Four tiers of buttons on the HP PSC 1610 cover standalone tasks, so you can print photos or proofs from your digital camera or media cards, scan, and make reductions or enlargements to color or black-and-white copies. In front of the machine, the media card slots and the PictBridge port, which plug into enabled digital cameras, are helpfully labeled.
The flatbed scanner lid easily disengages from its hinges in case you want to scan books, photo albums, or thick magazines. Pull it up below the front of the lid to reach the ink cartridges. The 1610 holds two cartridges at a time, and though they slide in and out of the machine stiffly, you don't have to open levers or push buttons to access them. You'll have to buy your own photo ink and swap it out with the black tank when you print photos, an annoying yet common hassle on all-in-ones lately.
At its base, the 1610's paper tray holds 100 sheets of incoming paper and 50 sheets of completed prints. However, as the two trays are really just one tray divided by two plastic separators and an extender, you should empty the output frequently to avoid paper jams. You can adjust the input tray to fit 10 envelopes, postcards, or label sheets or 15 transparencies or sheets of photo paper, but all media travels through the same curved paper path. The rear clean-out cover in the back opens for paper jams only, so as with other cheap inkjets, you'll have to live without the straight exit path that would prevent unusual media from bending.The HP PSC 1610 all-in-one comes with most features that home users desire in a do-it-all photo machine, minus one: you can't preview images on its text LCD. Still, you can use this printer without a computer for some functions: just lift the lid and drop a document onto the 8.5-by-11.7-inch glass bed to make photocopies or to scan images at 1,200x4,800dpi to a memory card. Sans your PC, you can also print from PictBridge or HP digital cameras or straight from digital cards, including CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Secure Digital, and xD.
The HP 1610 hooks up to Mac OS 9.1 and up and works with Windows 98 through XP. It took us less than 10 minutes, using Windows XP, to load the drivers and the software. You can choose between two installation types: Full, which loads 780MB worth of programs on your hard drive, and Express, which demands 365MB. If you already have photo organizing or editing software and don't want to load the 266MB ImageZone, you can't reject this program without also giving up the OCR (optical character recognition) scanning software--though you can uninstall ImageZone later.
If you're using a computer with the 1610, just plug in your camera card or cable to summon ImageZone to enhance the powers of the 1610: you can even use it to transform your images into stickers, posters, calendars, iron-on transfers, and more once you buy the creative materials. If you're online, you can send photos to friends through HP's Instant Share e-mail program--but you might prefer to use a personal e-mail program than to bother with HP's cluttered, self-promotional template.
For printing and copying, the HP 1610 comes with one black and one three-color ink cartridge, but you'll have to buy your own photo tank for $24.99. Color ink estimated to last 260 pages costs the same, and a black cartridge for 450 text pages runs $19.99. According to these numbers, the price of an 8x10 page is 4 cents for black and nearly 10 cents for color, more than the vendor estimates for, say, the penny-per-page black and 2-cents-per-page color of the Canon MP780, which uses individual inks. You can also buy a pair of tricolor HP cartridges for $79.99 with 280 sheets of 4x6 photo paper, which the company estimates will average about 29 cents per snapshot.For its affordable price, no one should expect the HP PSC 1610 all-in-one to be a speed demon, and it's not. On text, the HP 1610 printed a below-average 4.79 pages per minute (ppm), quite behind the Dell 962's nimble 7.46ppm. The 1610 printed out an 8x10 photo at the rate of 0.29ppm, or one every 3.45 minutes, faster than the Dell 962, but by no means quick. The HP 1610's scanning speed was lethargic, ditto for its copying pace.