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HP Photosmart Premium C309g
Multifunctional devices have progressed by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Today, they offer a lot more apart from standard features such as printing, scanning, copying, direct printing and so on. More advanced models have support for wireless printing and higher print speed and quality. The HP Photosmart Premium C309g is one such versatile all-in-one device that packs in a slew of features under the hood, and it’s completely driven by an intuitive touch screen interface. In fact, the only button on the printer is the power button.
As the name suggests, the HP Photosmart Premium C309g is a high-end MFD that promises to deliver superior photo printing quality. For that purpose, it has four individual color cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) and an additional standard black cartridge with higher ink capacity for printing documents other than photos. These cartridges are simple ink tanks and they fit onto a removable print head.
The device sports a boxy design with rounded corners for a touch of elegance. It’s all black with a matte finish, except for the scanner lid, which is glossy and has a wavy geometric pattern that augments the aesthetics. Its most striking feature is a 3.45-inch tilt LCD touch screen with a backlit control panel, which HP calls TouchSmart. The feed tray, with a capacity of 125 sheets, is located in the front, and there’s an additional photo tray for 4x6-inch sheets above the main tray. The output tray is the lid of the feed tray, which has a retractable plastic strip to hold printouts in place.
The Photosmart Premium C309g supports printing photos directly from digital cameras, memory cards and USB flash drives. There are two card slots (SD/xD and Memory Stick Duo) and a USB port to the left of the feed tray. The device connects to the PC via USB, but you can also print wirelessly via Wi-fi and Bluetooth. A very useful feature here, and one that very few printers offer, is a built-in duplexer. So you can save paper by printing on both sides of the sheet without having to flip sheets and re-inserting them manually. The printer handles two-sided printing automatically.
All the multifunctional devices we’ve tested so far have had buttons. So this is a first for us. This MFD has a touch screen, and it’s not a gimmick; it means serious business. The Home screen has the basic functions (photo, copy and scan) and one-touch access to Snapfish. The Wi-fi signal strength indicator is displayed at the top-right corner. Touch-sensitive buttons are present on the sides of the screen for page navigation and only the relevant buttons are backlit. To the left are buttons for the Home screen, Back and Left scroll, while buttons for Help, Right scroll and Cancel are located to the right.
The menus are very well organized and every item has a big, clearly labeled icon. The Photo section has options to view and print photos from a memory card, USB drive or Snapfish. The images are displayed as thumbnails on the screen (six at a time) and you can choose what you would like to print and the number of copies. On selecting an image, you can crop it, add frames, adjust the brightness and apply color effects (black and white, sepia and antique) to it. Note that these functions are accessible directly from the printer without the need for a PC. You can also save data from external sources (memory card and USB drive) to Snapfish or to the PC that the printer is connected to.
Most MFDs scan the target image/document and send the result to the PC, but this device also has an option to save the result to a memory card or USB flash drive. You can even export the result to a PDF file on the PC. The copy function is very straightforward, requiring you to simply specify the number of copies (1 to 99) and hit the Color Copy or Black Copy option on the touch screen. The device does the rest for you. You can also specify the print quality, paper size and paper type. The most interesting feature here is the two-sided copy option, which utilizes the duplexer to copy both sides of a sheet. The secondary screen of the user interface has Quick Forms, Ink and Setup options. Here, you can check the ink level of each cartridge, configure Bluetooth, LAN and Wi-fi settings, clean the print head, and align the printer.
The Quick Forms feature is where a lot of the fun lies. Preset forms let you print monthly and weekly calendars, check lists, graph paper, music sheets, Sudoku puzzles, maze puzzles, Tic Tac Toe grids and ruled notepad paper (blue lines with red margin). Here again, you simply select what you wish to print, specify the number of copies, and hit the print button. Sudoku and maze puzzles have difficulty levels and the printer randomizes puzzles each time you print them. We gave the most difficult Sudoku and maze puzzles a go, and while solving them was quite a challenge, it was great fun all the same.
