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The HP A440’s Quick Start guide comes as one 15-page booklet in three languages—English, Spanish, and French. Eight steps guide the user through setting up the printer, installing the camera, and printing the first photo. Additional instructions describe the control panel and the process of installing software to enable the printer to work from the computer.

The printed manual is called the Basics Guide, which does indeed describe the basics of printing, improving print quality, and troubleshooting. The 19-page guide is very plain, with a few pictures and mostly text, but not very dense. It serves to give the user the basics beyond the Quick Start guide.

Out of the Box (8.00)

The HP Photosmart A440 printer dock is a small and lightweight device, so the package is small enough to carry out of the store. HP packed in a few perks with this tiny printer. First off, the dock can be purchased with the HP Photosmart M437 digital camera, which takes 5-megapixel images with a 3x optical zoom viewable on a 2-inch LCD screen, or the M537, which has the same zoom capabilities but the image size is 6 megapixels and LCD size is 2.5 inches. The kit also includes HP Photosmart software on CD-ROM; quick start and advanced user guides; one installation CD for Mac and Windows and one CD including the User’s Guide; a USB cable (big points for this one!); a power supply; and an HP 110 tri-color inkjet print cartridge with 2.5 ml of ink. However, users won’t be able to print pictures straight out of the box. A necessary item is missing: paper. HP Advanced photo paper is recommended, but not included in the box with the printer dock.

Setup (4.50)

Setting up the A440 printer to print directly from the camera takes a very quick six minutes. The process involves unpacking and installing 2 AA batteries into the camera; opening the input and output trays; loading paper; installing the single, tricolor ink cartridge; taking a picture; docking the camera; and printing the alignment page, which occurs automatically. The ink cartridge installation is easy--just open the cartridge door and slide it in the correct position.

Software installation for establishing communication between the printer and computer took considerably longer—more than 20 minutes. HP really loads the software on—283 Mb of it—even for such a small printer. The CD provides the option to do the Recommended or the Custom installation; we always choose the recommended option for our tests.

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Drivers (8.00)

The A440's driver utility uses the same software interface, the HP Solution Center, as other HP printers. The Settings button in this window sends users to either the Printer Properties dialog, otherwise known as the driver controls, or to a Status window, which indicates the status of the A440.  There are two options in the Status window. The shopping cart icon button gives the user the part number for the ink cartridge and provides a link to buy more online. Below this, the user can click on the View Ink Status link to open a window that displays a beaker-shaped graphic indicating ink levels. The level seemed roughly accurate based on the number of prints we’d run by then and the projected volume of the cartridge. But if it’s low, HP provides yet another link to their website to buy more ink. Another tab in this window provides access to the tools for performing maintenance, including aligning and cleaning the print head and printing a test page. This same window is accessed via the Settings Toolbox options within the Settings button.

The four main tabs of the Printer Properties dialog window are Advanced, Printing Shortcuts, Features, and Color. The Advanced tab provides the user with a few settings that most people don’t change relating to ink distribution and enabling advanced printer settings. The Printing Shortcuts tab provides several setting profiles based on common usage, such as Photo Printing-Borderless, Photo Printing-with white borders, Postcard Printing, Hagaki Printing, and Factory Defaults. The settings for these are preset, but drop-down menus allow users to change basic settings, like page size, print type, print quality, and orientation. If the user makes any changes to these settings, the "Save As" button becomes active, allowing users to save and name these settings, which adds them to the list of shortcuts. This is a handy function if users like to use the same settings that are not defaults.

The Features tab provides many of these same settings for users who don’t want to mess with shortcuts, but would like to change the settings as they print. Aside from the standard options, HP offers their Real Life Technologies settings, which adjusts for red-eye and enhances sharpness, contrast and brightness automatically. This tool can be set to Basic, Off, or Full. The Resolution button simply displays the numerical resolution the printer is set to; resolution is adjusted via the print quality drop-down box, with Fast Normal, Normal, Best, and Maximum dpi as settings. I assume they provided the Resolution button for those inclined to know more about their printing. This printer can print at a maximum resolution of 1200 dpi.

Even though this is a much simpler printer than others in the Photosmart series it has the same color options, which are in the Color tab. Basic printing options on the main window are limited to color, black and white, or sepia. The More Color Options button gives the user more control, with settings for brightness, saturation, tone, and the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black colors. The Help option in the driver consists of the user right-clicking on an item to display a small window with a short description of the item.

