HP Photosmart Premium C309g review: HP Photosmart Premium C309g

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In general, the C309g's software bundle is pretty good (as you'd hope, considering how long it takes to install), and we were particularly impressed by the linked comparison-shopping engine that pulls in the best prices for ink supplies from a range of retailers, including Dabs and Ebuyer.

Text performance
Draft-quality black text was handled well on photocopy paper, with only slight feathering. Ten pages at this setting were printed in 46 seconds, with a 1-second spool and a 13-second print time for the first page. This is good, but not especially fast, which makes the attendant noise and desk-shaking feel like overkill. Epson's Stylus Photo PX710W and Stylus SX610FW were both faster in this test, but neither machine's results were as good as those of the C309g.

Upping the quality to 'normal' got rid of the feathering but increased the job time to a still acceptable 1 minute and 16 seconds. The 'best' setting takes over four times as long -- 5 minutes and 52 seconds -- but, while the characters are darker, they're no better-formed, so we'd recommend sticking to the normal setting.

Great greyscale
Business graphics were dealt with well, with strong, solid colours and white text on a black background clear and sharp down to eight points with serif text and four points with sans-serif text at both best and normal quality on office paper. At draft quality, the smallest you should expect to go before you see feathering is eight points in both cases. The C309g sailed through our greyscale test at all quality settings, cleanly picking out each tone in a scale of 21 steps, going from white to black with just 5 per cent difference in tone between each.

The C309g proved no less proficient with photos. There are five inks under the hood -- the standard cyan, magenta, yellow and black, and an extra, photo-strength black for more subtle shading. Together, these deliver super-sharp results, with faithful colours and excellent definition in shadow areas. The only thing that let the C309g's photos down slightly was that very dense black areas, such as night skies, had a rather powdery appearance when compared to those of the PX710W.

The HP Photosmart Premium C309g could easily have smacked of desperation. But, although HP has seemingly thrown in every feature it could think of, the C309g remains a well-rounded device, with great performance and a truly useful touchscreen display. It's not a game-changer, and it's not unique -- Lexmark has gone one step further by writing downloadable apps for its touchscreen printer's display -- but it greatly simplifies and enhances the printing experience.

Edited by Charles Kloet