Average user rating
- can run on battery power;
- good photo quality using optional photo cartridge.
- Not the cheapest inkjet available;
- very slow when handling large photo images.
HP thinks you need to be able to print on the move, and has produced the DeskJet 450 to meet this need. This compact colour inkjet is not only small enough to carry around, but it can also be powered from a battery. Although it's admirably suited to mobile professionals, the DeskJet 450 should satisfy home users equally well.
The DeskJet 450 is available as two models; the 450ci and 450cbi, the only difference being that a battery is supplied with the latter. If you want to add it separately at a later stage the battery is available for £51 (ex. VAT). You could also have more than one battery if you're planning on being away from the mains for a long time. When we printed 50 pages of standard text -- a software manual -- this used 15 percent of the battery's capacity, so around 300 pages is a reasonable estimate of its life.
The DeskJet 450's print engine has a native resolution of 1200 dots per inch (dpi), with enhanced resolution up to 4,800 by 1,200dpi. Draft mode black text can be produced at up to 9 pages per minute. Turn the quality up and the print speed drops to 1ppm for best-quality mixed colour and text. A full-page photo takes anything from a minute to around ten minutes to produce, depending on print size and quality. Using the top quality setting -- which is only possible when using special photo paper -- you're warned that you may need hundreds of megabytes of disk space to store the metafile for the image. We found that printing a high-resolution image (3,700 by 2,500 pixels) at nearly full A4 size with the top quality settings took almost half an hour. However, you're unlikely to print many such images in a typical day.
The DeskJet 450 uses two combined ink/print head cartridges. One of these is the tri-colour cartridge used for printing standard colour documents, while the other is interchangeable between a black cartridge and a photo colour cartridge. Obviously the former is used when printing text, but you can swap it for the latter when you're printing a photographic image. You're supplied with the black and tri-colour cartridges as standard, but the photo colour cartridge costs £18.57 (ex. VAT) extra. The small case that protects the unused cartridge costs £10 (ex. VAT).
Measuring 33.8cm by 16.4cm by 8.2cm, the DeskJet 450 is certainly a small printer, especially considering it's a colour device. However, it weighs around 2kg without its battery, which adds another 150g, so it's going to double your travel weight if you carry a typical ultraportable notebook. This assumes that you're leaving the AC adapter behind, saving yourself a further 350g. Portable in this case means on a luggage trolley or in the boot of your car, not in a shoulder bag all day.
The DeskJet 450 is supplied with a parallel cable, but supports USB and infrared printing as well. There's also a Type II CompactFlash slot at the rear of the printer, into which you can add a Bluetooth adapter (£62.95 ex. VAT extra) to support wireless printing from handhelds, for example. HP supplies Bluetooth printing software for Palm OS 4.0 or higher on the included CD.
The driver software includes a utility called HP DeskJet Toolbox. This allows you to monitor the ink levels in the cartridges, and the level of battery charge. This latter option is essential if you're planning on using the DeskJet 450 on the move, as there's no indication on the printer's front panel of the amount of charge you have left. The front panel lets you perform any maintenance tasks on the printer, such as aligning the print heads after a cartridge change.
The driver software includes a facility to upload your usage information to HP, as part of a service it calls myPrintMileage. This monitors how much ink you're using and allows you to see the results on a personalised Web page. In reality it's just another way for HP to sell you more ink cartridges, and you have the option to disable or enable the upload at any time.
The DeskJet 450 is a good quality portable printer. It's not the best quality inkjet you can for the price, nor is it so lightweight that you could take it everywhere. However, its size and reasonable photo quality also make it suitable for home users who may be short of space and don't require the very best in photo output. They obviously won't need the battery or more exotic connectivity, but stick the special photo ink in and you have a respectable printer that will fit on a windowsill or shelf -- vital if you're out of desk space.