Review: HP Photosmart D7360

By Eric Grevstad | Posted December 08, 2006

It's too big to carry to be portable and it doesn't run on battery power, but otherwise the HP Photosmart D7360 can compete with those miniature inkjets that let you print 4- by 6-inch glossies of your digital-camera images as quickly as we used to watch Polaroid pictures develop.

No, the D7360 doesn't live up to HP's boast of printing a 4- by 6-inch photo in as little as 12 seconds. Our test unit's fastest prints took 50 seconds a piece, oddly defaulting to high quality even when we tried to specify its Fast Draft mode for printing from its photo-paper tray — and you wouldn't like draft-mode images anyway, judging from the pale, banded drafts we saw on letter-sized stock.

But the $200 (often discounted to $180 or $160) inkjet does a deft job of doubling as a photo printer and general-purpose model, offering good performance and sharp output in the latter mode and some appealing features in the former — led by a handy 3.4-inch touch-screen interface for PC-free printing of images from PictBridge cameras or their flash-memory cards.

Snap in a Six-Pack
Lifting the HP's 18- by 20- by 9-inch lid reveals six sockets for color-coded, easy-to-install ink cartridges — black, yellow, cyan, magenta, light cyan and light magenta, labeled with geometric shapes so you could be colorblind and still put each cartridge in its proper slot.

Replacements for the black cartridge cost $18 and last for roughly 480 pages; the quintet of color cartridges sell for $10 apiece with varying estimated life expectancies — 350 pages for cyan and magenta, 240 for their lighter sibling, and 490 for yellow.

Cutting those prices in half, HP offers photo buffs a $36 combo pack of six cartridges and 150 sheets of its 4- by 6-inch Advanced Photo Paper, which comes out to 24 cents per print. The glossy Advanced paper is perfectly fine for most snapshots but in fact only HP's third-best photo stock; 100 sheets of its best Premium Plus borderless 4- by 6-inch paper cost $22 to Advanced's $13.

The printer connects to your PC via a USB 2.0 cable (not included); a second, front-mounted USB port handles image transfers from PictBridge cameras or USB flash drives. You'll find slots for CompactFlash, xD, Memory Stick, and SD/MMC memory cards under a clear plastic lid at the top right side of the printer.

Be Your Own Drugstore Developer
You can peruse and preview photos on the HP's 3.4-inch-diagonal color touch screen, whose default display offers View & Print, Save, Share and Settings buttons plus miniature ink-level gauges. Pressing Save lets you transfer images to your PC's hard disk, while the Share function lets you select photos, and then e-mail notices to friends or family that they're viewable at HP's Snapfish online service.

The Settings menu offers both a variety of paper-size, display-language and other defaults and a help function with LCD slide shows and instructions for installing cartridges or paper or clearing paper jams. (We experienced none of the latter, unless you count the D7360 once pulling three sheets of paper instead of one from the input tray.)

Buttons below the LCD guide you through simple image-editing functions. Rookies can opt for a step-by-step wizard that steers you through selecting photos and page layouts (such as two 5- by 7-inch prints on 8.5- by 11-inch paper). Zoom and Rotate buttons help you zero in on an area to print or, in a slightly awkward button-pushing sequence, crop. A Photo Fix button applies red-eye, contrast, and brightness correction, while LCD menus let you adjust brightness manually, choose a sepia or monochrome finish, or frame a photo with a strictly-for-kiddies border (choices include circus animals and birthday balloons).

The D7360's front-mounted input tray holds up to 100 facedown sheets, which perform a tight U-turn inside the printer to exit face up onto a pullout catch tray. Between the two trays you'll find a dedicated tray for up to 20 sheets of up to 4- by 6-inch photo paper, so you don't always have to swap media when you switch between word processing documents and photos. A clear plastic window shows you when you've run out of photo paper, though you must wait for an LCD- and PC-screen pop-up to notify you when the main tray has run dry.

HP's software driver lets you choose among or create your own shortcut settings or combinations of options for print quality and paper type, specifying either or both or letting the printer default to its automatic settings. The driver doesn't support watermarks, but provides for booklet, N-up and (manually reinserting pages) double-sided printing.

Shutterbugs can specify zero, medium- or full-strength application of what HP calls Real Life Technologies — the automated exposure balancing and other fixes mentioned above — while desktop publishers can choose between the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces

The driver isn't the only software that gets installed on your PC: HP provides no fewer than three image-editing and -managing programs dubbed Photosmart Express, Photosmart Essential and Photosmart Premier, respectively. The trio forms a sort of baby-bear, mama-bear and papa-bear climb in sophistication, from Express's handful of hand-holding wizards through Premier's combination of manual editing options and tools for organizing, sorting and assigning keywords to images in different folders on your PC. Families will find a screen-full of project templates for creating calendars, greeting cards, CD labels and so on.

Skip To the Good Stuff
Like other HP inkjets we've tested, the D7360 provides four print-quality choices: Fast Draft, Fast Normal, Normal and Best. (A fifth uses the printer's maximum resolution — equivalent 4,800 by 1,200 dpi tweaking of its 1,200 by 1,200 physical dpi — to print photos more slowly, and without noticeable improvement, over the Best setting.) We found speed and quality differences between Fast Normal and Normal Normal to be small enough that we stuck with the latter.


HP Photosmart D7360
The HP Photosmart D7360

Like every inkjet we've tested, the HP fell short of its advertised top speed of 32 and 31 pages per minute for black and color text, respectively. In Fast Draft mode using plain (copier) paper, the printer produced our one-page letter with spot-color company logo in 11 seconds; a six-page Adobe Acrobat excerpt in 35 seconds; and our 20-page Word document in one minute and 31 seconds. All were perfectly readable, with moderately banded solid-color areas, but some text lines were slightly stretched or squished.

Switching to Normal mode took 16 seconds for our letter and 95 seconds for the six PDF pages; text was darker while graphics showed somewhat less banding. Best mode text was darker still (27 seconds for the letter and just over four minutes for the half-dozen Acrobat pages), but some characters had tiny but noticeable blots and blurs. In other words, the D7360 and cheap paper make a bad match.

With coated inkjet paper, however, print quality increased considerably. Our one-page letter took 23 seconds and looked very good in Normal mode; Best mode took six seconds longer but showed what might as well be color-laser-printer clarity. Our six-page PDF took two minutes and 22 seconds and was also very good in Normal mode; Best mode made us wait three minutes and 50 seconds but the result was gorgeous.

Normal-mode, 8- by 10-inch prints of our digital-camera images took about 50 seconds and were refrigerator- if not wall-worthy on inkjet paper; the combination of inkjet stock and Best mode wasn't better enough to justify its more than doubled time.

Of course the Photosmart was built to print Best-mode photos on glossy photo paper. Our 8- by 10-inch prints took roughly four minutes, with 4- by 6-inch photos finished in less than a minute when printing from the PC but closer to two minutes printing from a flash card via the front-panel controls. All looked terrific, with rich, deep color and fine detail — especially, as with most inkjet photos, when allowed to dry for a day or two rather than grabbed and passed around piping hot from the printer.

You can easily find an inkjet printer that costs less than the Photosmart D7360, and with a little research you can find one that's a better workhorse with plain paper. Presumably, however, if you don't balk at paying $200 for an inkjet, you won't scrimp on proper inkjet and photo media. And under those terms, the HP is a first-class choice for documents and presentations as well as photos.

Adapted from hardwarecentral.com.

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