HP Photosmart 3210 review
Low running costs and packed with features like network capability and transparency scanning. It also has the best scanner by far, with great print quality too
Review Date: 20 Apr 2006
Reviewed By: David Bayon
Price when reviewed: (£181 inc VAT)
While some all-in-ones offer great quality, some focus on speed and others pack in the features, a select few succeed in combining all three without compromise. Canon's Pixma MP500 is one example and HP continues its superb run of form with the Photosmart 3210.
As well as winning our recent inkjet Labs with the Photosmart 8450, HP took a Recommended award for the 8250. We praised its speed and quality, so we were pleased to find the same print engine in the 3210.
As you'll see, our continuous rundown test results in a price of less than 20p per 6 x 4in photo. As the engine recirculates ink when performing cleaning and maintenance cycles, HP claims it's more efficient than others with permanent print heads. This certainly proved true in our intermittent testing, with the 3210 managing as many prints under intermittent use as it did under our continuous rundown test, keeping the print cost to 20p no matter what.
Of course, economical running costs don't mean much if the print quality isn't up to scratch. Thankfully, the 3210 matched the 8250, although even this isn't quite at the same high standard as the Canon MP500. Text is black but slightly feathered around the edges and our monochrome test image took on a faint green cast. Other than that, though, we didn't see any weaknesses throughout our photo tests.
The five 6 x 4in prints were superbly reproduced at exactly the right saturation and tone, and the level of detail was excellent, with no visible grain or banding. The latter traits are only noticeable on the A4 photomontage if you peer up close. If printing is your main priority, the Canon has the edge, but the 3210 compensates in other ways.
The most noticeable of these is the quality of its scanner. Even though it uses a CIS sensor, both the copying and scanning tests were the best on test. The 3210 made three copies of our 6 x 4in photo in a little over six minutes and, although this is by no means the quickest, the reproductions were extremely close to the original and the level of detail was fantastic.
This was further emphasised in our scan tests. The scan of our 10 x 8in jewels image at 600ppi (along with the PSC 1510's) showed up tiny imperfections in the edges of some precious stones that every other scanner missed completely. If there's one complaint, it was that some scans were slightly overexposed, which is a simple problem to fix.
Scans are quick too, taking just 40 seconds to scan the jewels at 600ppi. Our 12 x 10in photo scanned at 300ppi in just 21 seconds, and copies of text documents were reproduced at a decent rate of 4ppm. Draft quality isn't a huge step down from Normal, so the impressive speed of 15ppm and copy rate of 10ppm could prove useful when top quality isn't essential.
Open up the 3210's lid and you'll find a transparency adaptor neatly folded and secured into place. There's no option to automatically separate out the frames on a strip of negatives, but we scanned the four photos on our test strip individually at 300ppi in just over five minutes. The resulting image detail was good, but the colour reproduction was poor compared to the Epson RX640 - you'll need to correct colours using the bundled HP Image Zone.
The Photosmart 3210 is unique this month by including an Ethernet port as standard, allowing it to be simply set up as a shared device without requiring a local PC to be switched on permanently. This also means you can share photos and videos from media cards or an attached camera using the EasyShare function. Note that there's no support for SmartMedia. However, we still like the intuitive 2.5in colour TFT, which makes it simple to use the 3210's standalone functions. In fact, the only feature missing is fax capabilities - for this, look at Dell's 964.
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