HP Photosmart 245

If all you need to print is 4x6" photos and you want to be able to do that at home or in the field - without a computer - then this may be your printer. The HP 245 can handle almost every current flash memory format via its four built in card slots. Only the newest mini-SD cards will require an optional adapter. Out of the box this printer can directly read and print from CompactFlash (Type I or II, Microdrive), SmartMedia, Secure Digital / MMC, Memory Stick/MS Pro/MS Duo or xD-Picture Cards. The print time when using this printer in standalone mode is variable due to the size of the image being printed. The printer's internal processor is fairly robust, we saw average print times of two minutes and forty seconds when reading 5-megapixel images from an xD-Picture Card. Using a fast 512MB CF card and 4-megapixel images the print times were about ten seconds faster. Printing from a computer it didn't matter what size or resolution the input image was, the print times were consistently around two minutes and five seconds. Standalone print times were calculated from press of the PRINT button to paper drop in the output tray. I have to say that install the supplied software (at least in Windows XP) was a ridiculously slow experience. I've installed Photoshop in less time ... Note to HP - whoever you have on your payroll writing these install routines should be fired, hire someone who knows what they're doing. You sit staring at the screen for nearly ten minutes as it says "preparing to install the software" and a progress bar blinks "14%" the whole time. Then suddenly it indicates it is actually installing the software and then it's done. In its defense, it's installing a suite of printing applications as well as the printer driver -- it would just be nice if it told you that rather than making you wonder why it was taking so long. Oh yeah, it failed completely on my main machine with an error on the E: drive, my CD drive. I use this drive daily to read CDs, burn CDs and DVDs and it works fine for everything else. I ended up installing the printer on my Sharp WinXP laptop computer. The print quality is excellent and most people would be very hard-pressed to tell the difference between HP 245 prints and those made at the local photo lab. Borderless prints require the use of HP's glossy photo paper that has a 1/2-inch tear-off tab on one end. My only hardware gripe is the color LCD on the top doesn't tilt up, it's fixed flat to the top of the printer. This means that you have to stand over the printer to view it. It would be much nicer to be able to remain seated and tilt the monitor as needed. I also think that at $199 it's priced a too high for a 4x6-only printer. For the same price or less you can buy a Canon or Epson letter-size printer that will do 4x6" photo prints and larger prints up to 8.5x11" as well as being used as a general purpose plain paper printer. On the positive side, the HP 245 is small, light and very portable and makes great photo prints.