The HP Photosmart 5520 is one of HP’s cheapest photo printers. Despite its price it comes with individual color cartridges (rather than a single combined color tank), built-in Wi-Fi and a touchscreen. Compromises have been made on paper handling, however, which is on the basic side. The input tray lacks a dust cover and there’s no output tray –printed pages land just above the stack of fresh paper. There’s only a thin bit of plastic to prevent them falling on to your desktop. To our surprise, however, this worked reasonably well at keeping our multi-page print jobs in order, at least for the first 20 pages.

HP Photosmart 5520 review

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But annoyingly, if you want to configure something as simple as borderless photo printing, you’ll have to plunge into the settings’ confusing Advanced tab. This would benefit from a clearer layout and more information about the available options. We’re not bowled over by the annoying scanner software, either. By default, it sharpened images excessively in the scanning process, introducing a number of distortions. On top of that, scan speeds were slow –a 300dpi A4 scan took 38 seconds, a 600dpi 6x4in scan took 46 seconds and a 1,200dpi photo scan took two minutes and 37 seconds.

On the other hand, plain paper document printing was excellent, with clear, sharp text on our mono prints, and attractive text and illustrations on our color documents. Even draft text looked good, with only a slight jagged quality to some letters. Print speeds were a quick13.4 pages per minute (ppm) for mono text and3.8ppm for color. Disappointingly, photo quality was very poor, particularly on anything containing large swathes of dark colors. A night sky was rendered as a washed-out greyish blue, while other low-lit prints lacked contrast and detail. Red and yellow tones were pleasingly bright though, and the prints were sharp, but overall photo quality just wasn’t good enough. At least print costs are low, with a total cost of 9.1p per page of mixed black and color document printing, and 2.7p per mono page. Photos printed on HP’s Advanced Photo Paper also proved to be relatively cheap, with a 6x4in print costing 22.2p and an A4print 85.3p. However, the ink makes up a surprising portion of this cost –over 11p in the case of the 6x4in photo and around 47p for A4.

The HP Photosmart 5520 is not bad as a general-purpose MFP, but it’s a complete non-starter as a photo printer. You’re much better off with Canon Pixma MG5650.

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