Software (7.50)

The HP Solution Center houses all the HP Photosmart A440's functions and software programs. With more than one HP printer, camera, or other device installed, the main window becomes tabbed, with an icon for each device shown. The two main boxes/buttons on the left are Transfer Images and Settings. Transfer Images allows users to copy pictures from their M437 or M537 digital camera, docked on the A440, to their computer’s hard drive. The program saves it by default to the My Pictures folder on the Windows system, then opens HP Photosmart Essential, an image file browsing program that also provides some editing options and allows users to print images. This is a basic, but useful program if users don’t have other image programs on their system. It features bright clear graphics and a design similar to other printer manufacturer’s software programs, such as Canon and Sony.
Warm-Up Time (9.35)

The HP A440 took the least amount of time of any printer we tested to warm up and be ready to print, taking only 3 seconds. This is less than half the time it took the Sony DPP-F90 (7 seconds) and one-eleventh the time of the Kodak ES 5300’s 33 seconds.

Power Usage (9.20)

According to HP’s specs, when a camera is docked on the powered-down printer, it uses 6.2 watts. When the printer is idle, it uses 8.1 watts. When it is actively printing, it uses 14.4 watts. It uses even more power when charging the attached digital camera’s batteries.

Our power usage tests showed a slightly different story. As with most printers we tested the HP A440 did not draw any measurable amount of power when off. Our other tests actually showed the printer using less wattage than the published specs. In ready mode, the dock drew 3 watts of power. This is the same as the Canon CP730 and slightly less than the Sony DPP-F90’s 4 watts of power use when ready to print.

When printing the HP A440 drew a very efficient 8 watts of power. This is less than the  efficient Epson PM240, and significantly less than the Canon CP730 and Sony DPP-F90, both of which drew between 50 and 60 watts of power when printing. Self-cleaning mode used the most power, between 9 and 15 watts, with an average of 12. This is the same average (12 watts) as the Epson PM240, but with less variance in the amount of power used.

Speed/Timing (3.36)

Printing speeds were very slow on this little inkjet, the slowest times of all four compact photo printers currently being tested in our lab. We test photo print speeds by printing a 5.7-megabyte file and a 19-megabyte file from both the computer and from media cards. In this case, we attempted to print directly from the camera, but our stock images could not be loaded onto the camera's memory card. Therefore, the speeds scores are based on print time from the computer only. In this case, the HP A440 could only print 0.60 pages per minute (ppm), as compared with the Epson Snap, which printed at 1.4 ppm.

Color Accuracy (2.70)

For every printer we review, we measure color accuracy by printing out an electronic version of the GretagMacbeth color chart, measuring the colors and tones with an Eye-One spectrophotometer, and comparing them to the chart's original lab values.

The HP A440 was a bit of a disappointment in terms of color accuracy, measuring a 7.98 mean color error. Most of the hues produced by the HP A440 strayed from the ideal and leaned towards oversaturation in the cooler tones. While this is not entirely unexpected on a compact printer, the HP A440 was near the bottom of the printers we have tested thus far in terms of accuracy. Its rendering of blues, greens, and oranges showed significant color shifts, with the blues losing red and adding more green, while the green values contained less green tonality and more blue than the original colors. Further, the Orange Yellow and "skin tone" patches looked a bit undersaturated and unimpressive. Overall, the HP440’s colors are not as accurate as we had hoped though its reproduction should be acceptable to some consumers looking to print snapshots.

Color Gamut (2.81)

This test looks at how much of the standard Adobe RGB color space a printer can accurately reproduce. Printers that can render colors that cover more of the Adobe RGB color space will ultimately output images with a greater range of colors and look more attractive to the eye. On the graph above, the solid color is the color space that the printer can cover, while the grid represents the entire Adobe RGB color space. The closer the two, the more colors the printer can represent and the higher the score.

HP-PHotosmart-A440-gamut-chart.jpg

The HP A440 performaned poorly in this test, managing to cover only 43 percent of the total color space. It lagged behind most every other compact photo printer that we have tested, save the Canon Selphy CP730. Better quality letter- and wide-format photo printers score in 50th and 60th percentile, meaning that these printers, such as the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 and the Epson Stylus Photo R2400, can reproduce a wider range of colors, which could mean more realistic or more vibrant photos.

