HP Photosmart Premium e-All-in-One CN503B - Under test and Verdict

By Simon Williams



Our Score:


There were a couple of problems with this machine: one which might be put down to the particular unit we received – though it was brand new, not a tired old review sample – another which appears more systemic.

The most serious problem was that pages regularly fed though skewed and with creases and tears in them. This is obviously not what’s intended, though the feed is very abrupt and noisy – peaks of 66dBA at half a metre. Not every page suffered from these misfeeds, but on average one in five showed some signs. We used the same Staples Multiuse paper we use for every printer test.

The other snag is when printing duplex pages. The machine cleverly prints the first side of each duplex page using dye-based ink, which dries quicker than the normal pigmented black ink. This reduces the time taken to print duplex documents.

Trouble is, this HP machine also reduces the printed page by about 10 percent, presumably to give the duplexer more blank paper to grip. There’s no indication this will happen, no ‘shrink to fit’ check box that suddenly gets ticked, the print just comes through smaller.

HP quotes print speeds of 11ppm and 8ppm in black and colour, but we saw maximums of 7.3ppm and 4.8ppm, respectively. These speeds are quite respectable for a machine in this price bracket. Duplex speed is better than some, at 3.9ppm, though that’s for a reduced page size.

A full colour photocopy took a respectable 27s and a 15 x 10cm photo completed in 59s from a PC and 43s for an SD card. These speeds are above average and the photo speeds, in particular, are good.

Print quality varies, with noticeable spatter around black text characters, giving them a slightly fuzzy appearance. The front sides of duplex pages, the dye-based ones, are noticeably lighter than their pigment-printed backs.

Colour graphics are strong and intense, with no signs of banding or dithering and a colour copy shows less fading than is common with inexpensive inkjets. Photos are still among the best we’ve seen, with only Canon producing slightly better detail. Colours are smoothly varied and natural.

The five ink cartridges are available at reasonable prices, giving costs per ISO page of 3.3p black and 11.7p colour. The colour cost is a little higher than from some of the machine’s competitors, like Epson’s Stylus Photo PX660, but is still in the mainstream of consumable costs.


If it worked as intended, the Photosmart Premium e-All-in-One CN503B would be a high-value budget all-in-one, costing under £100 and offering duplex print, twin paper trays and multi-gesture, touch-screen control. Unfortunately, if this sample is anything to go by, the machine has problems with its paper feed mechanism. It’s certainly suffering something of an identity crisis and has problems printing duplex pages to size.


December 28, 2010, 4:47 pm

I've had no end of problems with HP printers, paper tearing, mis-feeds, jams, all sorts of problems; building a mechanical printer with the necessary robustness and tolerances for £90 is ludicrous, resulting in too many corners being cut, too much creaky plastic and way too high failure rates.

HP has proved time and time again in the last few years that they are not capable of the necessary manufacturing quality at such a low price. They should stop trying.

Alas, the economic model that HP and others choose to follow is to provide a cheap base unit, with absurdly expensive consumables. Even the ink cartridges have DRM!

I'm sure this is profitable, but I am getting rather fed up with the shoddy hardware on offer, and HP stopped caring about quality some years ago. We'd be far better served by a £400 robustly built printer with cheap ink and paper. I can't see this happening soon, though.


December 29, 2010, 5:03 pm

The £400 well built printer is a Colour Laser printer. At that price the running costs tend to be pretty reasonable as well, well below inkjet costs but still some way off being the cheapest.

HP used to have the Business Inkjet line that filled this space, but they seem to have dropped those now in favour of tricked up consumer models at a lower price point.

Of course it is possible to spend much more on printers as you increase the size. I've got a Xerox A3 colour laser in the office that when new (2005) cost the best part of £5k. I got very lucky and got it for virtually nothing a couple of years ago. Toners cost £120 each from ebay, but last for 20,000 pages each. The only downside is that it is as big as a washing machine and weighs over 100KG. Not practical for most people.

For the most part people would be better served by having a B+W laser for printing homework/documents, and getting their photos professionally printed. *Ahem*


August 30, 2011, 4:08 pm

It worked really well out of the box. The next time I tried, it failed to print altogether, so I went through the set up procedure - from the CD provided, and from driver software downloaded from HP site, but to no avail. Called HP, who spent 2 weeks on the problem, in the course of which I spent hours on the phone (at my expense), at my computer (running diagnostics and sending them the results) and waiting for them to return my calls (usually without result). As a final insult, they changed all the numbers on thier contact line, leaving me tearing my hair out. When I finally asked for customer complaints, I was sent 2 (black) ink cartridges - which I have no use for, since I have just sent the whole thing back to Amazon. Maybe I'm just unlucky, but I shall in future avoid HP and its products like the plague - dysfunctional kit, dysfunctional support organisation! Only sorry I couldn't award zero stars.

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