One of my internet buddies on the Ciao.co.uk website (owned by Microsoft's Bing! division - they get everywhere don't they?), Jesi,  reviewed HP's PhotoSmart Premium C309G printer as part of a HP promotion last July. Aimed at people who want to print shop quality prints at home, the 309g is an all in one photo printer. There's three reviews in one covering both the printer and cartridges, as well as the HP Photopaper.  Jesi's kindly given Point-n-shoot permission to republish the review. As with all our reviews, copyright is retained by the author.

Review 1: HP Photosmart Technology ~ Too Smart for My Photos?

HP Photosmart Premium (C309 g-m review)


Print ~ Scan ~ Copy

  • Stand Alone or Linked to PC/Mac
  • Uses Wired (Ethernet/USB) or Wireless Connection to PC and Internet
  • Powered directly from the Mains Electricity.
  • HP Recommended Ink Cartridges: 364 Photo Black, Magenta, Cyan, Yellow, Black
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    Advantages: Prints fast; prints from media/Bluetooth; 'Quick forms' printing includes calendar, checklist, Notebook lined paper, graph paper, music paper and games; estimated ink levels show how fast you are using ink; clever printer knows what paper you are using and does not waste photo paper on Printed Reports or routine printing.
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    Disadvantages: Noisy, vibrates; thinks it knows better than you what you want; printing directly 'from Snapfish' failed due to length of time for Snapfish album to load to select pictures; scanning is awkward and must be initiated from computer.
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Why a NEW Printer? What Do I Need? What Will I Use it For?


Most of our printing over the last 15 - 20 years has been in black & white: documents in support of NVQ Portfolios, letters, rotas; telephone lists and various forms (including spreadsheets and merging documents from database). When we wanted to print from a webpage, we either printed at college/library (or work) or saved the relevant information into an Office document and saved onto a floppy disc for printing later. The printer we were using most recently was an Olivetti Colour printer attached to a second-hand PC running Windows 95 with Word 97 and very little RAM. The printer used either a Black cartridge or a three-colour Cartridge (you had to change the cartridge for Colour Printing or Black & White) and the connection was an ordinary LPT1 (male/female screw-in) port; the drivers were on a 3½" floppy disc. Both the printer and the computer were pre-USB. I scanned photographs at college and saved files; either printing there, or at home from a 3½" floppy disc, but mainly had photos developed from photo shops or the chemist.


In 2008, the computer we used for printing died. I bought my "Travelling White Angel" MSi WiND so I could use a computer wherever I was, could connect to Wi-Fi and transfer pictures via Bluetooth, but it didn't have an LPT1 port. My husband bought a new Dell Wi-Fi enabled Laptop in March 2010 and upgraded his T-Mobile contract phone to a Blackberry Curve 8520. By now we also had ADSL2 Internet at home with a Livebox which can handle 2 Ethernet and 4 wireless connections (and supports live printing), so our search parameters were changing.

I had been looking for a printer that would do everything we needed. My basic desires now were for:

 

  • Wireless printing;
  • Bluetooth printing;
  • Stand alone copying;
  • Scanning.


The most interesting looking printers were mostly quite large and bulky. I looked at pictures of compact Brother Laser printers (as their printing is usually crisper than inkjet) but they didn't impress my husband. I resigned myself to printing at the library or not at all.

Enter the Ciao User Test of Original 364 Ink Cartridges

A few months ago, we started to see some banner ads quoting Ciao reviewers who had written about products. We also saw Adverts inviting us to apply to test the Original 364 Ink Cartridges for HP. When I received a phone call telling me I had been chosen, I was excited! And, to my amazement, I was going to receive a printer as well (I assumed it was on loan for the three weeks, but it was later confirmed that I could keep it).
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HP PHOTOSMART C309g PREMIUM

This was the Printer I received on which to test the 364 Ink Cartridges!

When I knew I was going to receive a printer (as I initially thought, on loan) I went onto the HP website to find out more about it and what it could do. I found several Photosmart Printers pictured and wondered which one it would be. They were promoting special offers if you bought one of these printers, to receive photo paper samples as well as HP plain paper. There was also a link to projects you could do on the HP Creative Studio website. The benefits of wireless printing were extolled as well. "A home wireless network means being free to print from anywhere you like: the bedroom, the bathroom and even the garden shed!" I waited in to sign for my new printer when it arrived and was surprised when it came. The box was bigger than I expected . . . was I going to have room for it? There was a picture of the printer on the outside of the box and the specifications. To my surprise, it was the Premium Print - Scan - Copy, top of the range version, with a clear touch screen for instructions, lights to indicate when wireless and Bluetooth were connected, with the ability to make two-sided copies automatically. It was beautiful: sleek, black, shiny (look out for fingerprints?) and looked well built and solid. It fitted nicely on my special table (and I could rest my netbook on top, bringing the netbook to a comfortable working height as well).
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Included in the box with the printer were two sets of ink cartridges: one full set of five secured together, and five individual boxed cartridges for replacing the individual cartridges as required, one by one as they run out. Also included were a little black zipped accessory bag which has room to store two sets of cartridges, the supplied USB cable, the software CD and a few other small bits and pieces. It has the HP logo on the side and "HPecoSOLUTIONS" on the bottom. This originally held the CD, 1 set of cartridges, and a small packet of three photo papers. In a buff ELBA Manila Folder were a 'Welcome Letter' with instructions for the test and where to send the finished draft review, two packs of Sample Photo papers of different sizes and 20-25 sheets of plain white paper. I was looking forward to using my pale green and pale cream paper on which it is easier for me to read black print (due to my dyslexia) as well. I had a few ideas for PRINT jobs waiting, and with my daughter expecting to produce her third child, I was anticipating quite a few baby photos to print as well.
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I knew I was going to have to go online to get my drivers and software, as my WiND Travelling White Angel doesn't have a CD/DVD drive, but my husband could use the (supplied) CD054-10002 (Version 13.1.0 for Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Version 10.4 for Mac OS X v10.4, v10.5, v10.6) when he was ready to install the drivers on his Dell Inspiron Laptop. The latest updated drivers are available on www.hp.com/support although you need to know exactly what model you are looking for. Without turning the printer on, I accessed the hp website to get my drivers. All went well as I downloaded the software and started to go through setup on my netbook. I installed up to a point without difficulty until it started to ask awkward questions.

