HP's Photosmart C6280 is a capable multi-function solution designed primarily for families. While this multi-function boasts a number of features that facilitate use around the home, it also suffers from inconsistent quality.
The unit has a multi-card reader capable of reading CompactFlash, SD, MMC, XD and MemoryStick. A lack of an extra USB connection prohibits users from plugging in PictBridge-capable digital cameras and mobile phones, though this shouldn't be too much of an issue.
The presence of an Ethernet port allows the printer to be shared on a home network. There are also quite a few PC-less features, such as photo reprinting and direct scanning. A 'Scan to' allows users to choose which computer to scan to over a network or local connection. Given the C6280's position in HP's range, we were surprised to find no direct CD/DVD label printing option.
Printing speeds were adequate. Using the 'fast draft' quality setting, the C6280 managed to print normal text documents at 20 pages per minute, slightly faster than the business-focused Officejet J6480 All-in-One . This speed slowed to 6.8ppm at normal quality; an average speed in the mid-range multi-function market. Text documents with graphical elements slowed slightly at normal quality, managing 4ppm. These speeds indicate that the multi-function has an average print speed and should meet the requirements of most families and home users.
We weren't overly impressed with printing quality. Text was fairly unclear at all quality settings when printed on a white background. This improved somewhat when printing text with graphical elements, though this may be because of the text's imperfections being masked by a colour background. While the C6280 isn't necessarily designated for text printing, a printer designed for the home should be able to print decent quality text documents for use at work or school.
Quality and speed were both quite inconsistent during our photo printing tests. On normal quality setting, 4x6in photos printed in 1min12sec, whereas best quality 4x6in photos actually printed faster, averaging 50sec. Banding and odd contrast results appeared inconsistently, mainly when using the C6280's PC-less printing feature or when printing at normal quality.
When printing from the computer at best quality, results were significantly better. In 4x6in photos, lines were distinct and blacks quite defined. There was no sign of banding, though reds seemed a little indistinct, causing flesh tones to be slightly unrealistic. Unfortunately, when printing A4 photos the C6280 loses quite a bit of black definition, and the overall picture is much more washed-out than 4x6in photos. A4 photos exaggerate this printer's shortcomings, and the quality in 4x6in photos should suffice for the average user.
Scanning quality was adequate. Our scanning tests revealed that the C6280 managed to produce an image with balanced colour. In comparison to the Canon PIXMA MP970, the C6280 didn't possess the same vibrancy but managed to produce a greater amount of detail as a result. The ability to scan up to a resolution of 4800dpi allows the C6280 to scan images at a reasonably high quality.
The C6280 manages a cost per page of 30c, which is cheap enough for common usage. When compared to the 32.8c/page of the Officejet J6480 All-in-One , it is clear that the C6280 and its six-ink system doesn't necessarily provide too much in the way of cost savings. Nevertheless, when consumable costs are an important factor in the decision, the C6280's cheaper running costs are an advantage.