As inkjet technology has improved over the last couple of years, prices have fallen, and it's you, the consumer, who benefits most. In a market where you get what you pay for, we had been disappointed by earlier budget printers like the non-HP badged Apollo which didn't produce particularly good-quality prints.
So, we were pleasantly surprised when the DeskJet 840C was announced. Incorporating PhotoREt II, ColourSmart III, and both USB and parallel connectivity, you'd be forgiven for thinking the £99 price tag was a misprint. Amazingly enough, this is the right price, and judging by the print quality and speed, the 840C is certain to become a hit with those wanting a budget printer for home projects and school work.
Utilising the same compact case as the 895CXi, the 840C also benefits from its sturdy build quality. Another bonus is the ultra-quiet print engine, making the 840C suitable for just about any location. The only real difference is the changeable door, which comes in five additional colours so you can match your printer with the colour of your USB Mac.
In terms of hard figures, the 840C has a maximum resolution of 600 x 1200 dpi on photo paper, and HP claims it can churn out 8 ppm (pages per minute) in draft mono mode and up to 5 in colour. ColourSmart III, the same as that used throughout the 900 series, means that the 840C should produce bright, realistic colours and consistent colour matching.
As usual, there's no need for a special 'photo' colour cartridge, as photo quality printing uses the standard cartridge, saving you money and time switching cartridges. You will need Premium Glossy photo paper to get the best results, though, and this doesn't come too cheaply.
We put the 840C through its paces to find out if it could disprove our get-what-you-pay-for theory. In our mono speed tests we saw 2.2ppm - less than half the figure HP claims for this 'normal' mode. Printing a full A4 colour page in best mode resulted in 0.2ppm, exactly the same as the specifications state.
The print quality test strained the 840C a little, with a score of 77 per cent on plain paper. This is still a respectable score, especially considering the price of this machine. Text, as usual, was excellent, and the 840C was the first HP printer to score top marks in the reverse hairline test where tiny white lines are left in the middle of a solid black area.
Colour graphics let this printer down - they were noticeably grainy and there was some evidence of banding. Mono halftones looked good from a distance, but again, close up, images looked fuzzy. On glossy photo paper, even though photos weren't in the same league as the Deskjet 900 series, they could still be classed as photo-quality. Colours were accurate and vibrant, although halftones like skin were still slightly grainy.
This easy to use budget inkjet provides great print quality at an excellent price. It's not the fastest around, but can put more expensive printers to shame with its print quality on photo paper.