First Question: did I want to connect via Wireless, USB or Ethernet; if wired, to the router or to my MSi WiND directly?

Ah! I need to put the printer on, because it needs to be ready to set up, too! At this point, I thought about the options. Obviously it would be awkward to keep having to disconnect the printer from my netbook every time I took the Travelling White Angel out with me. Would it print properly from the PCs if it was merely connected to the router via Wi-Fi as well as the netbook and my husband's laptop or did it require a direct connection? To connect via wireless LAN required the WEP Security key, so I went to my Inventel homepage to refresh my memory to input the WEP key when required. I then decided to start up the Printer. I connected the two parts of the power cord, then attached to printer and surge-protected power supply, in that order, and pressed the on button. Immediately it started going through a 'one time initialisation process' and hummed away, with the touch screen letting me know what was happening. A sticker on the back had warned not to attach the USB until prompted, so I didn't make that mistake. I had removed all transit tape as per the included quick-start booklet diagrams (two booklets of 96 pages each of which only the first three of one booklet were in English!). I put the English HP Ink Cartridge 364 sticker on the front of the printer under the Printer name while I waited. No fear that I'll ever forget what the correct cartridge number is, then!
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Now the touch screen product display is asking me to insert ink cartridges, and is showing me an animated display! This can be repeated as many times as necessary while you learn how to do it. Pressing 'done' brings you back to the display. There is ? beside the display panel; pressing it brings up the help menu, with an interactive list which will recall the demo animations for the various actions required. Tearing the seal off the outside of the ink cartridge was simple, revealing a fluorescent orange cap handle, which is sealing the ink. The instructions tell you to twist this to break the seal.

I had to involve my husband in this stage.


Following the instructions was easy, but my arthritic fingers couldn't twist the cap to break the seal. When my husband had broken the seal of the photo black ink, I put the cartridge in its place. He breaks the seals of the magenta, cyan, yellow, and main black in turn for me, and I put them in their places, and closed the cover. I had to re-open the cover to press the ink cartridges into place until they clicked. Adding paper to the paper tray allowed the printer to align the cartridges and print off a test sheet. When setting up I was invited again to set up the wireless link. I put the router in linking mode and typed the WEP security code into the printer when prompted. This was successful, and the wireless light lit. The touchscreen menus gave various options of diagnostic reports you could print off; part of the setup menu included your Bluetooth setup. Any blootooth enabled device within range can send photos to the printer, and it will print directly.

My husband also updated the Firmware with 'Patch Revision 10' and a Printer Hardware Information Device Update Report was automatically printed (it gave me a surprise! I asked him, "What have you just done?" when the sheet came through).

Printing


I was intrigued to see what I could print, so I looked through the menus. Quick Forms looked interesting, so I found I could print off:

  • Calendar Pages (monthly or weekly) ~ the weekly calendar has headings for the days of the week, but no dates. The monthly Calendar requires a year and month to be selected. I printed off the calendar months in which I and my husband were born, seeing that I was born on a Wednesday and he, a Thursday. I also printed off a weekly page. There were boxes under each day of the week either to list tasks or appointments.
  • Checklist ~ this could be a single column or a double column with heading.
  • Notebook Paper ~ Narrow Rule, Wide Rule or a landscape 'Child Rule' with a dotted line so that letters can be practiced ~ Blue lines with a red margin line on the portrait ruled paper. I made myself lots of green Narrow Rule paper, and green Child Rule paper, returning the pages to the tray to print both sides of the paper.
  • Graph Paper ~ two sizes: 1/8 " or 5mm ~ these print in pale blue.
  • Music Paper ~ either Portrait or Landscape ~ these print in fine black music lines.
  • Games ~ Sudoku: generates puzzles (with answers upside-down) in four difficulties; my husband is keen on Sudoku so I printed him off a few ~ Maze: three difficulties ~ Tic Tac Toe (Noughts & Crosses): a page of 12 grids in different colours ~ Dots: a page with four blocks of black dots.

I Told You it was Too Smart For My Photos!

