Way back in the 1980s, when HP introduced its first DeskJet colour thermal inkjet printer, it came up with the idea of building the print heads into the cartridges and has stuck with the format almost exclusively ever since.
True to recent form, you can swap out the 'photo' cartridge of the 8050, which contains light cyan, light magenta and photo black inks, for a mono black cartridge, enabling you to get fast document printing and full six-ink photo printing from the same printer.
As a bit of a bonus, compared with many HP models, all three cartridges come as standard issue in the box when you buy the printer. Extras include a PictBridge port, multi-format card reader (including xD card support), optional Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in colour LCD, although it's a bit on the small side at just 1.8 inches.
The trade-off for built-in print heads is that running costs can work out expensive for the 8050, even if you manage to use inks from the tri-colour cartridges in exactly equal amounts. The average A4 photo page cost of £1.46 in ink is pretty high.
However, it's worth bearing in mind that print heads are difficult or impossible to change on some 'single ink' printers, so the HP can still be cost-effective in the long run.
In our tests, colour rendition was accurate, making the most of HP's latest generation of Vivera inks. Brightness and contrast were also pleasing, but overall image quality lacks a little of the lustre and gloss of prints from rival Canon and Epson printers.
All things considered, for a printer that combines photo printing and general document printing, we prefer the Canon iP4200, even though the Canon lacks direct photo printing facilities. Matthew Richards