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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
Thanks for Reading!
© August 2010 . . . ♥jesi ♥
----------------------------------------------------------------------- ** The Review of the Printer appears at: http://www.ciao.co.uk/HP_Photosmart_C309G_Premium__Review_5922136
I documented the test in both images and reports, so I recommend that you look at the included photos and explanation.