I put a USB Memory stick in the front slot, which the printer recognised and read, offering to print my pictures. I chose the picture of my Son and Wife at their wedding. It looked fine, but when I previewed the print it tried to crop the top of his head. I went into the 'edit mode' but nothing I changed was still corrected when I previewed so I ended up de-selecting the image. I managed to select a photo I had been sent by my sister from USA. This was a previously scanned photo of myself as one of the "Three Little Girls from School" when the three of us were in our School Production of The Mikado (aged 11). A picture of my 28 yr old daughter was unexpectedly intensely coloured; another picture of her two daughters was similarly darker than expected, the colouring seemingly 'corrected' by the Photosmart Technology in cooperation with the special HP 'Smart' Photo paper which the printer had informed me it had detected. The photos also, although printed as 'borderless prints' seemed to have had the edges of the photos cropped. I have since figured out how to edit each photo when printing from the memory card/USB memory or directly from Snapfish (over the internet) using the edit menus, but apart from increasing the 'brightness' by a couple of degrees have not solved the intensity problem. You have a few more options when printing from your computer, but the printer still seems to have a mind of its own.
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I am really not used to a printer thinking for me and trying to re-edit my photos. I have investigated using ordinary paper, different quality print settings (draft/fast print gives you bands like a roller-cut lawn), and have re-edited wedding photos before trying to print them.

Printing from Snapfish Directly


This was something I wanted to try, as my sisters have posted a lot of albums on Snapfish, sending me the links, since 2005, and I have been a member of the US site since that time. However, although I have tried several times, using different albums and different techniques, every time I think I am getting somewhere the Printer 'develops an error' and asks me to turn printer off and on again . . . the album I was working on has vanished and I have to start from the beginning. I have since managed to print Snapfish Album photos on an e-All-in-One HP printer using an online Web App, so I believe that my sisters' albums contain too many high quality images and the C309g memory is insufficient.

 

Other Benefits and Drawbacks?

I really appreciate the ability to print 'borderless' pages . . . whether photographs, text or webpages. No more back-talk from the printer setup telling me that the border margins are too narrow to print! apart from a bottom margin (about 2cm or so) the pages will print no matter how tightly I cram the words onto the page! I was pleased to be able to change cartridges individually when the ink ran low, rather than wasting ink when only one colour has been exhausted. The printer also tells you the ink is low a long time before you need to change the cartridge(s), giving you time to get a new cartridge. You can do a lot of tasks without even having your computer on, because of the direct access to the internet and the built in functions. Features which are more directly regarding the ink cartridges have been discussed in my review of the HP 364 Ink Cartridges. .

Further Thoughts, Opinions and Conclusions

 

This is an impressive printer, and well worth considering.

  • I am impressed at the independent features it has as regards generating the games, music paper, lined and graph paper ~ no more needing to find a stationers open to buy specialised graph paper or a music book to copy a musical score or work out a melody or harmony for a new song!
  • My husband was very pleased with the Sudoku, although the randomly generated games are a greater challenge than some of the ones he has been doing from The Metro free paper.
  • It prints double-sided, waiting for the first side to dry before drawing the page back into the duplexer to print the second side, and will print and collate pages if you are printing several copies of a multi-paged document.
  • It will also print multiple copies of a double-sided scanned document, prompting for you to turn the original over, and notifying you when it is waiting for ink to dry between printing the sides.
  • You can enlarge up to 400% and decrease to 25%, up to 99 copies, although your output tray is actually for 50 pages, and input 125 sheets.
  • To scan my husband's timesheets to forward by e-mail to the payroll department I managed to scan using my netbook's Scanning Wizard, and save on my computer, but when I had previously tried to scan directly to a USB memory stick, it told me it was successfully saved, but I could not find the saved file. It does scan quite quickly.

This is slightly less 'user-friendly' than the Epson scanner I use at the public library but as an All-in-One delivers excellent results.

 

  • I was disappointed when I tried to access an online album on Snapfish to print off some copies of prints my sisters have taken in USA, particularly the ones taken at my dad's funeral service of the family two years ago. The album in question had over 200 images, and some of the pictures failed to load; just showing black squares; while waiting, Snapfish timed-out and I lost the connection. Two further attempts also failed. A.
  • When the printer wants to access the website for information, it also seems to monopolise all my netbook's RAM; leaving little room for normal functions. I am not quite sure what to do about this, although it might be related to the Snapfish website time-out due to slow loading. I only have 1GB RAM.
  • It is NOISY when printing, especially when printing multiple pages, several copies of the same document or generating the 'quick forms' I like so much.
  • It is NOT a facsimile machine, but does Scan, Print and Copy.
  • Don't worry about breaking the cartridge; just press REALLY hard on each lever to break off the protective cover to install the ink.


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Would I have definitely chosen this machine? I am not quite sure. With the difficulties experienced because of my arthritic hands, maybe not . . .


But my latest grandson was born on Saturday night 10th July 2010, and my daughter texted me a photo less than ten hours later. I chose to "Print and Save' and my Motorola RAZR V3x phone sent the photo via Bluetooth directly to my new printer and within seconds I had a 5" x 7" photo of my new grandson ready to take with me to church to brag to all our friends! It was much easier to see than that little 2" screen on my mobile phone, as well. Now THAT is a skill this Printer has that I REALLY Appreciate!

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Thanks for Reading!


