We recently looked at a few photo printers and as we’re running up to Christmas, and I suspect that photo printers are likely to be on a few people’s Christmas list, I thought it was about time that we review a few more.
We’re are starting off this week with the HP Photosmart Premium (C309G), an all-in-one photo printer, copier scanner with the added benefit of a large colour LCD touchscreen promising that you’ll be able to edit photos without the need of a computer or wirelessly print direct from your PS3, iPhone or iPad.
So let’s unpack the printer and see how easy it is to get up and running and, most importantly, how good those photos print!
The 10 Second Review
- Product: HP Photosmart Premium C309G – Inkjet all-in-one printer
- Price: £113.85 inc VAT
- Summary: An inexpensive all-in-one printer that’s capable of delivering great quality photos
- Best of: Wireless printing from iPhone and iPad, great quality photos.
- Worst of: Large printer takes up a lot of desk space, sloooow print times
- Buy it now from: it247.com
What’s in the box?
- Mains power adapter and cable
- Accessories pouch
- USB cable
- Driver CD-Rom (inc. Mac and Windows 7)
- 5 x Ink Tanks
- Screen cleaning cloth
- sample sheets of 6×4 printer paper (3)
- Note: No manual!
HP Photosmart Premium C903G specification:
- Product Description: HP Photosmart Premium C309g All-in-One Multifunction Colour Inkjet Printer
- Device Type: Printer / copier / scanner
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 45.2 cm x 47.3 cm x 19.9 cm
- Weight: 7.45 kg
- Printing Technology: Ink-jet ( colour )
- Inkjet Technology: HP Thermal Inkjet
- Monthly Duty Cycle (max): 2500 impressions
- Max Copying Speed: Up to 33 ppm
- Max Copying Resolution: Up to 1200 x 600 dpi (mono) / up to 4800 x 1200 dpi (colour)
- Max Printing Speed: Up to 33 ppm (mono) / up to 32 ppm (colour)
- Max Printing Resolution: Up to 600 x 600 dpi (mono) / up to 9600 x 2400 dpi (colour)
- Scanning: 4800 x 4800 dpi
- Original Size: A4 (210 x 297 mm) (max)
- Media Size: 216 x 297 mm (max)
- Media Type: Transparencies, envelopes, plain paper, cards, labels, greeting cards, photo paper
- Standard Media Capacity: 125 sheets
- Output Trays Capacity: 50 sheets
- Automatic Duplexing
- Hi-Speed USB, Ethernet 10 Base-T, Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11n (draft)
- Print from memory card
- Power: AC 110/230 V ( 50/60Hz )
- Environmental Standards: ENERGY STAR Qualified
- Manufacturer Warranty: 1 year warranty
On the front of the C309G you’ll find a couple of paper trays. The lower one can take up to 125 sheets of plain A4 paper and the upper one can take a smaller quantity of photo paper.
Above the paper tray is large colour LCD touch screen which gives access to printer menus and features as well as allowing you to preview photos from inserted memory cards.
On the bottom-left are a couple of memory card sockets supporting MS/MS Duo and XD/SD memory cards. There’s also a USB connector so that you can print from USB memory devices.
On the back of the printer you’ll find a large, chunky unit that is actually the duplexer. This will prevent you from putting the printer much closer than about 5 inches to a wall.
Also on the back is the power connector, USB socket and an Ethernet socket should you chose to connect to a wired network.
The top of the printer has a large lift-up cover for the flat bed scanner unit. This allows you to scan or copy a variety of documents.
The Photosmart Premium is certainly not a small printer and you’ll need a reasonably large amount of desk space to accommodate it. Like so many of the printers in HP’s range the C309G is an all-black plastic construction, not particularly interesting to look at but not terrible either. The ones striking feature though is the large LCD screen on the front which makes it stand out from the crowd.
Opening the box for the first time reveals something quite unusual for on top you’ll find an HP branded bag with a zip that contains all of the accessories, ink tanks and cables that you need for the printer. I’ve never seen this type of packaging before but I have to say it does keep everything quite neat although I’m not sure what I shall do with the bag now that the printer is set up, an HP branded pencil case perhaps?
Initial set up of the Photosmart Premium is simple. When you power up the instructions for installing the ink cartridges etc are shown as animations on the LCD screen and you are taken through the process. There is even a built in speaker which plays beeps and tones at key points throughout to attract attention.
There are a total of 5 ink tanks to install; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and ‘Photo Black’.
Whilst the process of setting up may be simple it did take over 40 minutes to install the ink carts, align the heads and install the driver software on Windows 7. It even installs a desktop widget which enables drag-and-drop photo printing.
Once up and running it’s time to run a few print tests. First of all some plain text pages to see what mono print quality is like. Results are impressive, even on really cheap paper that we initially used there was no ink bleed and the text is hard to distinguish from a laser printer until you look very closely.
Colour photos on plain paper aren’t bad. On our cheap paper the photos came out a little wrinkled indicating that the paper got a bit too ‘wet’ whilst printing but on slightly better quality plain paper the results were much better.
Switching to good quality photo paper yields really great results. The Photosmart also has an auto sense feature that claims to automatically optimise the printing depending on the type of media it detects so when you install glossy A4 paper it will print more slowly and carefully than on plain paper. In practice this works really well and means that you don’t have to remember to change the print settings whenever you change the paper.
Another good thing about the C309G is that you can have both A4 and 6×4 (or 5×7) paper installed at the same time then you simply choose the media size when you send your print.
Photos do come out really well, not as dark with some other photo printers that we’ve used recently.
Print speed is one thing that isn’t great with the Photosmart Premium is the print speed. In our tests we we printed a simple 5 page Word document which contained a table in duplex mode. This took a staggering 2.5 minutes from start to finish. This does drop to a more acceptable 1.5 minutes with duplex off which is way short of the claimed 33 pages per minute. Text only documents do come out much more quickly but we only managed to achieve a peak of 16 pages per minute with a long plain text document in draft. The main thing affecting print time is that the printer can spend a lot of time ‘preparing’ to print, up to 30 seconds thinking about the print before starting it which, when you are printing just one or two pages, has a dramatic affect on the per-page average.
Full A4 page photo do print quite quickly though taking just over 115 seconds to emerge from the printer. On plain paper this is also a little faster.
Overall print speed is probably acceptable for home/home office use.
I mentioned earlier on in the review that you can print to the C309G with your iPhone for iPad. When I first read this I get rather excited, however, the Photosmart Premium is not Air Print compatible, in order to print from the iPad or iPhone you’ll have to install the HP iPrint app. This is a free app and there is an iPhone and iPad version. It does mean though that you can only print photos and cant print from Pages or Numbers for example.
The iPrint app does work very well though and allows you to pick which photos you want to print, how many copies and what size paper you want it printed on.
The Photosmart Premium S309G is supplied with value print cartridges which offer a lower than normal page yield but using HP’s data on page yield for their standard carts (around 750 pages) and the ink tank cost (£12.50 for colour and £6.63 for black) gives us a per-page print cost of about 7p for ISO colour. This is exceptional compared to rivals.
The HP Photosmart Premium C309G is a great all-in-one printer. Whilst it’s far from the smallest on the market the fact that it can potentially replace a laser printer for text, an inkjet for photos and a scanner/copier means that it’s definitely a contender.
On coated glossy photo paper the print quality is amazing, much better than the dedicated photo printers that I’ve seen in the past.
The C309G is inexpensive to run and with the current purchase price of under £114 is seems like a bit of a bargain!
Review by: Matt