With a vast array of multifunction devices (MFD) on the market, all with similar features to one another, any new entry needs something special to make it stand out. The C309a does it by being good at everything — for the most part.
Design and features
Fortunately, the striking curved exterior of the C309a puts a tick on our design box before anything else. It's covered in glossy white plastic, with smooth all-white buttons on the control panel.
Considering the streamlined exterior, it comes as a surprise when you realise it's 28.3x46.8x47.3cm and weighs 10.4kg. A 2.4-inch LCD screen sits alongside the control panel and it can pivot out from its surrounds to make viewing easier.
Connectivity comes in several different guises, via USB, Ethernet or wireless. Bluetooth is also included to get those snaps off a mobile phone or other enabled device. At the front, standard PictBridge connections (Compact Flash, SD, xD, MS and USB) are also provided so you can use the C309a as a stand-alone unit. And you will probably use it at some stage given that it's so easy to navigate through the menus provided on the screen.
The rest of the features, as the name suggests, are fax functionality, an automatic document feeder that loads pages from the top of the unit, and a duplexing function (again, automatic). There's a flatbed scanner as well, and the rest of the paper/media trays are located underneath the printer, jutting out from the base. You'll find a plethora ranging from photo paper trays to the CD/DVD loading slot at the very bottom. By now you've probably guessed that the C309a can print on the aforementioned CDs and DVDs, too.
The C309a uses five ink tanks, with each retailing for AU$19 at the time of writing (price quoted from HP's website). XL cartridges (or high yield) are also available, though we could only find a black one. A standard cartridge yields 300 pages, working out to be around 6 cents per page, slightly pricey given that you'll need to be replacing all four colours plus an extra black cartridge, and they won't wear evenly either.
As with most other HP printers we've seen lately, the software installation process is a lengthy one. Thankfully, once you have gone through the installation, the HP Solution Center software covers pretty much all of the options you'll need for home and small office printing.
It takes some time to turn on the printer as well because the initialisation process is quite tiresome as the C309a gurgles and burps its way through power-on with the cartridge and printhead alignment occurring. Fortunately, after continued use the wait time does decrease significantly.
In terms of the other performance metrics, the C309a is pretty speedy for a multifunction device. Using standard (normal) quality settings, the C309a was able to print a colour text page in 7.5 seconds on average.
We were impressed with the text quality that the C309a delivered, with nice crisp letters. There was a slight amount of smudging and banding on one of our test pages, but we were unable to replicate the issue with any of our other prints.
For a standard 4x6-inch photo print, we were waiting around 43 seconds before a printout emerged. Colour prints on photo paper were particularly pleasing, with only small amounts of visible ink droplets seen on close inspection. Colours were more towards the warm end of the scale, but mostly true-to-life compared with the original source image.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Colour scanning (ppm)||Photo speed (one sheet)||Colour graphics speed (ppm)||Presentation speed (ppm)||Colour text speed (ppm)|
Service and support
HP provides a range of support options on its website, from manuals to troubleshooting and driver downloads.