HP Photosmart C6380 All-in-One Printer, Copier, and Scanner Review

Accessory Reviews HP

Many years ago I used to obsess about inkjet prints. Countless hours, not to mention pints of ink and reams of paper, were spent in search of the perfect print. Perfectionism is a terrible disease! “Why isn’t this easier?” I asked myself as I tossed yet another handful of incorrect work prints into the garbage.

Now it is easier. Thanks to HP, I am now what I used to think of as a “lazy” photo printer. I am now happy with prints that are “good enough” because the prints from HP’s Photosmart C6380 inkjet printer are so good that I get what I want on the first or second try. The Photosmart C6380 produces a reasonably high standard of screen-to-print WYSIWYG hue and saturation. The skin tones are accurate. The color balance and contrast reasonably match my screen. And the big benefit is not having to play with infinite combinations of color management settings in the printer driver, photo software, and planetary alignments. Thanks to HP’s Photosmart C6380 all-in-one color inkjet printer I can now spend my time shooting pictures (up to 8.5×11 in.) instead of printing them.

Inexpensive all-in-one color inkjet printer, copier, and scanner units have been standard equipment in the home office for years. I have an Epson Stylus CX4200 that has been churning out daily color printouts for years. No doubt the ink I’ve purchased has paid for some Epson executive’s annual bonus. But that machine is not a true photo printer, and overall I was a little unsure about how any inexpensive all-in-one would fare when going up against the dedicated prosumer photo printers I used to own. Still, anyone who has lived thru the dark ages of inkjet printing (let’s just not go back there) is tempted by the idea that finally one can get prints that match what you see onscreen.

Last December I received an HP Photosmart C6380 All-in-One color inkjet printer, copier, and scanner whose big attraction beyond photo printing is wireless printing. Knowing how much a home Wi-Fi network changed my laptop computing habits, I was doubly intrigued with the idea of a wireless photo printer. I may as well just cut to the chase here: this machine is a winner. The photo prints look great and the convenience of wireless printing means much greater set-up flexibility. It’s also reasonably fast for a photo printer.


From a setup perspective, the wireless feature is super handy. No fussing with running cords under carpets or having the unit dominate your desk. Just set up the printer where it’s conveniently out of the way, even if it’s in another room. How great is that?

While physical setup is one thing, connecting to your computer can be quite another matter. HP has gone to great lengths to make the setup as painless as possible. In fact you might say they’ve taken product interaction to a new level. Perhaps even too far (more on that in a moment). Why does this matter? Well, it doesn’t if everything goes smoothly. But things almost never go perfectly. So when installing the drivers for the HP Photosmart C6380 on my Macs and my PC, I noticed that the software goes to great lengths to explain to you what exactly is happening and what you should expect to do next. Sure those little messages saying “success!” go a bit overboard, but considering how terrible installation programs tend to be, I appreciate the extra assurance that things are going according to plan.

My Macs set up without a hitch, but a word of caution for Windows PC users: select “Advanced” installation so you can opt-out of the extra programs that get (ahem) “bundled” with the HP software.

Print Quality

Making prints from Adobe Lightroom, I compared the HP Photosmart C6380’s prints with prints made from labs, other inkjet printers, and what I see onscreen. I also asked some friends in my office to try printing their own photos to see what they thought. The color accuracy to my eye is quite good if not excellent. There are some minor saturation differences in blues or reds, and the contrast was a little too high in some cases, but overall the differences were not enough for me to bother fixing. The results were natural and pleasing. It might be argued that the printer seemed to print with a little too much saturation, but that was not always a bad thing.

I tend to like high contrast scenes and often compose my pictures to include large areas of shadow or dark tones. Often such contrasty scenes can pose problems for inkjet printers: the shadows can get a little rough and “clumpy” looking even if they’re not totally dark regions. A person whose eye sockets are in shadow is an example of a situation where the picture might look okay onscreen, but then looks awful when printed on paper. High ISO digital camera noise combined with shadows or dark tonal regions can also result in less-than-appealing prints. The HP was not immune to these effects but I found that it handled the challenge of contrast a lot better than my admittedly older photo printers. Almost all of my photos with strong sunlight shadows turned out great, with good dark shadows and natural looking gradients through the midtones. This is probably due to the printer’s use of two blacks, a normal black and a photo black.