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© July 2010 . . . ♥jesi ♥


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This is currently available from Amazon.co.uk, John Lewis, and many other retailers, and has been part of a promotion where you receive a discount when buying ink paper and printer together. Price direct from HP online currently £199 inc VAT, but may be available elsewhere for varying prices. (July 2010)

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Review 2: Jesi does the HP Photosmart 364 Ink Cartridge Test


Fourteen Ciao UK members each received an HP Photosmart Premium C309g Printer in order to test two sets of cartridges and put them (and the printer) through their paces. The Printer arrived on 7th July, and we were asked to email the finished review to the coordinator on 29th July so they could extract quotes from the reviews to use in advertising banners. These are appearing onsite as of beginning of August 2010.
HP Original Ink Cartridges: 364 Photo Black, Magenta, Cyan, Yellow, Black

The three main colour cartridges are expected to last for up to 300 pp; photoblack ~130 photos (not used in normal printing); the Black (with a bigger outlet hole) for up to 250 pp
  • Advantages: Individual colour cartridges means less waste without compromising print quality; gives ink level warnings in good time
  • Disadvantages: Hard to open cartridge seal; need to buy (and store) five different cartridges; Need to buy XL catrtidges for best value
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Enter the Ciao User Test of Original 364 Ink Cartridges



The idea was to test the 364 ink cartridges to see what we would find. This looked like it would entail printing a lot of pages, if the projected usage was anything to go by. As there were only a few sheets of different types of Photo Paper included, one of the first things I bought was some HP Everyday Photo Paper (100 sheets A4 and 100 sheets 10x15cm) from Euroffice. I already had a ream (500 sheets) of white paper, thin card in various colours and several reams of pastel paper. I had printed over 745 pages of varying types and complexity, including double-sided, and had been using the second set of cartridges with the Everyday Black already on 'first warning' again when I received the email suggesting four further specific tests to try. As I had already done similar exercises in the course of my testing, it was agreed I needn't do these specific tests in addition.
I must say at this point that I was very impressed at the way the picture quality did not deteriorate until each cartridge was virtually empty, and even then, if you used the printer's tool to clean the cartridges (Setup / Tools / Clean Printhead) and gave the printer an overnight rest you might get a further 25+ quality prints, as I did.

Previous Printing Experience / Background


What do I normally print?

Most of my printing is in black & white, comprising: letters, rotas; telephone lists and various forms (including spreadsheets and merging documents from database) although occasionally I have needed to print in colour. At home, I have used an Olivetti C190 inkjet printer; you needed to change the cartridge to print 'in colour' so there was additional risk of the cartridge 'not in use' drying out. Obviously it was better to use the black cartridge as it was cheaper and could print in grayscale if required. One of the most frustrating occasions was running out of one colour ink when the cartridge was barely used (I made the mistake once of printing instruction pages for a game with several illustrations of a very green card table top and VOILA! the cyan was depleted and yellow low ~ and that was a brand new £30+ cartridge reduced to printing in red!). Printing Cartridges are quite expensive, and, although originally you could buy a print head with extra refills from Olivetti, they started only selling single all-in-one ink cartridges: either Black or Colour. I sometimes refilled cartridges to prolong their life, and have used compatible cartridges as refills before the printhead became integrated with the cartridge.
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Previous Experience With HP Inks?

At college, I regularly printed using several different HP twin cartridge inkjet printers (which used to give interesting results depending on which of the three colours was running low). I utilised this to very good effect when designing my NVQ Portfolio Unit Title Pages and Criteria Lists, as one printer gave me a beautiful Blue page, and another was predominately Pink (the colour should have been Brown) which I used for all Fourteen Units. As I had thus only experienced both the joys (and frustrations) of an "All-in-One" colour cartridge (the Olivetti without a separate Black, and the HP with), I was intrigued and curious to try these cartridges and see how far I could make them go, and with what effects. I have a lot of photos taken on my phones which I had never printed, and I wanted to try printing off some of the Snapfish albums my sisters had sent me (which were taken in the USA), which included family pictures taken at my dad's funeral two years ago, and my pictures of Niagara Falls.

The Test Begins: Installing the Ink Cartridges

When I set up the HP Photosmart Premium 309g Printer, it went through a One Time Only Initialisation process, after which it told me to install the Ink Cartridges. An animated demo showed me how to lift the cover, remove the Orange Protective plastic form, then remove the protective cover off a cartridge and break off the flourescent orange cap by pressing on the lever; then place the cartridge in position and press down until it clicked. The first cartridge was the photoblack; then it showed you doing the same with Magenta, Cyan, Yellow, and Black in turn. I had to get my husband to break off the orange cap as the four points at which it is glued to the cartridge were slow to break and I could not apply enough pressure. The Printer recognised the HP Cartridges, commended me for using Genuine HP Cartridges and proceeded to align the cartridges, a process which takes about 4min 30sec, finishing with a printout (mostly in cyan and black) with all the colours at the top of the page and two little birds at the bottom.

PRINTING

I am a curious person, so one of the first things I did was to press the arrow beside the touchscreen. This gave a second screen with three options: Setup, Quick Forms, and Estimated Ink Levels. I looked at the ink levels, then setup (setting up the wireless and getting a printed "Wireless Network Test Report"), and looked at the available Quick Forms. As I have already mentioned in my review of the Photosmart 309g Printer, I then proceeded to print off a lot of Quick Forms. I put the paper back through (printed side up in the paper tray) to print on the reverse. I made lots of pale green narrow ruled paper! I also made quite a few sheets of paper ruled for children (two lines with dotted line in between) for my four year old granddaughter to practice writing, some graph paper and various games. The Narrow ruled paper was BEAUTIFUL! I write very small, and this was perfect . . . narrow pale blue lines and a red margin line. The mazes, Sudoku and Tic Tac Toe (Noughts & Crosses) games were in different colours, but all had a little black hp symbol in the bottom corner of the page.