Dmax*(3.38)*

This test measures the density of the blackest black a printer can produce, a very important factor in image quality. Dmax is a strong indication of the tonal range a printer can produce. The blacker the black, the more potential tones between it and the white of the paper. We evaluated Dmax by measuring the ratio of reflected light off of the print using our EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer. Most printers top out at a Dmax of 2.50. The tests on the A440 were printed with HP Advanced glossy paper and Ilford Galerie smooth glossy paper, because glossy paper yields the darkest possible blacks. The prints were also created with the corresponding HP stock color profiles as well as custom profiles we created for each paper.

The HP A440 had the best Dmax value, 1.72, when using the third party Ilford Galerie paper and the HP stock color profile. This is a poor performance, especially for printing on glossy paper. The other compact inkjet printer, the Epson PM240, trounced it with a Dmax of 2.43. The A440's poor Dmax value indictaes that the printer has a very limited tonal range, and this may lead to problems with finer tonal gradations, such as are found in facial tones.

Black and White (3.00)

The black-and-white printing capabilities of the A440 surely reflected the poor Dmax score discussed above. Tonal range was clearly compressed, with highlights appearing blown out and blacks showing as muddy, with little differentiation. This is clearly not a printer for producing quality black-and-white prints, but we would expect most users to be more interested in printing quick color snapshots anyway. However, the poor tonal range is a concern, given the better compact photo printer options on the market, such as the Epson PM240.

Tour

*Front *

The front of the A440 printer dock looks something like a small radio because of its rounded edges and flared design. The outer edge of the front shows a glossy white shell, but most of the front is taken up by a large light gray door with corduroy-like stripes across it. In the center of the door is a chrome HP logo plate, and the HP Photosmart A440 product name is listed in the lower right corner. At the very top of the door is a long skinny lip that doesn’t protrude much, but serves as a sort of handle to open the door. When the door is opened, a few components are revealed: a PictBridge-compatible USB port in the upper left corner, a latch that locks the door to the printer’s body in the center, an output slot near the bottom, and an ink cartridge door on the right side. This door has a diagram molded into the inside that shows how to load and remove the cartridge, which is basically just pushed in and pulled out. 

HP_A440_Front.jpg

*Back *

The back of the printer dock has a similar design to the front. The back door is the same size, design, and color as the front, except for a small cutout on the top right for two jacks: the USB-to-computer jack on the top and the power supply port on the bottom. This door, which serves as the dock’s input tray, has no lip or handle to open it because it only opens automatically when the front door is opened. It also only opens about an inch, enough for the user to slide the paper into it. A flimsy paper holder can be pulled out via a handle at the top of the back door and extends about an inch-and-a-half from the very top of the door.

HP_A440_Back.jpg

Left Side

The left and right sides of the printer dock are identical. Both have a wider base and a skinnier top and a glossy white, featureless finish.

HP_A440_Left.jpg

 

Right Side

The right side of the HP Photosmart A440 printer dock isn’t very interesting. It has a glossy white shell and flares 3.5 to 4 inches from the top to the bottom.

HP_A440_Right.jpg

*Top *

The top of the printer has a boom-box–like look to it, except for the main housing's glossy white finish. There is a door in the middle that looks like it could be for cassette tapes, but it opens wide to reveal the HP Photosmart's docking port. Above this door is a small handle that attaches on both ends of the central door and can be moved backwards to lie flush with the dock’s top. The handle is rounded on one side and flattened on the other, which makes for a fairly uncomfortable carrying experience; the sharp edge digs into the hand a bit. On the back left of the printer top is the circular power button. The other controls are located in front of the cassette-like door on a light gray surface. There is a red-eye removal button on the left side, a cancel button to its right, and a print button almost in the center. The print button is the only button of this set to actually stand out: it is larger and backlit with a green LED. To the right is a small "back" button with a warning light in the shape of an exclamation point above it. A large multi-selector control sits to the right of both of these; this contains the typical four directional arrows and the central Menu/OK button. On the far right is a small LED that indicates the charge status of the Photosmart M437 camera’s batteries.

HP_A440_Top.jpg

*Interior *

The HP Photosmart A440 doesn’t bare all when its doors are opened. With the front panel/tray opened, the output rollers can barely be seen in the skinny slot. The printer cartridge door is the only real look inside and that is just a small cavity for the single cartridge to fit into. At the back are the electrical contacts that connect to the cartridge. The back input tray opens, but reveals little of the interior because it opens to only about a 5-degree angle.

HP_A440_Interior.jpg

Components

Display (5.00)

HP_A440_LCD.jpg
The Photosmart M437 or the M537 digital camera serves as the display for the A440 printer dock. No specs were reported on the camera LCD’s resolution, but it was certainly serviceable for viewing images. The display has a good side-to-side angle of view, but minimal from top to bottom. Without an HP digital camera, this printer won’t make much sense. It can print from computers, which provide on-screen previews. But for consumers with other digital cameras, this printer doesn’t have memory card slots or a preview to see images that are loaded via the USB/PictBridge connection.

