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.
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