What next?
I put my USB Memory Stick into the front slot. Instantly the printer read it, and told me how many images were on it. This included photos (both scanned and taken by phone or camera) and scanned documents (as they are saved as jpeg images). All the photo paper used in these tests were HP papers, and I even printed on the back side of the 'Brochure' paper used to inform about the sample photo paper types included. I selected a picture of my son and daughter-in-law but it wanted to cut the top of his head off, so I chose a different image, my daughter in pensive mood. I chose the larger size Premium Plus 13x18cm photo paper, and was surprised at how dark the print was.The background was a particularly intense yellow-orange. My picture of two granddaughters likewise had a darker yellow-green wall behind them than it appeared on the screen. These were printed with the special 'photosmart technology' which is supposed to improve your prints, so I wondered if it would be any different on normal paper. I was excited about this test now, and the printer, and decided I'd like to write about this printer, too, if I might. (** see below).
Ink Levels?

At this point, I looked at the Estimated Ink Levels on the screen and was surprised to see the level falling on the Cyan (that would be all those quick form sheets of notepaper then!). I started to wonder just how long the ink cartridges were going to last, and be grateful for that second set in their individual boxes!
Double-sided and Ink Saturation?

I printed off the PDF text and pictures HP Reviews Programme 7-page document on both HP Everyday Photo Paper and plain paper as a double-sided document. This was telling me all the ideas we could use, making good use of the duplexer installed on the printer. A dialogue box came up on my computer screen telling me the ink was drying between printing off the pages. The pages both printed and dried much faster than the sheets I had printed a few years ago on an HP printer at college. The pictures bleed less on the front of the photo paper, although the plain paper was better than the reverse side of the Photo Paper. Using plain paper used less ink, as otherwise the paper could have been much wetter. A heavier weight paper was less liable to curl or warp.
Printing Photographs

My daughter had her first boy on 10th July and sent me an MMS of the baby the next morning; I saved it to my Motorola RAZR picture gallery using 'print & save' and a lovely 13x18cm photo was produced straight from the printer in less than a minute on one of the sample sheets. I experimented with printing photos from my USB memory stick, both of my Motorola phones, directly from my husband's Blackberry Curve and from my computer. I have used a variety of different papers including plain, pastel plain, photo, advanced and premium photo (gloss, semi-gloss, matt), brochure paper, thin card in order to both try out effects and experiment with different styles without wasting the best paper. (I will discuss quality in another section).

Attempting Projects from HP Creative Studio
As my daughter had just had her baby I decided to do a few projects to give to her: a 2010 calendar with the new baby picture featured in the main insert photo block and various pictures from the last two years of her two girls and of the couple inserted in the other gaps, printed on light card; a baby-brag book with all the details to be filled in as to favourites, family (this used a lot of yellow ink!). I was shocked to see how low the Yellow level had fallen after these and decided not to do any more.

Quality of Printed Materials


Photographs

My first prints using the Advanced Photo Paper were, as I said, too intense, with the Photosmart Technology assuming that it needed more colour. I am not sure whether this is partly due to a printed picture being different to a picture on a screen (whether computer screen or mobile phone screen) which is lit from behind, or whether it autocorrects. I did not see much difference in basic quality of print on the different grades of Gloss and Matt Photo Paper Samples provided for the test, although the ink dried quicker on the higher quality paper, and the thinner papers tended to curl slightly. The Semi gloss Everyday Photo Paper gave excellent colours and prints appeared to be exact colours, but they were the 'poor relation' of the Gloss Heavier weight papers when you placed the prints side by side. The Advanced Photo Papers gave a professional 'Photoshop' result which leaped out of the page. In addition, I was an art student many years ago and have even appreciated some of the effects produced by printing when the ink cartridges are nearly exhausted. As the photos I have taken myself or edited are (artistically) quite well centred, it is nice to have them enhanced and to be able to share both wallet photos and album pages without much effort, with the printer designing the pages.
Documents

I am very impressed with the quality of the Quick Forms prints. The narrow-ruled paper and music paper is as good as any I have ever bought in a notebook, and I have been able to print on the colour paper I prefer to use to write. The games are professional looking as well. I have printed invoices and order confirmations directly from the websites, and copies of Banking details from my online banking. Letters and CVs printed on slightly better stock paper look crisp and professional. For printing logos, I recommend the HP Brochure Quality paper, as the colours are more natural than on plain paper.

Longevity of Ink Cartridges


Initially, I was not quite sure what to expect, but I decided to document my usage as I went along. When the Ink Cartridges were first installed, the printer recognised that they were Genuine HP Cartridges and told me so. The printer then 'aligned the cartridges' printing out my first report. I discovered further reports under Setup: Tools
  • Printer Status Report
  • Print Quality Report
  • Clean Printhead
  • Align Printer
I decided that I would use up the ink in each cartridge until it was definitely empty
I remembered the effects of using the three-colour HP cartridges at college as the individual colours ran out and wanted to see whether the printer would continue to function as the ink ran out, and whether or not it would protest. Some printers refuse to function as soon as they suspect you might run out of ink, which leads to greater expense as you don't empty the cartridges completely.
Warnings of Ink Levels