Paper trays (5.00)

The back door opens not quite an inch wide and acts as an input paper tray. It has one edge guide that shrinks the width from 4 inches to about 3.5 inches. This paper tray can hold up to 20 standard 4x6-inch sheets or up to 10 panorama-sized 4x12-inch sheets. The front door of the HP Photosmart A440 pops open to reveal the slim output slot. The door itself acts as a paper tray of sorts, although there are no edge guides or sides to keep the prints from sliding around. The shape of the door is diametrically opposed to the shape of the print as they eject from the printer. The Epson PM240, although it doesn’t sport the best output tray either, has a door that roughly corresponds to the shape of the print, and it props up at an angle to hold the prints. The A440’s door doesn’t prop up; it folds down a full 90 degrees, so pictures basically fall out of the printer onto it.

HP_A440_Paper-Tray.jpg

CD burner (0)

This tiny printer doesn’t even have a display screen, so a CD burner is out of the question.

Battery* (0)*

The HP Photosmart A440 is lightweight and portable, but it can only function with its power supply. HP does not sell an optional battery, so users are limited to places with power outlets.

*Power supply

*The A440 comes with a power supply that consists of a skinny cable and a thick plug.

Internal memory (0)

The HP Photosmart A440 doesn’t have internal memory, which is not surprising for a compact photo printer.

Multi-tasking (0)

This is simply out of the question for this little toaster.

Hard Drive *(0)

*The A440 does not come with a hard drive.

Accessories* (8.00) *

The HP Photosmart A440 comes as an accessory itself to the HP Photosmart M437 and M537 digital cameras. (Or is it the other way around??) Those cameras cost $109 and $129, respectively, and differ only in LCD screen size (the M537’s LCD is a half-inch larger). The A440 printer comes with a USB cable, but HP sells USB cables as extra accessories, too. HP also sells two carrying cases for $20 and $30 that are probably a good idea for users who will tote this device around often. It is lightweight and portable, but it isn’t very sturdy so a good case would keep it pristine longer. The HP Photosmart A440 is compatible with 5-ml HP 110 tri-color inkjet printer cartridges that run about $20 a piece, and it comes with a 2.5 ml ink cartridge. Camera accessories include SD cards and printer chargers.

Controls/Buttons/Dials* (5.00)*

All of the printer’s controls are located on the top panel. There is a power button backlit by a green LED on the upper left corner of the top. The rest of the buttons are placed on a light gray panel in the center of the top. There are small square-shaped buttons for red-eye removal, cancel, and back. The largest button is the print button, which has a green LED backlight on it. There is also a large Menu/OK button surrounded by a multi-selector used to navigate through menus. The buttons are all appropriately labeled, but are all cheaply constructed and jiggle around more than they should. The placement of the controls seems almost random, other than placing the small cancel button next to the print button and placing the back button next to the menu button.

HP_A440_Buttons.jpg

Menus*(4.00)*

Menu options on the A440 dock are accessed via the camera. When engaged with the dock, the M437’s display brings up a short Print Options menu, which includes two items: Print This Image Now and Print Menu. The menu items are listed below.

The dock’s control panel provides a one-touch button for red-eye reduction, but otherwise, any editing would need to be done using software. A blue screen that displays while the user scrolls through their images displays number of prints remaining, and if printing, the time remaining in the print cycle and the number being printed. These pretty minimal offerings seem odd for a portable printer, especially with so many competitors on the market offering extensive image editing and features, such as the Sony PictureStation FP90 and the Epson PictureMate PM240.

Size / Portability*(8.20)

*The HP Photosmart A440 is advertised as ultra-portable. Both the camera and the printer can travel easily in a small bag together. The dock alone measures 8.9' wide x 8.5' deep x 6' high with the all doors open, and it weighs only 2.75 pounds. This printer doesn’t have an optional battery pack, so it is limited to function in places equipped with a power outlet. Still, the A440 is very portable because of its small size, light weight, and folding handle atop the housing, which seems made of fairly flimsy plastic, as does the rest of the dock’s body. We question the printer’s durability for tough travel, but for trips to and from the relatives, it’ll do just fine.

Configuration (8)

HP_A440_Ink.jpg

The A440 is simple in design and accepts only one tricolor cartridge, easily installed into the front of the unit, behind two doors.

