Nikon D40X
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Pro B8850 printer
Page 1


A preview of the HP Photosmart Pro B8850 printer

This review was originally intended to be a full interactive review. However, as I have been supplied with a pre-production unit, I am going to have to adapt this review just to keep my promise of delivering a review. You can view our short video of the B 8850 printer here.

The B8850 printer has been introduced as a result of the rapid growth in advanced digital SLR camera sales. Photographers now want to produce bigger and better quality prints from their digital files. Although Epson has led the way with an extensive range of pigment ink printers, for some time, HP has stepped in by offering the B8850 at a very attractive and affordable price point.

The B8850 is not a replacement to the popular B9180, instead it is a printer that caters for the needs of the advanced amateur and for photographers who do not need to use a printer on a network. The front LCD display panel shows a limited amount of information, which is not that important if you are using the printer on a single computer, as the printer software provides sufficient information such as ink levels etc.

The specifications of the B8850 are slightly different to the B9180, for example the B8850 has fewer stepper motors to reduce the print head gap, this means it can't print on card media although it will print on smooth Fine Art media and canvas. it is also limited to in the area of self calibration, the 9180 offers greater accuaracy.

The HP B8850 printer uses the same print heads and Vivera pigment ink cartridges, so It will be interesting to see the difference in print quality (if any) when compared to the B9180 - I am not expecting to see any dramatic change in print quality, we will have to wait and see.

Spot the difference

As already mentioned, the 8850 uses the same print head cartridges and the same 8 Vivera pigment inks as the 9180, so no major difference here.

L to R Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Matte Black, Photo Black, Light Cyan, Light Magenta and Grey

Under the bonnet the B8850 has a basic closed-loop colour calibration system compared to the more advanced B9180. Having said that, in theory the 8850 should still produce excellent colur prints. The HP closed loop calibration process should not be confused with colour profiles. I have published a brief explanation of what it does below.

Here’s how it works:

Photosmart Pro B8850 prints a target page with individual colour blocks and automatically feeds the page back into the printer. The sensor ‘reads’ each colour block on the target page, measures the colour density, and compares it with factory calibration settings, resident in the printer. If the sensor detects a variation from factory settings, closed loop colour calibration adjusts colours as necessary to deliver the precise amount of ink to the page to ensure consistent colour.


The densitometric sensor moves with the printer carriage, similar to a scanning device, to shine light onto the page from four LEDs. The sensor measures the colour density on the page by measuring the reflection of each colour and compares it to the target colour density. Basic closed-loop colour calibration compensates for too much or too little ink by making adjustments as necessary to ensure consistent output. Sensors also detect the presence of media in the paper tray(s), the width of the media, and automatically adjust skew if media is not properly aligned in the tray.

The sensor is first calibrated during the manufacturing process and remains operational throughout the life of the printer. The HP Photosmart Pro B8850 performs colour calibration during printer setup to ensure consistent colour from print to print. You can use the system to calibrate the printer at any time. The feature is accessible from the Printer Toolbox.


10 March 2008

© Vincent Oliver 2008
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