  • The first warning came through on the touch screen that the yellow was running low after 195 pages. From this point I printed out Quality Diagnostic Reports and Printer Status Reports at regular intervals when warnings appeared, when quality dropped and when I changed cartridges.
  • The cyan was the next warning after 200 pages. I had printed 118 borderless pages and scanned (copied or scan-to-file) 33 pages.
  • After a further 35 pages (29 borderless and 4 further scanned) the Black showed a Warning Triangle (235 pages).
  • Magenta was next after 242 pages, and the fifth warning Photoblack after 252 pages.
  • I ignored all these warnings, and carried on printing until the ink was exhausted, NOT replacing any of the cartridges from the first set (except Black) until warned that they were either NON-Genuine or completely depleted, with question marks replacing the warning triangle when I looked at the Estimated Ink Levels on the touchscreen.
The colour print quality was not affected until I had printed a total number of 274 pages, of which 177 were borderless (both A4 from the main tray and from the photo tray)

By this stage, the Yellow and Cyan were streaking on the Quality Diagnostic Report but although Magenta and Black levels appeared quite low the print quality was not affected.
At pages 282/283 (a double-sided Black copy scan) the Black started streaking and document printing quality had deteriorated. As the Black suggested longevity is ~250 sheets, this is quite good for what is promised, although it was less than 1 week into the 3 week test. I was glad I had a second set of cartridges!
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I carried on printing Quick Forms as my husband liked the Sudoku. I also copied pages of blank Sudoku grids (using Tippex on the numbers of a finished game) as my husband likes to start fresh when he gets stuck. When the hp logo disappeared on the puzzles and music paper I printed out, a Print Quality Diagnostic Report showed No Black and no report . . . merely the full Magenta and Photoblack lines and four colour half-tone blocks below.

Changing the Cartridges


First Set of Cartridges Depleted

  • I changed the Black at 350 pages as it was impossible to keep track of usage or to monitor the remaining cartridges without the black to print the Reports.
  • I had printed 205 borderless pages and had scanned 57 pages.
  • It was 9:45 am on 16th July, eight days into the test.
  • After printing my reports I got on with other work to give the printer a rest.

Just after 12 noon, as I was copying a page of photos of my youngest son and his daughter, the touchscreen gave me an ink alert concerning the four colours. Did I want to continue using them? I did, and the top two photos were acceptable drafts, but the lower two were streaky as the yellow and cyan ran out. I tried cleaning the printhead (for the first time ~ it also cleans the cartridges) and Printed a Ouality Diagnostic Report. At 360 pages only magenta and the blacks were printing, and page 361 was the final page showing magenta. I decided to see just how many pages the photoblack would last on its own after the other colours appeared to be exhausted. It seemed to only be used for defining the outlines in pictures and drawings rather than print. I photocopied a brownish gift voucher card "in colour" and got some pages in just photoblack suitable for colouring in. At 367 pages I was warned that there were either non-genuine cartridges or the ink was depleted, and a question mark appeared over the yellow column in the Estimated Ink Levels.
  • At 387 pages the cyan showed a ? as well, and I decided to change just the cyan and yellow cartridges.
  • The Magenta also soon was accused of being either 'depleted or non-genuine' so I changed this as well.
  • I now printed nearly 50 A4 pages of photographs (sheets of 9 wallet photos and of four 9x13cm) on A4 paper until the photoblack ran out at the start of a page of 9 wallet photos (pictured below).
  • This was at 441 pages (I changed the photoblack without awaiting the (?) indication, as I needed it to print more photos).
  • The second Black Cartridge showed 1st warning the next morning (17th), so I ordered 364 XL Ink cartridges (wondering if the black would last the remainder of the test!)
Second Set of Cartridges Depleted

The new XL Cartridges arrived by the 21st July, and I saved them ready. I cleaned printhead and cartridges at 501 pages and I had an [Ink Alert] on the touchscreen for Cyan, Yellow and Black before it printed the report. I carried on printing my Niagara Falls photos before I went to bed. When I got up in the morning (24th) I decided to print a Print Quality Report to see if the Black had recovered, and was told the paper type was incorrect. I had left the photo paper in, and it wanted plain paper.

I changed the Black on 23rd July at 530 pages; after 563 pages I changed the Cyan and Yellow. There was no decrease in Quality of printing, so I waited on Magenta and Photoblack even though the warning triangle was showing on the Estimated Ink Levels. After 665 pages (352 borderless; 137 scanned) the magenta finally stopped printing and I experimented with colours . . . printing off various photos which now had a distinctly 'under water' feel with a 'sea green' tinge. I printed a photo of my sister MG and neice which I had taken in USA two years ago (print 700). The next morning, I cleaned the printheads, and to my surprise, the resulting colour spectrum was perfect! I printed the same photo again (print 750) and have included a picture below of the two pictures for comparison. Sheet 777 started well, but the magenta ran out partly on the page. I carried on printing sheets which did not require magenta and on sheet 790 a warning came up saying that there was either a non-genuine cartridge or ink depleted (picture below). After page 799, I finally changed the magenta cartridge, on 29th July. Once again I needed my husband's assistance to break the cartridge-cap seal. The Printer was pleased to once again have a Genuine 364XL Ink Cartridge, and congratulated me!

So What Did I Think?


I was surprised at how quickly the initial warnings came up for the ink levels although the ink did last for quite a bit longer. This means that you might have time to go out and get some ink before you run out if you do not have a lot of items to print. The Black has a bigger opening, so it will deplete quicker; although it was the third to give a warning, it was the first I had to change. Personally, I seem to use more Cyan and Yellow, with my Cyan 364XL cartridge already only about 1/3 full in less than a week and the Yellow 364XL about 2/3 full. As a dyslexic, I prefer to read type either in Navy on White paper or Black on pastel green, blue or buff paper. When I return to my normal pattern of printing, I expect I will need to replace the Cyan, Yellow and the standard Black most often.