Value (6.00)

HP sells 110 ink cartridges for the A440 on their website for $19.99, which they report can yield 55 4x6-inch prints. That works out to 36 cents a print, The 120-sheet print pack is a better deal, which runs 29 cents per print. The latter price is on par with many of their competitors, such as Sony and Canon dye sublimation printers, but more expensive than the Epson Picture Mate series, which are inkjet printers like the A440.

Ink Management Tool (8.50)

The A440 has a handy screen that allows users to get a rough estimate of ink remaining in the cartridge. One of the screens that can be selected while scrolling through the images on the camera is a blue screen which displays the number of photos remaining that can be printed. Ink levels can also be checked via the HP Solution Center’s Print Status window.
Print Quality (6.00)

In the printer settings menu, users can choose between Fast and Best print options, a meager offering. The HP A440’s specs claim that the maximum photo resolution is 4800x1200 dpi for color photos and 1200x1200 for black-and-white photos.

Internal Editing (3.00)

The HP Photosmart A440 doesn’t have any internal editing features on its own, other than a one-touch red-eye removal button. When turned on, an LED lights up next to it and removes red eyes from pictures before printing. Any other image editing is done via the M437 or M537 camera menu .

Dedicated B&W Settings/Effects (0)

There are no dedicated black-and-white settings on this HP printer, but the compatible HP Photosmart digital cameras have black-and-white effects that can be applied in the playback mode before attaching to the printer.

Media Types (6.00)

HP recommends using HP Advanced photo paper up to 75 pound bond. The staple of this printer is 4x6-inch photo prints, but it can also create 4x6.5-inch prints, 4x8-inch photo cards, and 4x12-inch panoramas. This printer can be connected to a computer and its supplies monitored by HP’s SureSupply software program. The software sends users alerts when ink and paper are low and connects users to HP’s website so they can purchase more online.
Formats/compatibility (4.00)

The A440 compact photo printer is compatible with HP’s M-series digital cameras and can come bundled with the Photosmart M437 and M537 models. The printer is also PictBridge compatible, but it doesn't have a built-in LCD screen so previewing and selecting photos from other manufacturers' digital cameras is not possible.

HP_A440_Control_Panel.jpg
HP_A440_Port-USB.jpg

Media slots (0)

There are no memory card slots on this budget printer. The USB ports are the only method of transfer on the HP Photosmart A440.

Wireless interface (0)

The HP Photosmart A440 is not equipped for wireless communication to any devices. These printers are designed for connection with specific cameras in HP's Photosmart line.

Network (0)

Networking is also not supported, since these printers only talk to their own cameras.
Ease of Use (5.00)

One thing that can be said about the HP Photosmart A440 compact printer dock is that it’s easy to use. It has so few controls that operation is simple, but also very limited. Most compact printers on the market today offer at least some editing functions other than red-eye reduction, the A440’s sole edit. Loading the ink cartridge and paper are simple tasks, as is the connection of the dock to the M-series cameras.

Value (5.00)

At $99, the HP A440 is cheaper than many other compact photo printers on the market, but it still seems rather expensive for what it offers, or rather doesn't offer. It doesn't have particularly good image quality, it has a relatively small feature set, and it has limited compatibility. The kit prices, at $179.99 and $199.99, put this printer in the range of better quality compact photo printers, so the main appeal is the functionality of the separate but connectible cameras. With this in mind, the A440 is a good value, but for consumers who already have cameras, the value is diminished.

Comparisons

The A440 printer dock offers little in image editing features. Even the minimal menu of the Canon Selphy CP730, selling for $149.99, allows for applying black-and-white or sepia toned effects to an image. Printers selling for comparable prices or even less, such as the Sony FP90, at $199.99, and the Epson PM240, at $129.99, provide more editing options, are much more durable, and produce richer prints. Buttons on all three of the previously mentioned units are much sturdier and likely longer-lived than the shaky buttons on the A440.
True, HP does offer an optional camera with this unit, but with this as the sole display option, the printer doesn't stack up. The A440's subpar editing options and menu functions are way behind other printers in the compact market. Though the printer is portable, its flimsy housing may not withstand any rough-and-tumble traveling. Consumers wed to HP products or those wanting a simple system in one package may be enticed, but we advise them to look closely at the A440 before purchasing it; it will likely be something they'll outgrow very quickly.

**Specs/Ratings


Meet the tester

Tom Warhol

Tom Warhol

Editor

Tom Warhol is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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