This fast inkjet turns out excellent 13x19-inch color and B&W prints
By Mike Stensvold
Being impatient by both nature and design, I’ve tended not to make many large inkjet prints of my photos. Waiting 15 minutes or longer for a print to finish isn't my idea of fun. I mean, shoot, I can just about make a print in the darkroom in that amount of time, and digital imaging is supposed to be now. But today’s large-format inkjets are a lot faster than my old ones. Enter the HP Photosmart Pro B9180.
The specs for the B9180 claim this eight-color inkjet can produce a 13x19-inch photo print in as little as 1.5 minutes. Now, inkjet users have learned to take manufacturers' printing times with a shaker of salt, as they often apply to draft quality, not high-quality photo output. So I was a tad skeptical when the B9180 materialized in my office to test.
After installing the printer, inks, print heads and software (a procedure that takes some time), I opened an image in Photoshop, sized it to 12x18 inches, opened the HP Photosmart Photoshop plug-in, selected the desired parameters in the driver window (including Best image quality), and stopwatch in hand, clicked the Print button.
My 12x18 image on 13x19 paper (of a hummingbird feeding at a flower) took 5 minutes, 57 seconds from click to finished print (5:29 from printer start to finished print). Not the 66/50 seconds the same hummer image took in FastDraft mode, but quick for a true photo-quality 13x19-inch print.
Speed doesn’t mean much if the prints don’t look good, of course. The Best-quality-mode hummer print looked great, as did Best-quality test prints of a variety of subjects in both color and black-and-white. The eight HP Vivera pigment-based inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta, gray, matte black and photo black, each in its own tank) produced rich, accurate colors and gray tones, and are rated to offer fade resistance for more than 200 years (when printed on appropriate HP media and displayed under glass).
The price of large-format inkjet printers continues to drop even as the image quality continues to get better and better. The HP Photosmart Pro B9180 delivers excellent prints and it turns them out quickly.
The B9180 can print on a wide range of media up to 1.5mm thick via a main tray that holds up to 25 sheets of photo paper or 150 sheets of plain paper, or a single-sheet specialty-media tray with a straight-through path. Both trays will accept media from 3.5x5 to 13x19 inches.
HP provided a sampler of media, including HP Advanced Photo Paper, HP Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, HP Hahnemuhle Watercolor Paper, HP Artist Matte Canvas and my favorite, HP Aquarella Art Paper, which gave just the right feel to abstract black-and-white images. Color and black-and-white prints looked great on all papers tested.
The HP Photosmart Pro B9180 has a number of other quality features, including closed-loop calibration to maintain color from print session to print session, and electrostatic drop-weight detection to automatically detect and compensate for a blocked nozzle (you can read more about the features on the HP website). It all adds up to a printer that produces excellent, long-lasting prints very quickly. Estimated Street Price: $699.