HP packs more features into the Photosmart Premium C309a than you can poke a stick at. With premium pricing to match its moniker, this multifunction printer's core strength is its diverse range of abilities. Although it isn't the perfect photo printer, it will provide decent results for families and home offices.
With a gloss white finish, the HP Photosmart Premium C309a multifunction printer could be mistaken for an Apple product. It offers direct printing from MemoryStick and MemoryStick DUO, CompactFlash, SD, xD and a PictBridge USB port. Connectivity options include a USB port, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. For the business-minded, HP has added a fax, an automatic document feeder and, most surprisingly, an automatic duplexing unit for double-sided printing.
Wi-Fi is limited to existing wireless networks; you can't create a new ad-hoc network. Bluetooth direct printing is almost too easy — once paired to a mobile phone, the Photosmart Premium C309a will automatically print any photos sent to it (this prevents any editing of photos received via Bluetooth, however).
Like the HP Photosmart C6380 multifunction printer, the Photosmart Premium C309a separates 4x6in photo paper from standard A4 media by using a motorised photo tray. The CD/DVD printing palette slots neatly into the media input tray.
We prefer Canon's Easy Scroll Wheel (as found on the PIXMA MP980) to the small buttons on the HP Photosmart Premium C309a but navigation is still straightforward. Basic photo editing capabilities allow you to rotate, crop and fix red eye issues prior to printing, but the 2.5in LCD display is a little restrictive.
The print speeds of the HP Photosmart Premium C309A fall short of those attained by the Epson Stylus Photo TX800FW, but it is still quite fast. It manages to print the first page of draft mono documents in 10.4sec (it takes 16.9sec when printing draft colour documents). It prints draft mono documents at an average 17.6 pages per minute; it averages 9.4ppm when using normal quality. Colour documents are slightly slower at 15.7ppm in draft mode and 5.6ppm when using normal quality.
Standard 4x6in photos were fast, taking 26sec, while an A4 photo took roughly 1min 9sec. Unfortunately, although it's quite fast the HP Photosmart Premium C309a is one of the noisiest printers we've reviewed.
The HP Photosmart Premium C309a has a maximum hardware print resolution of 9600x2400dpi, but mono printing is restricted to 600x600dpi. This is a common restriction in home multifunction printers, and it limits the quality of text documents. Although text is readable and lacks aberrations, characters aren't defined or accurate enough to be considered laser quality. Reducing the text to 7pt size causes slightly blurry letters.
The Photosmart Premium C309a multifunction printer delivers vivid colours that work well in documents. In photos, colours are comparatively toned down but the accuracy is still adequate. Thankfully, there are no banding or image noise problems in photos. Scanned images are detailed and have accurate colours.
The HP Photosmart Premium 309a's running costs don't quite rival those of laser printers. Though 21.2c per A4 page (using high yield cartridges) is a reasonable figure, it isn't the cheapest inkjet multifunction either.