HP Photosmart C309a Premium Fax All-in-One Printer

The C390a follows in the footsteps of recent HP multifunction devices by delivering excellent quality prints in a stylish, fully featured unit. If it weren't for the initial and ongoing running costs, this would be the ideal solution for a home or small office MFD.

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

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.

Speed test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Colour scanning (ppm) Photo speed (one sheet) Colour graphics speed (ppm) Presentation speed (ppm) Colour text speed (ppm)
HP Photosmart C309a Premium Fax All-in-One
Canon Pixma MX700
Epson Stylus Photo TX800FW
Kodak ESP 5 All-in-One Printer
HP Photosmart C8180

Service and support

HP provides a range of support options on its website, from manuals to troubleshooting and driver downloads.

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"We need a Class Action Suit against HP for their deception"

Bunita posted a review   
United States

The Good:nothing

The Bad:ink depletes, quality

I have had this piece of junk for two years. It breaks down frequently and sucks up ink horribly. I have bought millions of XL ink cartridges that don't last through a few printings. The info they give about how many copies can be made only refers to printing copies all at once. (read the small print) If you wait a day or two between printing, you will have practically no ink left no matter how large the cartridge is.

There should be a Class Action Suit against them for this. HP knows exactly what it is doing and how to screw the consumer. Epson had to give rebates to many of it's purchasers because of a similar problem.


"Total waste of money, don't buy."

IceMaiden posted a review   

The Good:Excellent photo prints

The Bad:Expensive, eats cartridges for breakfast

This printer eats your ink. It is really, really bad. Even only after printing in 'black ink only' option, after cleaning the print heads when you turn on the printer, it tells you a specific colour cartridge is empty!! I have bought a whole new coloured cartridge set and maybe have printed equal to TOPS 1 A4 colour page, and have needed all new cartridges just from the cleaning functions. Paid over $300 for this printer, what a waste. It does however print excellent professional quality photos on the photo paper, where friends didn't realised they were printed in home. You can't print documents from inserted media (USB, SD cards etc), only photos. You can't double side scan/copy. It does do all other things like double sided printing and CD printing etc. Would not recommend.

LeighC1 Facebook

"HP should be fined for this substandard product"

LeighC1 posted a review   

The Good:Large paperweight

The Bad:Everything else

The HP - C309A - Photosmart ALL-IN-ONE Printer is NOT a multifunction machine , its a MAL-function machine - what a compete headache it has been... dozens of hours trying to get it to scan it just wont fax at all from laptop, almost uses a set of cartridges a page, to produce 2nd-rate quality prints…

Give me Epson or Brother ANY day! (Oh, and after sales service is a joke!)


"overpriced large heap of junk"

sunflower29 posted a review   

Disgusted! Paid heaps for this printer. After 18 mths the rollers are worn


sunflower29 posted a review   

ink thirsty & terrible customer support. Next time I intend buying the cheapest available


JamesK7 posted a comment   

What a total waste of money! Thank you HP for your quality service. none.
you know I will never buy any item like this again.



thrills posted a review   

The Good:When it actually works

The Bad:All the bad has been mentioned in other reviews

Paper Jams - when there isn't - 1/2hr to print a job after clearing and pressing OK to the phantom paper jam. Have to wait ages for it to 'try again'.

Ink Thirsty - head to the shops every 2 months for replacements - and that's with not heavy use either.

Fax - after the phantom paperjam - and you've turned your machine off with hope of clearing it's intergestion, you've lost your fax memory - your fax is gone - who's it from? no idea - extremely fraustrating.

Auto fax/scan/copy feeder - have to be there to make sure it feeds in - several attempts later, I may have sent my fax, made my scan, of copied a document - so much for auto! (then i have to check reports, as i don't trust this thing)

I don't recomment this printer, I am in search of a replacement

Ralph Bay

"Very frustrating"

Ralph Bay posted a review   

The Good:scans OK but slow

The Bad:takes ages to warm up... connection keeps failing....paper jams to the max...ink thirsty...

takes ages to warm up... connection keeps failing....paper jams to the max...ink thirsty...

