Best Buy
  • Price: 535 . 707 . 830

  • Company: HP

  • Pros: Exceptional output quality for photographs and artwork – producing better and more duarable output than A3 photo printers.

  • Cons: High-quality media can be expensive, and the LCD is unhelpful. There’s an irritating error noise, and high-quality paper smells funny.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

The Designjet 30 isn’t unique like its 130 brother (reviewed previously) but that doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive. The 30 is an A3+ version of the A1 130 – offering almost all of the features that made the 130 so great, though including the same few irritating flaws.

The Designjet 30 is an upgrade of the 10ps/20ps/50ps line of A3+ printers, of which we looked at the 20ps in our last round-up of proofers in Digit. That range differentiated the models by different RIP options, while the 30 removes the RIP from the equation – though you can still get HP’s PosterJet or use your own – and splits the models by connectivity.

The base model offers exquisitely-detailed photo and artwork printing, and USB and parallel connectivity. The 30n adds an ethernet card for use across a studio, while the 30gp is bundled with GretagMacbeth’s Eye-One Display monitor calibration system. Our review unit was the Designjet 30n.

Not having a RIP as standard makes sense, and not just because we much prefer EFI’s Best Designer Edition to HP’s PosterJet. Because of the improvements that HP has made to this printer ink, paper and print head, the Designjet 30 produces the best A3 photos and artwork we’ve ever seen from a desktop device. Only the 130, which uses the same printhead, inks and paper as the 30, can match it. Many photographers could use the 30 everyday and never need a RIP.

The power of the dark side


The central area shows how much of the total colour spectrum the Designjet 130 can print.
Using paper such as HP’s Premium Plus Satin, the Designjet produces images of exceptional quality. HP has dramatically improved the black depth, and pictures have the finest gradation across shades. Place its photos next to the best that the top A3 photo printer – Canon’s Bubble Jet i9950, reviewed here – can produce, and the 30’s advantages are obvious, though the i9950 is £70 cheaper and its ink and paper is less expensive.

The downside to the Designjet 30 is that producing images this good isn’t cheap: 25 sheets of B3 Premium Plus Satin costs £35 plus VAT. Less expensive papers are available, but the results will leave you yearning for the top-notch paper – even if its slightly-acrid smell can be disconcerting.

Only at black-&-white photography can the Designjet 30 be trumped, with Epson’s light black cartridge giving its A3 Stylus Photo 2100 the edge.

Our main complaint with the Designjet 30 is the LCD screen. It shows the ink levels of each cartridge and when printheads need to be changed – but when things go wrong, it makes them worse. Whatever happens – even if you run out of paper – it just keeps flashing up an icon that seems to say paper jam, while the printer squawks like the Cadbury’s parrot.

These complaints – and the consumable bills – are quickly forgiven when you see what the printer can produce. If quality matters, this is the one for you.