When I test a printer, the machine usually comes to the office. I pack the boxes downstairs and bundle them into a taxi to take them home where I do all of my testing. As I was travelling through Wan Chai with a load of Hewlett-Packard printers, I looked over to the next lane where there was a Lamborghini Diablo picking its way through rush-hour traffic. 'What a waste,' I thought. 'Probably never had that car out of second gear.' Ironic, really, as the HP printer sitting next to me was in much the same way. When it comes to buying a printer, a flashy V12 with 200-plus horsepower is often what catches your eye, when an old reliable taxi - like the HP - is more appropriate for everyday printing jobs. The $2,300 Hewlett-Packard 720C is noticeably different from other models on the market. It is refreshingly well made and designed. The case seems mostly metal with a thin covering of plastic, rather than the other way round. The 720C is small but has a full A4-sized loading tray which does not require flimsy extensions or attachments to hold a stack of paper. Also, there is no need to open any trays or covers to reload the printer. The paper tray is conveniently placed at the front. It is easily the best paper-handling design I have seen in an inkjet. At the back, the plugs are covered by a small, flip-up panel which hides the connection ports. This looks neat and, more importantly, keeps the plugs protected. I can tell you from experience that people tend to bend plugs and damage connectors by pushing computers, monitors and printers too close to the wall, something that one need not worry about with this model. There also is a slick access panel at the rear that allows you to clear paper jams. A large circular dial turns about 30 degrees anti-clockwise and most of the back of the printer simply can be lifted out. You needn't worry that my performance figures for the 720C were inflated by being tested on a screaming-fast PC. All tests were done on a 486/66 with 16 megabytes of Ram, running Windows 95. Driver installation took only a few seconds and a minimum of fuss. Print speeds varied widely, depending upon what was being printed. One of the best features of HP printers is the driver design, which can determine what is being printed, such as plain black text or solid coloured graphics or photographs. It can then adjust how the image is processed and inks laid down to give the best results. If you are looking to produce photographs or artwork, look for something racier. The 720C produced plain-paper prints arguably as good as those printed on high-quality glossy paper. However, the results weren't quite as good as one could expect from other brands, nor as quick. An A4-sized image on glossy paper took more than 20 minutes to print. Text was another matter altogether. Text on plain paper was not only as sharp but as black as one would find on much racier, competing products. Graphics were richly coloured with little noticeable dot pattern. Most impressively though, text printing was fast. One page of black text printed as quickly as the $16,000 networked, workgroup laser in my office. From the click to the finished print time was no more than 30 seconds.