...finally (like after 1 year and one day) the head gives up the ghost and I can not source another one in Australia. If it can be got it will cost me more than a competitive MF unit at less than the cost of yet another set of ink cartridges....

I have thrown it away with the biggest smile on my face....No more HP for me...ever...


"Do not buy! My 10-15 year old Canon MP730 and software outperforms it in so many ways"

bfrank123 posted a review   

The Good:scans are crystal clear, it turns on and off, and has pretty blue leds....YAY

The Bad:Software slow and inaccurate, auto feed jams nightmare to clear, scan system slow, ink runs out insanely quick, ink expensive

HP what can I say...you really do suck.

So many times I have come so so so close to taking C309a off the shelf and seeing how high it will bounce.

Was a HP fan in the 80's when their RPN calculators were brilliant and still run well today. Newer manufacture of same model runs with intermittent faults. The 49g falls apart with way less use. Trying to be impartial but......

Scanning system.
Designed (what an abuse of the word) by absolute and utter morons. 4 passes of scan head to perform one scan. Why? At most two are needed!

A4 page scan to pdf produces page dimensions of 34 inches plus. Why?

Paper jams. Near impossible to clear, keeps wanting to feed, and you can't open it enough to get where it counts, lets face it feed double scanning works as well as any other, but jams do happen on any machine.

Alignment/test page printing. Uses obscene amount of ink, once printed there is no indication of what to look for or what to do unless you dig into the help files.

Thought I had not printed much in colour at all, surprised that after machine has been in storage for 6 months that all inks are according to the machine nearly empty.

My Canon MP730 with its antiquated Scanstudio software leaves the HP system for dead. Even though I can't print anymore (no print heads available) I keep it for scanning and the software.

How can 10 years plus of technology development produce a machine that is inferior to my old one.

Oh yeh, before I bought this I did purchase a new Canon Pixma multifunction, and was disappointed in it and its software as they too seemed to have regressed. So gave it away. Hence the trying of HP.

My advice, add HP to list of companies that you never want to buy products from. (PS hint: Never buy Sharp products either).

I want to give this machine away, but need to find someone I despise and hate........hey HP do you want a free printer? Its GREAT (How do you do sarcasm in text?)!


"Would not buy anther HP product ever again."

OldMacGuru posted a comment   
United States

The Good:With draft quality, the copy function is OK as is the scanning function.

The Bad:Abysmal at printing #10 envelopes.

After throwing away my 300 bucks for this piece of junk, I'm back to cranking out #10 envelopes on my lightning fast Apple LaserWriter 16/600.

HP's Tech No-Support is frustrating with the language barrier, the fact that I knew much more than they did and the only thing they're really expert in is dishing out platitudes.

I wish Apple was still in the printer business. My nearly 20 year old Apple printer still works like a charm.

My main reason for getting this C309a was for scanning documents. The fact that it printed photos pretty well was an OK point, not that it's really necessary, but it handles it pretty well.

The fax function is about as useless as a pager to me as I pdf everything.

If you're considering an HP product maybe you ought to think again - It's kind like taking an Ambien and hoping you'll get a good night's sleep only to wake up nude on your front lawn.

Tim K

Tim K posted a review   

Got a C309a to replace another (15 month old) HP printer that failed. The C309a lasted less than 6 months before the carriage locked up. After a big hassle online and on the phone with, difficult to understand, tech support they sent me another C309a. We'll see how long this one lasts. By the way both C3009a's were "re-manufactured".

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User Reviews / Comments  HP Photosmart C309a Premium Fax All-in-One Printer

  • Bunita



    "I have had this piece of junk for two years. It breaks down frequently and sucks up ink horribly. I have bought millions of XL ink cartridges that don't last through a few printings. The info they ..."

  • IceMaiden



    "This printer eats your ink. It is really, really bad. Even only after printing in 'black ink only' option, after cleaning the print heads when you turn on the printer, it tells you a specific colou..."

  • LeighC1



    "The HP - C309A - Photosmart ALL-IN-ONE Printer is NOT a multifunction machine , its a MAL-function machine - what a compete headache it has been... dozens of hours trying to get it to scan it just ..."

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