Our test PC comprised an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 CPU running on the Nvidia GeForce 7100 chipset with 2 GB RAM. It took 7 minutes and 30 seconds to install the driver and applications and the total installation size was around 750 MB. The main component is HP Solution Center, which helps you scan documents and pictures and transfer images from a memory card or USB flash drive inserted into the device. It also displays the ink levels and lets you configure scan and determine network settings.
The printer driver has presets for various types of prints - general everyday printing, borderless photo prints, two-sided printing, fast economical printing, and so on. Alternatively, you can manually choose the paper size, print quality, duplex printing and paper type. The HP Scanning application presents a simple user interface for scanning documents and photos. After scanning the target, you can crop the image, resize the output, optimize the color, and adjust sharpness. The scanner has an optical resolution of 4800 dpi.
The Photosmart Premium C309g is a stellar performer in terms of both speed and quality. It printed 17 pages of text in a minute in draft mode, whereas it could manage 10 pages per minute (ppm) in normal mode; very impressive for an inkjet printer. Even color combi documents with text and pictures printed at a good speed - 15 ppm in draft mode and 5 ppm in normal mode. The best mode yielded good results, but it took a little more than half a minute to print a single page. Borderless photo printing (4x6-inch) was a bit slow at 1 minute 20 seconds per print, but that’s no longer than most inkjet printers would take. Scanning and copying speeds were very impressive. It took a mere 10 seconds to scan the entire scanner bed at any resolution. Copying a black text document took 17 seconds and a color combi document took a little less than half a minute.
This printer delivers excellent print quality provided you use good quality paper. We tested it with regular paper, bond paper and alabaster paper and we got the best results on alabaster paper. On regular paper, the prints suffered from blotting due to capillary action, which was a bit less on bond paper. On alabaster paper, the character formation was so crisp, that we could read 2 point size font with the naked eye.
We printed text and combi documents and photos in draft, normal and best modes. The quality of prints in draft mode was very good; crisp and not too light. What took our breath away was the quality of photo prints. We printed a good number of color and black and white photos on 240 gsm glossy photo paper. The reproduction of colors and details was near perfect. We’d give it 4.5 out of 5, because we’ve seen better results. The quality of copying was excellent in normal mode too. So much so that there’s no need to use the ‘best’ mode, unless you want super-high quality prints and copies.
The four color cartridges for photo printing use HP Vivera ink, which delivers vibrant and waterproof prints. Each color cartridge costs Rs. 596 (MRP), which means a total of Rs 2,384 for the four photo cartridges. The larger standard black cartridge costs Rs 650 and has a yield of 250 pages. HP claims the color cartridges have a yield of 300 standard pages (combi documents) and 100 4x6-inch photo prints. Thus, a color combi print would cost you Rs 8, while a 4x6-inch color photo print would cost Rs. 23 in addition to the cost of the photo paper.
Likewise, a black text document would cost Rs 2.60. So while printing text documents isn’t very expensive, think twice before printing a color photo unless you have pockets deep enough to buy photo cartridges. Making the trip to a nearby photo studio would turn out a lot cheaper and the photos will also be of a higher quality. The biggest advantage here is convenience - you can print photos at home and you won’t need to run helter-skelter in case of emergencies.
The HP Photosmart Premium C309g is an all-round multifunctional device. It offers a lavish feature set and is an ace performer. Aside from a few niggles, such as the absence of a CF card reader and its inability to print text documents from USB flash drives, there’s nothing to complain about. Printing photos is an expensive affair, but then again, that’s the case with all premium photo printers. But the convenience of superior photo prints at an arm's length cannot be discounted either. This MFD will set you back by Rs. 13,350, and we feel that its features and performance completely justify the asking price. Strongly recommended!
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 452 x 199 x 473 mm
- Weight: 7.5 kg
- Interface: USB, Wi-fi, Ethernet and Bluetooth
- Print resolution: 9600x2400 dpi
- Scan resolution: 4800 dpi
- Copy resolution: 4800x1200 dpi
- Direct printing: Memory card, PictBridge and USB flash drive