HP’s Photosmart Pro B8850 Inkjet Printer; A (More) Affordable Pigment-Ink Option Page 2

Printing from Photoshop CS3 the drivers are smart enough to know what color management settings you've selected. If Photoshop managed color is chosen in the Print dialog, the print driver will automatically select Application Managed and prevent you from performing double color management (#7). You can also add custom paper types through the print driver, which will automatically select the correct black (matte or photo) and print head height depending on the media type you select. I did some testing of existing custom profiles I created for the B9180 and found that results were identical on both printers.


If you're still using Photoshop CS2, the included plug-in (#8) greatly simplifies the printing process by integrating all color management and paper selection options into a single window.


The B8850 will run a diagnostic check every 24 hours. Unlike the B9180, which must be left on for this, the B8850 is Energy Star compliant. If the printer is plugged in, the check will be run without having to leave the printer powered on. If any clogged nozzles are found, those will be cleaned or remapped to extra nozzles on the print head. This approach saves a great deal of ink over the clean-them-all approach taken by other manufacturers. Further ink savings are realized by not having to swap out matte and photo black inks.

Any problems that occur during printing or diagnostics will start up the HP Message Center (#9) to help you figure out the problem in plain language.


Media Options
One of the big advantages of pigment inks is the ability to print on almost any surface that you can feed through the printer. With the exception of swellable surface papers designed specifically for dye inks, the B8850 prints well on photo and fine art papers as well as canvas. HP has Hahnemühle Photo Rag and Watercolor papers along with Canvas, Textured Fine Art, and both satin and luster finish photo papers. I also printed with a number of third-party papers, including some of the new fiber papers from Ilford, Hahnemühle, and Harman with excellent results when combined with my own profiles.

Print Quality
I've been very happy with the output from the B9180, so it's no surprise that the B8850 gave me good results as well. Color prints, especially on the satin and the new fiber-based papers are excellent with very good color saturation and smooth gradations in areas like the sky. Skin tones reproduce very well. The Harman FB Gloss and Hahnemühle Baryta in particular showed excellent tonal range with deep blacks and rich colors.

Black and white prints on fine art papers such as HP's own Smooth Fine Art, and Inkpress Rag is also excellent with very neutral prints, especially when printing with gray inks only. On gloss and satin papers, I'm less happy with black and white as there is visible bronzing on the prints. Since I rarely print black and white on this type of media it's not an issue for me, but if this is your thing you might want to see a test print to decide if it's acceptable for your needs.


At $549, the B8850 is a great value for the money. Unless you need the networking features of the B9180, or the ability to feed heavy card stock, you can get the same image quality for significantly less money. Compared to the Epson 2400 and Canon Pro9500, the HP is an outstanding value and should be at the top of your list if you're in the market for a 13" printer.

For more information, contact Hewlett-Packard Company, 3000 Hanover St., Palo Alto, CA 94304; (800) 752-0900; www.hp.com.

· Windows XP (32 and 64), XP Media Center, or Vista (32 and 64)
· Macintosh OS 10.3.9 or later
· USB port
· CD drive to install software

Jon Canfield is the author of several books on digital imaging and printing. A popular instructor at BetterPhoto.com, Canfield also teaches workshops for the Panasonic Digital Photo Academy (www.digitalphotoacademy.com).

You can reach Canfield via e-mail at: jon@joncanfield.com.