The printing was laser quality for black printing on normal documents, quite sharp even for small fonts, although it was still susceptible to smudging if got wet. I am quite confident in understanding what sort of effects I will be able to produce. I was also impressed at how consistent the quality was until the ink was depleted, lasting until almost the last minute (a bit like alkaline batteries); hopefully you will have bought the replacement ink cartridges in time.

I certainly recommend that you use genuine 364 (and 364XL) inks in the Photosmart Printers, as you could invalidate your warranty if your printer sustains damage due to non-HP inks being used. Other inks do not always give as crisp results, and these flow easily and give good quality on all types of papers which I tried.

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UPDATE 3 Aug 2010)

I thought the second photoblack had run out (and chose not to replace it yet to see some interesting effects on some 'Art Prints' I printed last week (less than a dozen), but after cleaning the printhead and giving the printer a couple of days' rest, I have today printed a further two dozen 6"x4" prints, eleven A4 sheets of four 9cm x13cm photos, and an A4 'contact sheet' of all the images on my friend's SD 2GB memory card from her camera. These prints are all perfect quality on HP Everyday Photo Paper - so that I am surprised at the longevity of my 'dying' photoblack cartridge! At over 400 pages per each of my original photoblack cartridges, I think the photoblack lasts quite well.

I certainly would not want to risk 're-setting chips' from these cartridges onto refurbished cartridges or onto non genuine cartridges, as you then cannot check your ink levels, and you would possibly waste far more ink than you need by guessing when to change the ink. Total pages printed so far: 880, of which 415 were borderless and 176 scanned pages.

I think that speaks for itself.

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Thanks for Reading!

Review copyright 2010 Jesi.


Review 3: HP 364 Series Photo Value Pack (CG927EE)

"LAB-QUALITY PHOTOS AT HOME"

  • 100 sheets 10 x 15 cm (approximately 4" x 6" print size) HP Advanced Photo Paper, Glossy, 250g/square metre
  • 1 x 364 Series Cyan Ink Cartridge
  • 1 x 364 Series Magenta Ink Cartridge
  • 1 x 364 Series Yellow Cartridge
  • HP suggest shelf life of 18 months
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BACKGROUND

When I was about 16, my neighbour (for whose children I babysat) was so impressed with the pictures I had taken on a very cheap (B&W) point-&-shoot camera that he not only taught me how to develop and print my own photos under red light, but also lent me an expensive Olympus 35mm camera and supplied me with film to take more pictures and develop them and experiment with different exposure times and effects.

There is something rather satisfying about printing your own photos, whether it be making enlargements, just re-cropping the picture to correct bad positioning (or removing either a family member or friend fallen from favour) or even using parts of one picture to create different foci for new photos for an album. Of course, as you move on, and so does technology, developing photos was more difficult: Colour film photo developing (a skill which I never learned) is much more complicated than Black & White developing, and required more chemicals and a different darkroom technique. For years, I was dependant on the vagaries of film developers, and never really knew whether the picture I took would be reproduced properly. I found myself sometimes taking negatives back for reprinting to include part of the photo at the edge not accurately included by automatic 'centering' machines.

I still love taking photos, however, and have taken photos for friends' wedding photos. I have even been known to apparently take ONE posed picture while in reality taking a spontaneous shot of some camera-shy person in the background.

For this reason, when I had an APS camera, I used to always take photographs in 'Panoramic' mode, and have at least two copies of each film developed (as default) ~ and cut each 10"x4" photo down to two very different 6"x4" photos. . . . printing the panoramic view gave you an enlargement of the centre strip of the photo, so your detail was also clearer. One could always get a standard reprint of a single photo later if you wanted the full picture (but panoramic reprints always cost more, and the colours didn't always match the original set). How I missed being able to properly edit the original prints without having to pay more for 'selective enlargements' and specialised treatment!

Amazingly, with the advent of digital technology, all this has changed.


These days, any picture saved on one's computer (or memorycard/ usb memory stick), whether taken digitally or simply scanned can be printed easily at a machine in a photoshop or chemist . . . and I have experienced these "Lab quality" prints both from a photo shop and from self service machines. And now you can do the same at home, simply using printers such as the HP Photosmart Printers, with prints which look as good as the older pictures printed on special photographic emulsion paper, if the right photographic paper and inks are used. This is where the benefits of this Photo Value Pack come in. I will not be reviewing the inks, per se (which I reviewed separately), nor the photographic paper included specifically (which I might review at a later date), but rather this PHOTO VALUE PACK as a unit in itself.

HP 364 Series PHOTO VALUE PACK


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This pack includes three standard HP 364 Series Ink Cartridges, which are fastened together with a single clear strip, minimising packaging waste:

  • 1 x Magenta (this provides the red tones)
  • 1 x Cyan (this provides the blue tones)
  • 1 x Yellow (this provides the yellow tones) ... and
  • 100 sheets Glossy HP Advanced Photo Paper 10 x 15 cm (250gsm)

This is almost all you need to print 100 lovely 6" x 4" prints. Of course, you need a printer which takes the HP 364 Series Ink Cartridges, such as the HP Photosmart, Photosmart Plus and Photosmart Premium Printers (and the new Premium e-printers currently being tested).
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You will of course need a Black Cartridge (standard or XL) in every case, and for certain models (such as the HP Photosmart Premium C309g Printer I have) you will also need the special PhotoBlack Vivera Ink cartridge to print crisp, true colour photographs. I have heard that there should be a new 364 Series Photo Pack coming out, which will include the three colours AND the PhotoBlack but I have yet to see any in the shops or for sale online. Obviously this will cost more because of the extra ink cartridge included.


