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HP Photosmart Premium C309a All-in-One

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    4 Reviews
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    • More +
      24.09.2012 13:13



      If it were just a bit better it would be great, but it isn't

      When the HP Phtosmart Premium (309a) works, it is a very useful bit of kit, but the build quality and the accompanying software let it down.

      When I got the printer, the paper feed mechanism didn't work, and I had to get a replacement from HP (which, was reasonably straightforward), but it doesn't say a great deal for their quality control.
      My other major problem with the device is actually due to the software HP supplies. After scanning a significant number of documents, the software can crash which means you have to do the entire job again, even though the images have appeared on screen and will have been saved onto the computer (at least in unprocessed form). The software supplied also produces huge acrobat files (.pdf's) which makes emailing the documents more trouble than it should be.

      While it isn't an issue for the amount I use the device, scanning double-sided documents takes significantly more than twice the amount of time it takes for single sided-documents.
      A less serious problem is that while scanning photos at 'higher colour depth' the software warns you that it will take longer, this is a massive understatement, it can take hours on this setting.

      On the other hand, I find it prints very good photos, and generally the output is a high quality.

      So: Not a bad bit of kit, but frustrating in that it could be a lot better. Look for reviews of newer/more reliable products.


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    • More +
      03.01.2011 06:02
      Very helpful
      1 Comment



      HP Photo printer not suitable for printing photos, Drinks ink

      The HP Photosmart Premium (or Photosmart C309a) is a feature packed multifunctional printer from Hewlett Packard. The device is quite chunky looking but the glossy white chassis does make the printer look quite nice. There's also a screen to operate the printer, which makes the printer look quite advanced. The build quality feels quite sturdy so no complaints there. I bought it from Misco in October 2009 for £131.82, which I thought was a good price as it was selling for over £200 everywhere else.


      The printer comes with installation CDs for both Windows and Mac. Installation consists of installing the software from the CD and then plugging in the printer via the USB cable and then you're off. Alternatively, you can set it up via wireless by going through the options on the printer screen. This is easily done by finding the right wireless network and logging into your wireless network on the printer itself before connecting to it from the computer.

      Unfortunately, for Windows 7 64 bit I had to download the drivers from the HP website. Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) was able to print with the built-in driver but I had to download the Mac software for the extra print functions. All very easy but can take a while depending on your Internet connection and computer speed.


      As well as being a colour printer and copier, it has load of bells and whistles, including fax if you plug it into your telephone line (not that I need or use it). It's got an ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) on top so you can leave I to copy / scan multiple pages rather than have to place each page on the flatbed one at a time, which can be very time consuming if you've got loads to copy/scan.

      It's got memory card slots to use the printer as a card reader or to print from the cards without a PC, which is pretty common but this one's also got a USB port alongside the card slots so you can print directly from a digital camera via the printer. I tested it with a flash drive and although it told me there were no photos to print, I was able to access the drive from my PC. I like this as it gives me an additional and easily accessible USB port to replace the one that the printer has taken up.

      On top of having a Ethernet (network) port and wireless, the printer also has Bluetooth so that you can print from a mobile phone or Bluetooth enabled digital camera, although I've not tested this function.

      One of the main reasons I chose this printer is because it has CD/DVD printing capabilities letting you print directly to a printable CD / DVD disc (both small 8cm and full size discs). For this, it has it's own removable tray, which you pull out from the bottom, and then slot into the pull down CD / DVD print slot after placing the disc into the tray.

      All in all, an impressive array of features for a £130 printer.


      The printer runs on 5 ink cartridges (Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Photo Black). The standard cartridges cost just under £6 each. The high capacity ones cost around £11 each. £17 for the high capacity black, so just under £30 for a set of the standard ones or around £60 for a set of the 'XL' high capacity ones. When printing colour images, the ink levels do seem to drop quite quickly so it can be quite expensive to run. However, I don't print much so it's okay for me. On the bright side, the use of separate inks means less wastage and lower costs as you wouldn't be replacing all colours just because you run out of one colour.


      Scanning works great. I usually use the HP Director software, which is very simple to use. I've also managed to scan over the network, wirelessly, from my Macbook (not tried from a Windows machine yet).

      As for printing, I have had mixed experiences. Documents print fine with crisp and sharp text. Graphics generally print solidly with nice colours. As it's a Photosmart series printer, one would expect excellent photo prints (the printer even has a photo tray) but unfortunately it has been hit and miss.

