Epson and Canon have for some time been the undisputed kings of inkjet print quality. With HP’s new Photosmart C5380, though, this power balance looks ready to change. With excellent quality and few drawbacks, this multifunction is one of the best for its price and a great purchase for families.
Not much has changed aesthetically from the C5380’s predecessors. This unit bears the same gloss white fascia of HP’s other inkjet models, with a basic control scheme and a small colour LCD for PC-less functionality.
USB 2.0 is the only connectivity option. Still, the unit does offer an integrated memory card reader, with support for MemoryStick, SD, xD, CompactFlash cards as well as a secondary USB port for use with PictBridge-capable devices.
What the C5380 lacks in connectivity, it more than makes up for in print quality. We’ve had problems with the quality of previous HP inkjets like the Photosmart C6280, but the C5380 is a clear indicator of change in this regard. Text documents are very clear and readable, and are comparable in quality to similarly priced mono laser printers. Colour documents with graphical elements are even better, with clear text complemented by accurate and vibrant colours.
Photos have fantastic, vibrant colours, surpassing the output of Canon’s PIXMA MP610. The C5380 is one of the first mid-range inkjet printers we have come across that isn’t prone to any banding issues. The result is a brilliant quality photo, unmarred by the problems commonly associated with inkjet printers. The only slight niggle we had with the C5380’s quality was evidence of the print rollers’ track marks visible under direct light. Put simply, the C5380 offers the best print quality we have seen at such a low price point.
The C5380’s print speed is also very impressive. A draft quality text document will print at an average 20.6 pages per minute, with the first page out in 15.3 seconds, slowing to 10.9ppm at normal quality. Graphical documents are only slightly slower, with draft quality documents printing at 18.75ppm and normal quality documents at 6.3ppm. Photo printing speeds are somewhat slower: a standard 4x6in photo will print in 27sec, and an A4 photo at normal quality prints in 1min 14sec. Though these speeds aren’t the fastest we've seen, the C5380 prints faster on a more consistent basis than the Photosmart C6280.
The quality of CD/DVD printing is impressive. Quality is highly dependent on the printable media used, but the printer managed to turn out good quality CDs and DVDs. Colours aren’t as vibrant as photos produced by the printer, but detail levels are still fairly high. The media we used during testing was slightly prone to smudging in darker colours, but otherwise we were impressed with the results.
The accompanying software is excellent, thanks to an easy-to-follow process that guides the user through media choice, template design, photo and text editing and print options. There aren't comprehensive options — Canon’s proprietary software affords more room for photo and text customisation — but for most users this shouldn’t be a problem.
Despite this printer's quality, consumables are not overly expensive. With four high-capacity ink cartridges, printing will cost an average 19.9c per page; it isn’t the cheapest multifunction out there, but it won’t break the bank either.
The only real shortcoming of the C5380 is its scanning. Detail isn’t scarce at an optical resolution of 4800dpi — and this certainly helps highly detailed black and white scans — but scanned images are largely under-saturated, making images paler than their source. The C5380’s scanner can be annoying. Though the cover’s hinges can move slightly to allow scanning of thicker material, they are not adaptable enough to fit a thick book without risk of breaking.