Those lovely people at Hewlett-Packard really do make a big effort when it comes to writing driver software that works really smoothly with a Mac. Take the package that comes with the company's new budget-priced all-in-one device. Not only has the software been written to run on a Mac, but all the functions are controllable from the panel on the hardware or via a menu from a Mac.
The PSC 1610 follows on from the amazing success of HP 1300 series. These breadbin-sized devices sold by the skipload, and were the perfect companion for a Mac mini or an iMac. Here, you get a good-quality scanner, a photo-quality printer and a digital camera card reader. Oh... it also doubles as a black-andwhite or colour photocopier.
At the heart of the 1610 is HP's new Generation II inkjet technology. Completely redesigned cartridges with new formulations of ink offer the choice of colour and black cartridges, or you can replace the black ink with a photo cartridge to provide improved photo quality. The inks aren't cheap, but the cartridges do last - every time you replace one you get a new printhead built in.
The scanner is a Contact Image Senor type and has a resolution of 1,200x4,800dpi with 48-bit colour. It's more than adequate, and much quieter than the 1610's predecessors.
In terms of printing speed, a full-colour, borderless A4 photo takes a long ten minutes to complete. The photocopier makes mono or colour copies in around a minute and the quality of the copies is good, although the colours tend to be a little muted. It's an expensive way to make photocopies, it's best saved for an emergency copy.
Print quality in photo mode shows good colour fidelity, but there is a certain amount of banding where the paper is bent around the tortuous paper path. The 1610 also does a fair bit of image processing when printing direct from memory cards; purists may hate it, while most consumers will be happy with it.
Printing from cards is easy. Just stick a memory card in its corresponding slots and print off a proof sheet. Choose which images you want, how many copies, what size, then print.
As well as providing a minilab service, the 1610 has a few more tricks up its sleeve. You can scan in documents and turn them into PDFs, or you can convert documents into editable text with the supplied Readiris 9.
The level of customisation is impressive. You can opt to have the memory card slots feed your photos into iPhoto, or you can choose HP's Gallery software and create a Memory Disc, which showcases your photos and stores your pictures in an archive folder on a CD. Now that's what we call Mac-friendly. Mark Sparrow