      On Windows 7, printing pictures onto photo paper causes the colours to come out different to how they appear on screen. Black colours constantly printed out green, thus completely messing up the picture. Printing to normal paper printed fine. I have had the same problem with printing direct to printable CD/DVD media. What's weird is that, I have managed to print normally from the same system and with the same settings earlier but the colours gradually changed. When printing direct to a CD/DVD (from both Windows and Mac), I experienced a similar symptom with the black turning to blue. Photocopying a photograph, the copy isn't very accurate and it misses a lot of detail but it doesn't have the dodgy colour problem. I managed to resolve this eventually by soaking the print head in hot (but not boiling) water. This was advice I got from a HP consumer forum. Advice was not from an HP staff member but an 'expert user' whom frequents the forum.

      With printing to CD/DVD media, the software that HP bundle is extremely inflexible whereby you have to use their templates. I used Nero Cover Designer, which I already own (bundled with Nero Burning Rom 7). It works great but unfortunately, after a couple of successful prints, my prints started printing misaligned and I've not managed to figure out why it happened so suddenly. Trying the HP Disc Label printing software, it's even worse aligned. The disc label design printed completely off with the design only covering 20% of the disc despite choosing the correct settings. All in all, a complete failure as you're better off using software purchased from a different vendor.

      The printer is capable of duplex printing (automatically printing to both sides of the paper). This works but everything it prints is reduced in size by 10-20%. This is fine if the document is just a web page being printed for reading but not great for those whom need the contents printed with a certain alignment. i.e. on to pre-printed paper or business cards.


      After searching online for solutions for the incorrect colour printing, I had discovered that other people with this printer suffer the same problems. A number of them have contacted HP for a solution but have received rather useless advice and have even been referred to ask Microsoft. Some have received advice from HP to install drivers for old discontinued printers to try to correct the problem but this meant that they'd lose other functionality i.e. CD Printing, as the older models didn't have the feature. The HP userforum is more useful whereby there is a chance o an HP technician replying but advice from other users whom own the same or similar product may just be more useful.

      However, getting drivers and software from their website is easy enough (easy to find, and good download speed) for when you've lost the CDs or if you need updated drivers. You can even order the drivers and software on disc should you have a slow Internet connection.


      - Automatic Document Feeder
      - CD printing capabilities
      - Duplex printing capabilities
      - Network, wireless and Bluetooth as well as USB connection
      - Separate colour inks
      - Also has fax capabilities

      ===CONS ===

      - Poor software
      - Can have print head problems.
      - Duplex printing shrinks printed content
      - Poor support for this product
      - Ink levels drop quite quickly (high running costs)


      For a product from HP, whom brought out so many printers and multifunctional devices over the years, I expected a bit better! The printer has an excellent number of features and connectivity options but the 'incorrect colour' printing issue is pretty unforgivable, but at least I found a fix to resolve it. I've wasted a fair amount of ink trying to get it printing right after trying various settings. I have tried updating to all the latest drivers and software from the HP website, replacing the inks (only ever used HP originals), cleaned the print heads, etc to no avail until soaking the print head in hot water. With the exception of a couple of successfully printed CDs, the direct CD/DVD print function and the software is a real disappointment. On a brighter note, successful prints I managed look brilliant especially on photo paper. I can recommend this printer so long as you're prepared to do some fiddling in case problems arise.

      Thanks for reading!


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      • More +
        07.12.2010 16:37
        Very helpful



        Adequate for my needs, but I'd suggest a different brand than HP...

        As a Graphic Design student with deadlines constantly looming, the worst thing that could possibly happen is a printer failure. We'd owned our HP printer for little over two years when suddenly it just wouldn't turn on anymore, and after endless troubleshooting decided the only viable option was to purchase a new printer.

        For the average household, choosing a new printer might seem like a walk in the park however for me, I needed an all in one printer with CD printing capabilities as my current project requires my own printed CD's. I thought this would be no trouble, afterall our last printer had this function and most printers at the time seemed to also have this function included. After trawling the aisles of PC World, Curry's and Staples to name a few, we found that actually, the printers of 2010 don't really include CD printing as readily anymore.

        After much deliberation, we eventually settled on the HP Photosmart Premium C309, costing us £99 from PC World. As it was the last in the shop, we were actually given the display model which had to be bubble wrapped for us as they didn't have a box.

        The printer has wireless capabilities however we were told this requires further set up, so for now I am reviewing the printer using it via a standard cable connection (which should be included in the box).


