Generally, HP manufactures printers for the consumer and professional Inkjet markets, but until recently, with not too much scope for the semi-professional or sole-trader professional. HP was keen to fill the gap and came up with Photosmart Pro B9180, another example of its scalable print technology in which it relies heavily for future developments. Let us wait no further in reviewing the HP Photosmart B9180 Multifunction Inkjet Printer in detail.

Design features:

The HP Photosmart B9180 Multifunction Inkjet Printer is quite big in size, but has a solid, professional feel. There is a general thought that large areas of plastic in a A3+ printer is pretty flimsy, but not the case with this Inkjet Photo printer. The printer has a boxy functional design having a curved front edge. This means that we have to open it up only when using larger sizes. The printer has a brushed metal panel that nicely folds down to expose a secondary, straight-through paper path. The paper from the main tray does the normal 180-degree turn before it is printed. However, in the top tray, it travels unfettered from front to back. This suggests that the printer could print on card up to 1.5mm thick.

A two lines by 16-character LCD display never fails to show status messages and instructions. There is also a row of 5 buttons underneath that helps you to navigate its menu system. You can find a USB 2.0 and Ethernet sockets at the rear end and the printer is of course network enabled right out of the box.

Installation:

We felt a bit difficult to install the consumables. The HP Pro B9180 requires separate ink cartridges and print heads which you have to install and prime in a set order. First, open the cartridge cover at the left-hand end of the printer and plug it in each of the 8 cartridges. They feature keyed mouldings which allow fitting only in its respective slot. This is followed by the priming of the printer achieved by pumping ink from the print cartridges to the point where the heads are available. When prompted by the LCD display, open the top cover and fit each of the two-colour heads, after you remove the stoppers on the ends of the tubes from the cartridges first. You also need to wipe each print head using a ‘super cotton bud’ that is spirit-soaked and provided with each head in order to get the ink flowing.  Now, you can load the’ calibration pack’ with actually ten sheets of A4 Advanced Photo Paper. Next, allow the paper to perform its own calibration for which you have to wait for about 30 minutes or so. This also involves several test prints and the print quality gets better progressively as a result.

Full calibration process:

A bit of research on the process of Full calibration will tell you that it is a one time process, although ‘closed-loop’ calibration occurs whenever a new, unrecognized media is employed in the printer. While you are waiting for this, the software can be installed that includes a comprehensive driver, a Photoshop plug-in & HP’s Photosmart Premier Application, a simple photo editor which is sufficient to do basic edits and to crop, resize and select images for printing.

HP Photosmart B9180 Inkjet Printer

Maintenance Software suite:

HP has integrated the HP Photosmart Pro B9180 hardware with a gamut of printing and maintenance software suite and tools. Right at the top of the chart is a plug-in that helps you to print directly from within the Adobe Photoshop offering a real-time preview of the image. This also allows us to choose the colour profile, print size, paper type, borderless options and much more from just within a single window. We always feel that this is the way any form of photo printing should be and is really a joy to use. Besides, HP has included an application, HP Printer Utility serving as the dashboard for interacting with the photo printer. The program incorporates realistic indicators of remaining ink capacity and other useful help screens. There are also facilities that you can make use of for cleaning the printheads that you do not require any more in addition to printing test pages and applying the closed-loop calibration tests.

HP Printer Utility:

The main advantage of the HP Printer Utility is that you can install customer paper profiles straight into the HP Photosmart Pro B9180’s driver. While there is nothing new in using custom colour profile for a particular paper type, HP makes the job much easier for you allowing you add your new profile directly to the paper-type menu.

HP Photosmart Edit:

Additionally, the Photosmart B9180 Inkjet Photo printer also has an application for printing photos namely the HP Photosmart Edit. But given the HP Photosmart Pro B9180’s target audience, we feel most people will be using Photoshop or a similar program to print. A nice feature of HP Photosmart Edit is that it can easily convert colour images to grey scale. It also offers a set of black-and-white transformations akin to conventional camera filters. Photoshop’s Channel Mixer features much more sophisticated set of tools for the same process, but Photosmart Edit without doubt will provide good results.

Performance:

The B9180 is brilliant as it can not only auto-sense the paper type it utilizes, making use of bar codes on the back of HP sheets and its very own densitometer to calibrate for other types, but also sense paper sizes. Also, we found that the printer does not print an image that is fairly big for the loaded paper input which is good under any standards. But one should note that it even tells you if the paper is bigger than is actually required for a given image. This feature helps in avoiding the wastage of costly photo papers.