[UPDATE: There is a new Photo Value Pack (CH082EE) which has only 85 sheets of paper (introduced January 2011) and on the HP website it is listed as SRP £28 inc VAT. I presume when the packs containing 100 sheets of paper expire, these will be all that will be available. It too only includes the 3 colour ink cartridges, and no black nor photoblack.]
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As the standard PhotoBlack Ink Cartridge is projected to give 130 prints, and standard Colour Ink Cartridges projected as 300 prints, you should easily get your projected 100 photos from this pack. The question is, did I? And were they the promised LAB QUALITY? Additionally, did my normal usage of the printer make any difference to whether or not I actually also got my 100 photos?

My Experience

I first used these HP 364 ink cartridges last July when I participated in the last HP/Ciao Test, having received a Photosmart Premium Printer and two sets of cartridges to test, and testing them to their limits during a three week trial. My usage at that time is detailed in my review of the printer and the review of the cartridges. I found a couple of things improved output and drying time, which I have detailed below as hints.

Whenever you use injet cartridges, the actual usage rate is dependant on the colour balance in the photographs or colour printing you are doing.

The best thing about having individual colour cartridges is that you can replace individual cartridges when you need to, without needing to replace all the colours at once. I found that my general printing tends to be standard documents, which I usually print onto pastel paper (buff, green, pale blue or yellow) in black rather than printing with Navy print onto white paper (due to my dyslexia, my brain has difficulties processing black print on white paper). I also use the printer to photocopy (Black copy rather than Colour copy) documents onto pastel paper. But my husband's pay slips have red printing, and since they are now accessed online rather than posted to him, he likes to print them off, which does use more of the magenta cartridge.

I replaced my cartridges in August with this standard set of yellow, cyan (blue) and magenta (red) cartridges from the Photo Value Pack; I also was using a Photoblack cartridge. I use a Black 364XL cartridge since it is most economical for my usage. I decided to wait to write my review until I needed to replace my colour ink cartridges, to see how many photos I managed to print before the colours ran out, and whether I truly got LAB QUALITY photos. I have finally needed to replace the COLOUR cartridges, approximately 6 months later. I replaced the Main Black cartridge between times, but did not need to replace the Photoblack until I replaced the colour set. I have printed more than the original 100 sheets of 6" x 4" Advanced Photo paper as prints, and have been very pleased with both the quality and my ability to print exactly the portion of the pictures I choose. I have also managed to print normally, including some photos on HP Everyday Photo paper (both 6" x 4" and A4 sheets), and general printing of documents including colour on Plain A4 paper over the last six months. The advantage of the Advanced Photo Paper is that at the heavier weight, it is the same thickness as your Standard Lab Processed prints, and a baby photo sent as MMS and printed directly from my phone to the printer looks identical to the same photo processed at a shop and sent to me through the post by the baby's mum.
Despite not using the printer daily, the photos were always of excellent quality, and the Vivera ink cartridges did not dry out like I have found with other printers and cartridges in the past. The prints on the included paper were excellent, and in some cases were superior to previous prints collected from lab processing, with good colour balance. This is probably due to the combination of the HP printer, HP paper and the HP cartridges working in harmony.

Several hints (as promised) to improve ink usage and drying time:

  • Particularly when the cartridge is new, try setting your paper to 'Plain paper' rather than 'Automatic' in your 'properties' dialogue, even if you are using photo paper. When I was doing the 'HP/Ciao test' last year, I found this improved drying time;
  • Make sure paper is the right way up. The only time I smudged a print was when it was printed on the underside of the photo paper;
  • Before printing a batch of photos, particularly if, like myself, you have a gap between photo printing sessions, go to your Setup/Tools/Clean Printhead if your printer has that option (like the C309g Photosmart Premium has).



I can recommend this Value Pack, particularly if you can get it at the prices I have found it available, as it was cheaper to buy the inks WITH paper than the inks on their own.

Availability and Prices

RRP £34.37 but available online for about half that.


It is available on Play.com; also available on Amazon Marketplace from £13.90 (+ £4.00 delivery) to £38.94 (+ £11.16 delivery) . . These prices vary from week to week, so it is worth looking around every time you wish to purchase to ensure you always have the best deal available . . . also available on other sites and selected larger retailers offline. The cheapest pack (of the three packs I have bought) cost me £14.60 with free delivery.

I found this cheaper than buying the HP Standard Ink cartridges on their own even without buying 100 sheets of the lighter weight, draft-photo-quality Everyday Photo Paper of the same size (to economise), and the difference in quality using the supplied Advanced Photo paper instead of the Everyday paper was amazing. For Quality Prints, I can not recommend this pack highly enough. Why settle for less than the best if it doesn't cost you any more?

RECOMMENDED


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THANKS FOR READING!

 

© February 2011 . . . ♥jesi ♥


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SUMMARY: Print Lab Quality Prints with the flexibility of doing it yourself at your own convenience!

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