        The first thing which strikes you about the printers appearance, is although it's a clean white colour, it's also rather bulky, certainly more so than the two printer's I have now owned previously. It may be suitable for an office (and it does have networking capabilities), however some families, particularly if you're short on desk space, may find it too heavy and bulky to be practical. The printer is 46cm in width, and 28cm in height and weighs 10.4KG (so don't go dropping it on your toes!).

        There is a button operated menu bar on the front of the printer, which is clearly displayed and layed out for your convience, operating tasks with just one button, i.e colour copy. The options include a menu button, scan options, copy options, faxing and a number keypad, as well as the power button and Bluetooth/wireless LED operation lights.

        To access the scanner, you do so by lifting the lid, and there is another lid underneath that where you will find the cartridges etc.

        There is also a memory card slot for many different storage devices, for easy printing.

        Set Up:

        I may be a design student working with computers on a daily basis, but that certainly doesn't make me an expert in setting up printers. As we have the display model, all the parts were assembled correctly, and all that was required from me was to connect the power, install the ink cartridges and insert the CD rom into my computer to proceed with set-up/installation. The printer requires 5 separate ink cartridges which is new on me as I'm used to "colour" and "black" cartridges, however it took under 5 minutes to install all 5. The installation overall was quite straightforward, however although the cartridges went through the alignment process, I noticed for some reason documents don't always print exactly straight.

        The CD rom will install the required HP software you will need in order to print, copy, scan, fax etc.


        The C309a is capable of printing various formats, and includes some sample papers for you to try, with the printer accepting any format up to A4. Although the printer is fairly quick to print, I found that it is a tad noisy whilst in operation. However the biggest fault I found, is that it literally spits out the paper as if it was a torpedo, so be weary if printing important documents (and have your goaly gloves ready!). I'm not sure if there is a way to adjust the angle on the outside tray to avoid this, as the tray can be raised slightly but I'm not sure that would solve the problem, particularly if printing mass documents. It seems to be more of a problem with the speed at which the paper is released, rather than the outside tray.

        In terms of quality, I have so far tested the printer with standard A4 paper, and coloured paper. I can't say I have any qualms with the quality of the job, as everything is printed clearly and the colours are accurate.

        Obviously for me, CD printing was one of the main features that drew me to this printer and I was impressed at how sophisticated the mechanism for this is. The CD tray is stored at the bottom of the printer, just underneath where the paper is printed out to. You then remove the tray and insert this into the drop down tray, which is labelled "CD/DVD". It then takes in the tray similar to how a PC would take in a normal CD, and has a diagram on the tray to insure you insert it correctly. I did have some issues with getting the tray to close properly, but on the whole I would say this is very well designed. Using the software, I was able to design my CD, however I would say the software is geared up more for family use, as it doesn't allow you to design the CD as such, instead offering templates to choose from. As a designer, I also found it frustrating that you could not alter the font family or size so I chose to print the CD without any text. I would love to see some more font options and some more downloadable templates, although if you have design software such as Adobe Illustrator, there is a CD template which you could design and save as a jpeg and then import onto the CD, using the "general template", allowing you to import your own image without having a fixed template you don't want.

        The printer itself, prints the CD very accurately and efficiently, taking around 2 minutes to complete and around 5 minutes to fully dry. I'd imagine this function would also be ideal for making personalised photo albums etc, so I'd definitely recommend trying it. The printer does include a sample CD, however if you want to create more you'll need to buy printable CD's/DVD's, a box of which retails for around £7.

        Ink Cartridges:

        As I mentioned, this printer requires 5 individual print cartridges, consisting of Photo Black, Magenta, Cyan, Yellow and Black. I'm not sure why there are two black cartridges, unless it is related to the fact this is a "Photosmart" printer, therefore the other black cartridge is for printing photographs, it would certainly suggest this is the case with the title "Photo Black".

        The cartridges are surprisingly generous in volume for the cartridges of today's market, which seem to be getting smaller and smaller. With my previous printer, I used to get very frustrated when one small load of printing would pretty much decimate the entire cartridge, as this was a costly exercise to keep on replacing (with both cartridges totalling £60 in WHSmiths!!). I am confident that the 5 cartridges will help save money, particularly as on the level indicator on the HP software, they have only just slightly gone down with a wad of photo and document printing I have just done. That said, I still lust for the days when despite the craziest loads of printing for school work, we only had to change the cartridges about once a year!