The biggest complaint is that the color may be too vivid and saturated for your taste. This can be adjusted through the usual places, so no, you may not totally escape having to delve into the printer driver.

Technical Details and Miscellaneous

Speaking of the printer driver, HP has a couple programs that run in the background to make sure your printer is working properly and talking properly to your computer. For most users this is fine, but at least on my PC I found it to be an annoyance because the driver was always popping up messages to tell me what was going on when I didn’t need or want to know. There probably is a way to turn off this high-notification-functionality but I couldn’t find it. On my Mac it was much simpler. The software only popped up when it needed to really get feedback from me. Although I sometimes got confused about whether I needed to be using HP’s Message Center or Printer Monitor to change settings or get other things done.
The printer is reasonably fast. Using Lightroom, I could queue five or six large prints (in this case 8×10 in.) and the batch would be done in about ten minutes. For normal text, the HP Photosmart C6380 is capable of printing at speeds of up to 33 ppm in black & white and 31 ppm in color. There is an optional Blue tooth feature and built-in card readers. The C6380 can of course print borderless photos up to 8.5 x 11-inches at 9600 x 2400 dpi.

One handy feature is the printer’s flip up screen. In conjunction with the wireless feature, this is great for being able to see what is going on with the printer from across the room. And if you don’t need it, just leave it flush against the printer. Either way, the HP Photosmart C6380’s display is a wealth of information as you use the printer. You’re rarely wondering if it’s hung up on something or just preparing to print. And direct access to setup menus, ink levels, and other features is the way to go-no need to use the computer if you don’t have to!

The big drawback with inkjet printers are the consumables. People are understandably reluctant to spend as much and more on the ink than the printer itself. But unless you don’t mind the idea of clogged inkjets, I recommend you use HP ink if only to spare yourself the potential hassle. Yes I know this sounds like the company line but really, isn’t your time worth so much more than futzing with clogged inkjets? Anyway, HP inks are about the same cost as Epson’s inks and though I didn’t do a careful test, the ink cartridges seem to last for a good number of prints. The cartridges even have a little window through which you can see the actual remaining ink. However, my biggest complaint about the HP C6380 is the ink level reporting feature. Between the printer’s on-screen ink level tool, the printer’s current status report, and the printer driver’s messages, I never felt like I got an accurate sense of just how much ink (or how many pictures) remained before I needed to replace the cartridge. So, I just used them until the prints looked bad. Apparently it’s difficult to build an accurate “gas gauge” for printers.

Overall the HP Photosmart C6380 demonstrates HP’s attention to detail in every aspect of the product. From print quality to software installation to the in-printer menu system and controls, HP clearly has tried to anticipate the user’s every need. My experience suggests they have largely succeeded. And wireless printing is a joy; right up there with sliced bread. The HP Photosmart C6380 is recommended as an extremely capable photo printer (for 8.5×11 inch and smaller prints) and SOHO all-in-one unit. Who says it’s bad to be lazy?

Related Articles

NOTE: There are two ways to comment on our articles: Facebook or Wordpress. Facebook uses your real name and can be posted on your wall while Wordpress uses our login system. Feel free to use either one.

Facebook Comments:

Wordpress Comments:

  • Teenie says:

    Hi there

    Found your review realy useful… I just bought one today.

    Only thing is, I cannot get the display screen to stay up!! can it be upright???? I can lift it up but it just falls down again!!


    Thank you

  • Steve says:

    How do find out the ink levels? Color quality is poor and don’t know which cartridge to replace.

  • warren peterson says:

    Jan 28/10 Steve is right, will not tell me which cartridge is out or down…..any help on this ??

  • Wanda Rodriguez says:

    I have one and it has been nothing but heartache. I have already sent one back because of the monitor. It had a shortage in it and would not work properly. Now with the one they sent back to be does not stay online. I would not reconmend this printer to anyone.

  • KC says:

    The print color is absolute horrendous… I don’t have time to tweak the colors… buying another printer.

  • Sandra says:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *