HP announced the industry first HP Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One (AIO) printer the first week of March along with several other new printers but even then the Photosmart Premium stood out. From its stylish design, multifunction performance, to the standard features not found on other inkjets; the Photosmart Premium clearly took the prize.
The real question is will it perform up to the high expectations set in early March? Read our full review to find out!
HP PHOTOSMART PREMIUM FAX SPECIFICATIONS
BUILD AND DESIGN
The HP Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One (AIO) printer is a great looking printer done in all white with some light gray paneling; according to my coworkers, it somewhat resembles a breadmaker. Having never seen a breadmaker in real life, I’m assuming they get those images due to the Premium’s curvy figure as opposed to more traditional boxy frame.
Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past HP if the Photosmart Premium did start making bread; this machine has all the bells and whistles standard. It prints, scans, copies, faxes, prints photos and CD/DVD’s. It is also DLNA certified (first in the industry) meaning the Premium will print wirelessly from an DLNA certified device (think PlayStation 3).
But I’ll have more on that later; for now I want to cover the design of the Photosmart Premium starting with the 50-sheet ADF on top of the scanner lid. The tray is detachable and has two adjustable paper guides for different sized media.
Raise the lid and you’ll find the 48-bit flatbed scanner. This scanner has an enhanced resolution up to 19200 dpi and a optical resolution up to 4800 dpi. The maximum scan size is 8.5 x 11.7 inches.
You’ll find two blue handles on either side of Premium directly below where the scanner lid opens. Grab these handles and pull up and you will have access to the inside of the machine. This is where you will load the five individual ink cartridges (black, photo black, cyan, yellow and magenta). Each cartridge is marked with a unique shape which corresponds with the shape and color on the ink carriage. Once the ink is loaded correctly a graphic will appear on the color display.
The color display will be found on the front of the Premium next to the control panel. The Photosmart Premium control panel is quite handy with over thirty keys including: power, black and color copy, black and color fax, photo print, setup, help, cancel and a full number pad to name a few.
Access the CD/DVD printing tray from the control panel as well although you will need to pull out the CD/DVD accessory –located below the paper tray – to use this device.
The built-in memory card reader is to the left of the color display; it features PictBridge connectivity as well as Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, SD, xD and CompactFlash.
The two paper trays can be found below the control panel. The detachable photo tray is the smaller of the two; it is automated to read the bars found on HP paper to avoid misprinting and will print up to 5x7 photos.
The 125 sheet paper tray can be accessed by lifting the photo tray up; it has one adjustable paper guide on the left side of the tray.
On the back of the machine, users will find the USB 2.0 and Ethernet ports along with the fax line and power source. The detachable duplexer is also located on the back of the machine.
PHOTOSMART PREMIUM FAX PERFORMANCE
I love that the Photosmart Premium Fax can be set up and ready to use without even using the included CD. I attached the accessories to the outside of the printer and plugged the device in and the Premium took over through an installation wizard accessed directly through the printer.
During the installation, users will decide on languages, install ink, and load paper in the trays. The wizard will then print an alignment page and the Premium is ready to go. You can scan, copy, and print from memory cards and flash drives.
Users will need to install the drivers and software to access all the Premium’s features and to use it in conjunction with a computer. HP has a great installation wizard that does most of the work. Most users will just need to decide what software they want to download, whether they want to set up the Premium over a network, etc.
One of the many things I loved about the Photosmart Premium is that you set up the wireless network through the printer. It took me five minutes or less and I had zero problems. Once it is on the network, any computer with the drivers downloaded can print to the Premium.
Ease of use
You may notice a theme through out this review: how incredibly easy the Premium is to use. I find with most full featured all-in-ones that it is relatively simple to print, scan or copy but the more complicated features such as faxing, photo printing or using the printer on a wireless network can be difficult to get working.
I never had that problem with the Photosmart Premium. I managed to use all of the more difficult features without consulting the user’s guide including: CD/DVD printing, faxing directly from my PC and printing and editing photos with the built-in card reader.
As usual with HP machines, they include a bunch of extras on the driver machines but I stuck with Photosmart Essential (3.5 on the Premium), the Solution Center and the Smart Web Printing. All three I’ve used in previous reviews and I found all of them to be useful especially Photosmart Essential.
But you don’t need to download anything but the drivers to use most of the features found on the Photosmart Premium if you are low on memory.
You often find with inkjet printers that the text quality is lacking in comparison with a laser printer but, honestly, the Photosmart Premium Fax text quality was excellent. In even the faintest of fonts, the text popped off the page and was incredibly easy to read. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it was laser quality but it was definitely a close second.
The draft mode when printing black text was excellent as well. It rivaled lower end inkjets best text mode.
I have used and reviewed other Photosmart machines and the Premium is the best I’ve seen from HP when it comes to photo quality. Even our in-house photographer was impressed with the bright colors, the contrast, and overall image quality. It isn’t the photo printer for professionals but amateurs and even most photo enthusiasts should be more than happy with the prints they’ll get from the Premium.
Premium photo on the left, dye sub photo on the right
Having said that, the Photosmart Premium Fax didn’t quite perform up to my standards during print speed trials.
HP advertised that the Photosmart Premium features print speeds up to 33 pages per minute when printing black text document in draft mode. The closest I came to that number was 21 ppm with a first page out in six seconds. On average, it took around two and half minutes to print my entire 38 page print trial when in draft mode. Still, these aren't terrible numbers for an AIO inkjet, it's just wasn't what I expected
The normal mode speeds were closer to HP’s advertised speeds of 12 ppm in black. On average, the Premium printed approximately 10 ppm in normal mode with a first page out in 12 seconds. It took just under four minutes to print my entire 38 page print trial.
Color document print speeds were on average just a tad slower than the black text document print speeds. In normal mode, the Premium printed 7 ppm with a first page out in about 16 seconds. In draft mode – which I wouldn’t recommend when printing color documents – the Premium printed 11 ppm with a first page out in about 8 seconds.
The Photosmart Premium Fax printed 4x6 color photos in 54 seconds on average and it printed 8x11 color photos in 1:46 seconds on average. When printing black and white photos, the print speeds decreased.
The Premium has automatic duplexing but is slows down the printer considerably. It took almost 13 minutes to print my 38 page print trial but it does save paper if you aren’t under a time crunch.
Users can scan to a computer, memory card, USB flash drive or scan and instantly reprint a photo. It took less than a minute to perform any of these options and I found the scan quality to be as good as most all-in-one inkjets I’ve reviewed; decent photo scans and good document scans.
Copy speeds using the ADF were good; it took about 10 seconds to copy and print one page. You can copy in black and white or color and there is a quick forms shortcut button for printing immediate calendars, cover pages, graph paper or even music paper.
The fax machine may be my favorite device. It can fax in black and white or color and has an auto answer quick button on the control panel when using the Premium on a dedicated fax line. What I really loved is that users can fax documents directly from any computer on the same network as the Premium. Just select the Premium C309a fax and a fax menu pops. Type in the number, edit the document and hit fax. The Photosmart Premium takes care of the rest. Not only does it save you paper, but it saves users time and energy.
The CD/DVD printing was fairly simple. Pull out the CD/DVD holder, add the blank CD and insert it into the CD/DVD tray. You can choose generic designs or your own photos using the Photosmart Essential software as well as edit how the image will be displayed on the CD. The CD/DVD is ready in a matter of minutes and can be handled immediately.
Actually, all the documents and photos I printed on the Photosmart Premium Fax could be handled immediately without smearing or smudging, another testament to the great print quality.
But I did have an issue with the ink tanks running out quickly. I probably only printed a 150 documents (including photos) before the black ink needed to be replaced. The color inks went out around 200 documents. Luckily, HP offers individual ink tanks on the Photosmart Premium so I only had to replace the empty cartridge.
I replaced them with HP’s high capacity ink cartridges and saw much better results; in fact, I still have them in as I finish this review and I’ve easily printed double what the initial ink tanks gave me. Not every inkjet has the option of high yield cartridges so I would take advantage of this if you plan on printing in bulk.
We did test both the Bluetooth wireless and the DLNA wireless options. They were super easy to set up and the prints turned out great. For the Bluetooth, I printed out two photos from my Blackberry. The print speeds were about the same as printing from my PC although the quality was a little fuzzy due to the low quality camera on my phone.
To test the DLNA funtion, we used a Playstation3. We found that the printer was relatively easy to find and setup but we also managed to set up an Epson Workforce 600 we had in our office through the network so the Premium may not be alone on that front. At this point, we couldn't get many game shots but we did manage to print photos that were saved on the Playstation3 with the same quality you get from a PC or digital camera.
When HP released the Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One at PMA 2009 earlier this year, I could tell the product managers were really excited about this new product and now I know why. The HP Photosmart Premium is a great multifunction printer for any home; it prints, copies, scans and faxes with ease and perfection.
In fact, we liked it so much that the staff of PrinterComparison.com is giving the HP Photosmart PremiumFax All-in-One an Editor’s Choice award. With all the exciting features and great quality the Photosmart Premium offers, you won’t go wrong.
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
The HP Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One printer is available now through HP’s website for the suggested retail price of $299.99.
The HP 564 standard ink cartridge is $9.99 a piece for all the colors and photo black. The HP 564 standard black ink cartridge is $11.99.
The HP 564XL ink cartridge is $17.99 a piece for all the colors and photo black and gets double the yield of a standard cartridge. The HP 564XL black cartridge is $34.99 and gets triple the yield of a standard cartridge.
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