print scannable proof sheets that make batch printing a cinch.
When photocopying, you can, again, change the output quality and make up to nine copies. When it comes to resizing, your options are limited to original size, resizing to fit the intended paper, and borderless copy. You can't scale manually or make image-repeat or N-up copies. If you're scanning documents or images, you can initiate them from your PC or the printer itself. When doing the latter, the HP Photosmart Essential software pops up. Here, you can edit the picture in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, there's no way to convert the file to a different format (it's automatically saved as a GIF). You can, however, share the photo or document from the HP software.
The HP Photosmart C4280's task speeds range from very slow to quick. It made fast work of text prints, scoring 5.94 pages per minute. Of the comparably priced competitors, only the Lexmark X5470 beat it, with a score of 6.9ppm. The HP was the slowest of the bunch with color graphics prints, but not by much at 1.50ppm. It printed 4x6 photos at a rate of 0.67ppm, in line with the Lexmark but twice as slow as the two Canon printers. Scans are where it really dragged: 4.46ppm for grayscale and 1.76ppm for color. The Lexmark and both Canons scored faster than 5ppm for color scans.