Space-saving, quality output from this combined fax, printer and scanner.
Think multifunction device and the first name that springs to mind will probably be Hewlett Packard. The company has a long history of producing these products for the home or small office, but while functionality and performance have never been too much cause for complaint, they've never been all that attractive. This latest addition to the range is no exception, looking like an overstuffed pillow with paper trays.
In its favour, a lot of thought has obviously gone into the control panel layout, with buttons grouped by function so you immediately know where to look for faxing, scanning or copying. It's not all that large, either, especially if you compare it to the amount of desk space you need to house separate devices for each function.
HP has a reputation for well-written drivers, and it's bucking no trends here. Once installed, you need only drop a page into the unit's feeder and a menu pops up on screen. You then simply pick the function you want.
Connection is by USB or parallel cable, but if it's not hooked up or your PC is turned off, fear not - each function is duplicated on the hardware itself. The two-line display is home to a surprisingly effective menu system that pretty much duplicates the software driver.
For your £400 you get 100 speed dials split across 10 buttons, and a 20-page document feeder for unattended faxing. It's top dog as far as faxing speed is concerned, shifting an average page in just three seconds.
It has colour faxing capabilities, compatible with international standards, and if you're wondering what the point would be when you don't know anyone with a colour machine to receive one, just remember that people once said the same thing about the phone. If you run dry of paper or ink over the weekend, there's a 100-page memory to capture incoming faxes that will be printed when you next refill.
The scanner is a sheet-fed device, so you won't be able to copy books, but it has a respectable 600 x 1200dpi optical resolution that can be upped to 600 x 3600dpi through interpolation. TWAIN compliant, it can also make use of the 20-sheet fax input feeder - great for archiving documents.
It's internet ready, which in HP terms means it can work as an email device without you even touching the PC. Once you register the product with ShareMedia, it's given its own email address, so you can scan straight to someone else's email inbox and receive incoming messages just like a fax. Currently available in 15 European countries, as well as in Canada and the US, this is a far from proprietary standard.
It's not unusual for a software driver to let you scan to an application, but with the K80 you can also do this from the hardware button panel. Scroll through the apps it understands, and when you get to the one you want, it will be launched on the PC, ready for the incoming image. It has a range of pre-defined scan settings to cater for photos, editable text, text as an image or mixed content. Perhaps a little strangely, though, mixed content scans at 300dpi in 24bit colour, while photos default to the same bit rate but a resolution of only 150dpi.
The scanner can be used for colour or monochrome copying, with the option to scale the output to between 25 and 400 per cent.
So that's what it does, but how well does it do it? We used our standard test documents and overall were rather impressed. Our A4 photograph was completed at high quality on photo paper in 5 minutes 18 seconds, and the output was first class.
Skin tones were realistic and there were smooth transitions between tonal variations. Moreover, where dark colours bordered lighter ink there was no undesirable bleeding. It produced a batch of business letters at a rate of one page every 13 seconds and on photocopy paper the quality was excellent, with crisp, sharp characters and no evidence of bleeding, even on small dense characters.
It also coped admirably with a range of PowerPoint slides - printing them as handouts, with three foils to each sheet of inkjet paper.
Colours were well rendered with no feathering around the edges. Time to completion for 12 slides was 2 minutes 21 seconds. In all, the K80 has a good eye for colour, and when it came to copying a promotional brochure, the output was a good match for the original.
It was on vector graphics that the K80 really excelled, though, with bright, vibrant colours, good scaling and smooth colour transitions, so it should be good for business documents that include graphs and charts.
If you're in the process of setting up a home office, an all-in-one device makes good sense, combining the functionality of a fax, scanner, copier and printer in one handy unit. The K80 takes up less space than any two of these items would as separate units, and by lumping them all together like this you're not forced to compromise on quality. Do bear in mind, though, that when you're putting all your eggs in one basket like this, if just one part goes, all four machines are out of action until you get it fixed.
Hewlett Packard 08705 47 47 47; www.hp.com/uk/
A well-rounded machine for the smaller office.
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