        All 5 cartridges are included with the printer, however each cartridge retails for around £5 on Amazon. Hopefully they won't all run out at once!


        Lifting the first lid of the C309a, will reveal the colour/b&w A4 scanner. As with all scanners, the quality (DPI), scale, tone etc can be adjusted on the preview. This scanner has a 48bit colour depth and maximum DPI of 19200, which to me seems excellent although I haven't yet tried it on the maximum settings, I would imagine it would prove very useful if I was scanning delicate pieces in for my Graphics work.

        A little peeved that the scanned documents go into a separate folder in what seems like out of space, and sometimes it crops too far into the image. Having said that, I think this is down to the fact I have been used to other printing software and I'm not yet confident with the scanning features. Aside from all that, the scanning is how you would expect, in that it's quite straightforward with many options to choose from.


        The C309a has colour and black and white copying features, as well as further options on the menu (displayed on a LCD screen), such as number of copies etc. There is also the option of 2 sided copying, which can be activated by hitting the "2 sided" button. I didn't have this feature on my previous printer, and I can imagine for the office this would be an extremely useful feature, particularly as it would save paper.

        I have so far only copied newspaper articles into black and white, and generally the quality was good, but a little iffish around the edges wereby some of the text appeared slightly blurred. Apart from that, no complaints and I'm sure I will get plenty of use out of this copier as I have done with all my printers so far.


        This printer does have colour and black and white faxing options, and there are also further options on the HP software to enable you to send faxes. As of yet though, I haven't tested this feature as I wouldn't have a clue who to fax! I'd imagine it's a very useful feature for those who work at home or in an office whereby faxing is essential.

        Overall Verdict:

        Having now been through 3 HP printers, I was extremely dubious to choose them as a name I could trust for printing. Although I've always been impressed with the results, the fact my last printer simply stopped working just like that (well actually, just as the warranty had expired...) made me cautious to buy from them again, however in this case I needed a new printer with CD printing capabilities, and fast. Unfortunately the rival brands such as Canon, Lexmark etc don't seem to do this feature so HP again it was.

        Do I regret my decision? Well, so far on the whole I don't, and the printer has been vital in making sure my uni work is printed whilst at home, as I simply can't be without a printer due to my course demands. It's not the most lightweight of printers, meaning I won't be able to transport it back to uni without a car, which is a bit of an annoyance as it's literally twice the weight of my old printer.

        The quality of prints is quite satisfactory, and the same can be said for CD printing which at the moment is a lifeline for me. As of yet there have been no paper jams, and the cartridges are proving themselves under the demand of a university student.

        I would say on the whole, this printer and HP printers in particularly really gear themselves for the family usage, as the content provided on the software would certainly back this up. As the printer has faxing capabilities though, it would also be ideal for offices as again it has networking facilities.

        Although I was perhaps cornered into buying this printer, I so far think it's been a worthwhile purchase. It's not quite 5 Dooyoo star material due to the previous flaws mentioned, however it's not a cheap flimsy printer either. I think on the whole, £99 was a pretty reasonable price to pay for this printer, I just hope it lasts longer than it's predecessor!

        Please note the "Battery" catagory rating is N/A


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        • More +
          06.08.2010 11:16



          I wouldn't recommend until they fix the software

          We've had this printer for about a year now.
          The printer unboxing takes a matter of minutes, its quite a large box so you need some room. Installation of the cartridges is simple and one for each colour with a dedicated photo black.
          The installation guide for the hardware is simple and clear, sadly I can't say the same for the software. That's a hour of my life I wont get back, the automatic installer takes the longest I have to do for any device. It installs loads of pointless software regardless of what you tell it.
          Once it was finally installed the drivers very buggy and annoying to use, the feature I find most grating is the drivers decide the paper size is letter and not a4. Despite my best efforts you can't make a4 default, this causes the duplex printing to play up and generally printing nastiness.
          You can't disable bluetooth permanently, disable it and turn the printer off and it comes back on, the wlan works well and very easy setup to a router.
          The print quality is good, the standard text prints are fast and no smears, the duplex when the page is set correctly. When doing photos the dedicated photopaper draw makes life easy no fiddling with trying to get them straight.
          I haven't used the fax function yet so can't comment on that but again looking at the menus its very simple to use.
          The photocopying is clear and very simple to use, even the zoom functions are clear. Having quick launch keys are great for a quick copy. The auto document feeder is a welcome addition if you need to copy a chuck of documents works well and doesn't jam so far.


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