HP Photosmart Premium C309g All-in-One Printer Review
By Sandy Berger on December 14, 2010
Touch screens got big boost popularity in cell phones, and now they are moving into other devices, including printers. The HP Photosmart Premium C309g printer boasts a large touch screen along with all-in-one capabilities, automatic duplexing, and wireless networking. Since this printer had such a wide-range of capabilities we decided to take a closer look.
The HP Photosmart Premium C309g comes with quite an array of accessory items. As shown in Figure 1, these include a two-part power cable. The power block is shown on the left and the wall plug and cable is shown on the bottom. Also included is a CD with the HP software, a black cleaning cloth with the HP logo, and a small sample package of photo paper. While most printers of this caliber don’t include a USB cable, this one does. While the USB cable is only three-feet (90 cm) long, it is adequate for use during the printer setup.
Figure 2 shows more accessories including a black reusable accessory pouch, an HP Smart Web Printing guide, a Getting Started Guide, and five ink cartridges. A close look reveals that this printer comes with two black cartridges, one large and one small. More on the uses of these will be included later in this review.
The printer itself comes nicely packed as shown in Figure 3. This model is simple, sleek, and good-looking. At 7.83 x 17.8 x 18.62 inches (199 x 452 x 473 mm) with tray extended, it is quite compact for an all-in-one printer. At 16.4 pounds (7.45 kg), the printer has enough weight to feel substantive while still being able to be moved easily from place to place.
The C309g is an all-black printer that has matte black plastic around the sides and a glossy black top. When looking for this model, the “g” is very important. HP also has C309 models with other extensions like “a” and “m.” These seem to be entirely different printers with different features and very different looks. We don’t understand why HP would invest in such complicated naming systems as it only confuses perspective purchasers.
One of our biggest complaints about HP printers has consistently been the length of time that installation takes. Although this printer shaved some time off previous models, installation still took us more than one and a half hours on a fast Windows 7 machine. Installation of the software alone took more than 20 minutes, and we also had to wait through a somewhat time consuming initialization and alignment process. You can expect to spend even more time if you have a slower computer.
To HP’s credit, the on-screen animations that demonstrated installing ink cartridges and loading paper were clear and helpful. There is also a helpful pictorial cartridge installation guide right inside the printer, as shown in Figure 4.
When installing, the printer gives you two options: wired and wireless. If you choose “wired,” the installation takes you to the setup for the Ethernet connection with no mention of using a wired USB connection. This may well be confusing to an uninitiated user. To install for use with a USB connection, you must install the software first. That said, however, the step-by-step installation instructions are easy to follow and the wireless setup worked seamlessly.
As shown in Figure 5, the printer has only one physical button, the power button, which is shown to the right of the screen. The 3.4,” touchscreen, which is also shown in Figure 5, is large, clear, and responsive. The angle of the screen is adjustable, so it is easy to see whether sitting or standing.
While having only one button creates a sleeker device, we longed for a “stop” or “cancel” button. This is becoming more popular with some of today’s printer manufacturer’s and is a welcome way for users to easily cancel a print job.
Figure 5 also shows the input trays in the front of the printer. The white spacers can be moved to accommodate smaller photo paper and envelopes. There are two paper trays, the top for photo paper and smaller sheets and the bottom tray for A4 paper and envelopes.
In Figure 6, you can see that the cover of the input tray of the C309g acts as the output tray. On the lower left, you can also see the slots that accommodates a Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo,SD, xD, and PictBridge devices.
We loved using the touch screen on the C309g. It eliminates the use of nested menus and makes using this printer a snap. The main screen displays the main functionality for printing, copying, and scanning. Figure 7 shows that the sub-screens are also very simple. This screen has three main choices: Quick Forms, Ink, and Setup. To the left of the screen you will also see several lighted touch areas that let you navigate the functions. To the right is a question mark, which can be pressed to get instant help.
The “Quick Forms” is a unique function that allows you to print things like calendars, graph paper, and music paper. We found it to be quite useful.
Plain text quality was excellent with letters being clear and crisp. Although the printer took about 30 seconds to wake up and print the first page, successive pages printed quite quickly. It is rated for 10 pages per minute.
Photo printing was a bit disappointing when compared to the HP Office Jet Pro 8000. Although color accuracy seemed adequate, the photos had a slightly faded appearance. As usual, photos looked best when printed on HP photo paper.
Unfortunately, the black ink cartridges in the C309 were a bit problematic. When the smaller black cartridge ran dry, the printer refused to print a text page even though the larger black cartridge was full. A call to HP clarified the situation. If we understood the foreign HP representative correctly, it seems that the larger black cartridge is used only for photos. So you cannot use it to print text unless you tell the printer that your text is a photo, which will work in a pinch, but is not a real solution. We felt that most average users would be happier to have the larger cartridge dedicated to text printing, or better yet, to let the printer use both cartridges for text and photos.
The problem is that if you print a lot of web pages, email, and Word documents, you will find yourself changing the black ink cartridge quite often. According to HP, the standard plain black cartridge will yield 250 pages and the photo black will yield 130 3x5” (8 x 13 cm) prints. A standard cartridge retails for about USD 12 in the USA and XL (higher yield) cartridges are available.
We, however, were able to print less than 200 pages from the cartridge that came with the printer. No documentation indicated that this was a “starter” cartridge. So we must assume that our demo printer did not live up to HP’s claims.
Figure 8 shows the back of the printer with the USB, Ethernet, and power ports. The bump in the back is the duplexer. This automatic duplexer works quite well and can be used to save on paper. It does, however, slow down the printing since the printer pauses briefly to let the ink dry on the first side before printing the second side of the paper.
Copying and scanning on the C309 worked seamlessly. We only had a few minor issues with the scan functionality. On the hardware side, the scanner cover is not hinged, which would provide for scanning from books and thicker documents. On the software side, you must click several times to actually give the file a name other than “scan001,” “scan002,” etc. It would seem that a much needed function like that should be easier to access.
We tried several different connections for this printer including 802.11n, Bluetooth, and Ethernet. All worked seamlessly.
The C309g also supports HP ePrint which allows you to print from anywhere by sending to your printer’s email address. No special software is required, but the printer needs to be connected to the Internet. Our experience with ePrint is that while it usually works, we have encountered some problems that did not have solutions.
The main specifications for the HP Photosmart Premium C309g all-in-one printer include:
The good touch screen and streamlined interface make this printer easy to use. The all-black solid design and small footprint will be welcome at both home and office as will the good all-in-one functionality. Additional features like the automatic duplexer and wireless networking make this an excellent all-around printer. Impressive print speeds and extras like the Quick Forms add to the overall package. We don’t recommend this printer for someone who wants to print a lot of photos, but it is adequate for printing an occasional photo. In summary, the C309g is a versatile all-in-one printer.