Excellent print quality:

The pages printed with the printer are of excellent quality. It makes use of pigmented inks all through to provide stunning resistance to fading accredited by the Wilhelm testing laboratory to last for over 200 years. In addition to the regular cyan, yellow and magenta, you will find two blanks – photo black for photo images and matt for text print and other additional colours including light cyan, light grey and light magenta. Colours that you see in the prints are lively, but well controlled; therefore the images do not appear lively when they are not indented to. Colour including reds, blues and greens are quite well rendered, appearing true and natural.  With fine, intricate lineage and sharp edges, the detail is fine. The colour gradation is smooth without obvious bands in the prints. The colour print on plain paper is also highly managed with neat, stipple-free frills and clear, crisp and precise plain text. Black print is not as dense as we may expect. The black and the white images appear a bit darker than the original print.

Print speed:

The print speed is fine for this type of printer and apparently better than the cheapest HP Photosmart 8750. Normally, it would take 1 minute and 18 seconds for printing a five-page text document which is comparatively good for a printer built for photo printing. If it is a 5 page text and graphics print that has to be printed, it will takes only 21 seconds longer. However when you consider the A3+ size print, coming in at 2 minutes and 12seconds, one has to admit that speed has not been sacrificed on the alter of print quality.

Sound levels:

Because it is an inkjet, one would like the sound levels to be as less noisy as possible and in most places; the sound levels were quite below what we could measure. In general you will find some pumping cycles and clicks while the Hewlett Packard printer is re-circulating and maintaining its inks, but these should not be annoying anyways.

Instruction Manuals:

HP provides an easy to use, instructive manual that helps you to get the most out of the printer including discussing profiles, print types and instructions to use the print driver’s integrated colour features as opposed to utilizing Photoshop’s colour features. For someone who is new to pigment-ink printers or looking to augment his or her Photoshop printing knowledge would find the manual highly practical in every way.

Warranty:

The HP Photosmart B9180 Multifunction Inkjet Printer is covered under a standard one-year limited hardware warranty.

Verdict:

The HP’s latest pigment-based Vivera Ink printing technology deployed in this printer receives a fair amount of beating. The vivacity of colour prints is excellent, stained only by insignificant darkening of black and white and this may need some form of compensation. The printer is a unique one, in that it is a product so well thought out and so immaculately built-in with Mac as well as Windows PC. As parting words, this high-end photo inkjet printer brings the feature set and printing quality of high-priced printers to the desktop of any ardent graphic artist or digital photographer.

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HP Photosmart B9180 Inkjet Printer – Technical Specification Table

Manufacturer HP
Model Name Photosmart B9180
Printer Type Thermal Ink Jet
Dimensions (W x D x H) 673 x 429 x 241 mm
Weight 17.1 kg
Printing Speed (A4, Draft Quality, Black) Up to 28 ppm
Printing Speed (A4, Draft Quality, Colour) Up to 26 ppm
Printing Speed (Draft Quality, Colour Photo)
on Photograph Paper
As rapid as 10 seconds
Printing Speed Footnote Depends on print mode, type and rough figures.
Precise speed will differ according to the document,
system configuration and software program complexity.
Printing Quality (Best Quality, Black) Up to 1200 x 1200 input dpi & 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi
while you print from a PC in only gray in max.dpi-mode
Duty Cycle Up to 1000 pages per month
Printing Quality (Best Quality, Colour) Up to 1200 input dpi & 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi
while you print from a PC
Display Type LCD (Two-line text) plus backlight
Print Head Nozzles 24 kHz Max. firing frequency
1056 per nozzles colour
No. of print cartridges Four dual colour print heads & Hewlett Packard
Vivera Eight individual high capacity inks
Memory 64 MB
Media Sizes A4 (210 mm x 297 mm)
A3 (297 mm x 420 mm)
C6 (114 mm x 162 mm), 100 mm x 150 mm (inclusive or
exclusive of cut-off/tear-off tab)
B5 (176 mm x 250 mm)
DL (220 mm x 110 mm)
Borderless printing Available (up to 330 mm x 1117 mm)
Custom Media Sizes Main Tray: 89 mm x 127 mm to 330 mm x 482 mm
Specialty Tray:100 mm x 150 mm to 330 mm x
1117 mm (Only Single sheet)
Media Types supported Cards (Greeting, Index), Labels, Paper [Photo, Plain,
Coated, Inkjet, DFA (Digital Fine Art Media)]
Standard connectivity Ethernet 802.3 10/100 Base-TX
High Speed USB-compatible plus USB 2.0 specifications
Humidity Range Operating 20 to 80% RH
Operating Temperature Range 5 to 40º C
Energy Star certified No
Acoustic Power Emissions 5.7 B(A) (printing at 2.2 ppm)
OS required Windows® 2000
XP Professional
XP Home
Windows Vista™ Certified
x64 Edition (supports only USB direct connect)
Mac OS X version v10.2.8 (only web download)
Version v 10.3, Version v 10.4 & higher
Included Software HP Photosmart Premier Software
Warranty 1 Year