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HP PhotoSmart Premium C309 Review

February 4th, 2010 6 comments

B002GWVZHW-1I used to be an ardent Dell fan.  Over the years, I’ve bought four Dell laptops, at least one Dell desktop, and two printers from that company.  But over the past two years, Dell’s gone on a marked downturn, and their products have gotten progressively worse.  More importantly the customer service that made them famous has gone by the wayside in their desire to outsource everything possible.  So when my Dell AIO went on the fritz and refused to work under Windows 7 (and this is a printer I’d bought less than a year ago, mind you), I swore I’d never buy another Dell product again.  (More specifically, I raged at that stupid Dell printer with the fury of a thousand brilliant suns and almost went Office Space on that POS before deciding to donate it to a local AIDS thrift store.)  So I found myself in the market for a new printer/copier/scanner.  After extensive reading at Amazon, I picked out this HP unit.

The C309 is a relatively svelte machine, especially compared to the behemoth that was my Dell (hatred and denigration of Dell products will be a theme throughout this post, so if you’re a Dell fanboy, just leave now).  It came in a ginormous Amazon box.  I tried to take some unboxing pictures but my iPhone apparently was operated by an epileptic on crack so I’ll be sticking to stock photos.

The C309 is a wireless/wired photoprinting AIO unit with a duplexer.  I was dreading the setup for this printer because my experience trying to set up the wireless printing on the Dell was a Chtulian nightmare.  And after all the pain of setup, the wireless printing never worked right, leaving my fiancee and I passing USB cables back and forth to print.  So you can imagine my complete surprise and amazement when the manual gave me a completely wireless setup option.  And not only was it an option, the option actually worked!

Coincidentally, I’d bought a new router about a year or so ago.  One of the features it had was something called a WPS button, which supposedly would pass all necessary wireless settings to any WPS-equipped device.  The C309 is one such device, so when the printer booted up and asked for a WPS signal, I was able to have it connected to my network in about three minutes.  It was amazing.  The touchscreen confirmed my SSID, asked for my network password, and went through a few more confirmation questions.  The software installation took longer than the connection to my home network.  If I have to ding HP on something, it’s the fact that they have ALWAYS released bloated software.  This thing was fatter than a pregnant cow with triplets.  It also had a very annoying feature that forced an immediate reboot.  I lost several web pages that I hadn’t had a chance to bookmark because the install program shut down my laptop.  Make sure you’ve saved everything important before you install the HP monitoring software.

That one bit of nastiness aside, I was connected to the printer and testing within probably 15-20 minutes.  But the biggest test was connecting my fiancee’s laptop to the printer.  Again, HP pulled through.  The second installation was as smooth as the first.  Within 30 minutes, both of us were printing to the C309 sans wires.  The duplexer works just fine, but it’s a bit slow because the printer automatically waits for the ink to dry before flipping the page.

Speaking of ink, the C309 uses individual ink cartridges.  There are five altogether – four for photos (including a photo black) and one for text.  I haven’t priced the ink out in great detail, but I do recall seeing sets of photo ink for this printer in the $25 range, which isn’t terrible.  The POS Dell’s ink was so expensive I actually considered buying a new printer rather than replace the ink.  Instead I just didn’t print anything (which was good, since I couldn’t print anyways).

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The other awesome thing is that HP provides an iPhone printing app.  The HP iPrint will let you print pictures directly from your iPhone to any compatible HP printer.  Launching the iPrint app, I was able to detect my printer and send a test print to it with zero setup.  Tres cool.

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I’d never really been a fan of HP products before, but if the C309 is any indication of the typical quality and ease-of-use that HP is putting into their designs now, they’ve just become my favorite PC hardware manufacturer.

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