If HP's super budget 1050A printer just didn’t offer enough in the way of features for you, then you might want to try the company's 3050A on for size.
For a mere £9 more than its sibling, this multifunction model adds Wi-Fi support into the mix, and as a result it'll even work with Google's new Cloud Printing service. But can a sub-£40 printer really take care of all your printing needs?
The 3050A is a multifunction model that includes printing, scanning and copying features, but doesn’t have onboard fax facilities. The build quality is a little on the flimsy side as you might expect given the low price tag, but the design actually looks pretty tasty thanks to its two-tone grey colour scheme and the dark orange band that runs just underneath the scanner lid.
Paper handling is in line with other budget inkjet printers we've reviewed. Rather than a bottom-mounted cassette paper feeder, this one has a flip-out tray at the rear into which you vertically slot sheets of paper. The printed results are then fed into a fold down, telescopic tray at the front. The paper feeder handles just 60 sheets, but that should be enough for most home users.
Unlike the 1050A, this model has a flip-up monochrome 38mm screen with buttons mounted on either side that make it easy to select various menu options.
It doesn’t take long to get the 3050A up and running. After you've removed the various protective tapes, it's simply a matter of plugging in the external power supply, turning it on, and loading the two ink cartridges. Getting the cartridges into place is a little tricky, as there isn’t a lot of clearance to get your hands into the belly of the printer, but once you do reach the slot they click firmly into place.
After this, the printer will produce a test page that you then scan to align the print heads. Once this is complete you can load the driver software on your PC via the installation disc and choose whether you want to connect via USB or Wi-Fi. You should be up and running in about five minutes.
If you choose to set the printer up to use Wi-Fi, you can also make use of Google's Cloud Printing service that lets you connect to the printer from a range of devices across the Internet, including mobile phones and laptops, to remotely send jobs to the printer.
Scanning and copying
The top of the printer is home to the flat-bed scanner. This has a maximum resolution of 1,200dpi and produces results that are more than good enough for home use, as scans are accurate on the colour front and capture decent levels of detail.
Copy speed is fast too, as it took just 18 seconds to produce a black and white copy of our test page. The copy quality was above average, with shadow detail in our picture nicely reproduced.
Speed, quality and cost
As this is a budget model, it lacks higher-end features such as duplex printing and USB and memory card slots for direct photo printing.
Print speeds aren’t bad, though. It took 1 minute 45 seconds to produce our 10-page black and white text document and a very reasonable 1 minute and 3 seconds to print our 4x6-inch snap.
It is, however, much slower when working with graphics. Our 10-page colour business presentation was spewed out in 5 minutes 1 second, and 10 pages of our graphics test document was completed in 5 minutes 30 seconds.
When it comes to print quality, the results are somewhat mixed. Text looks average as individual characters are not as solidly formed as on other budget models we've used. Also, prints of snaps tend to suffer from slightly muted colour, which lessens their impact, and there isn't as much detail retained in trickier areas of the picture as we would have liked.
As with the 1050A, it also refused to do borderless printing. That said, its performance on our graphics and business presentation was first-rate. Colours looked bold and vivid, and it had no problems with banding on larger areas of colour fills.
Like most budget models, this printer uses just two ink cartridges, one for black text and another for colour. This is never an ideal set up, as when you run out of one colour you have to replace the whole cartridge. Nevertheless, ink prices are not bad by budget standards, but high enough for us not to recommend it for those with heavy printing needs.
Using high-capacity cartridges and the best prices we could find online, we calculated that a black and white page will set you back 4p per sheet, while a colour page costs 5.5p per page. Both of these figures include 0.7p for paper costs.
The 3050A is not the best quality printer around, nor is it the cheapest to run. If, however, your printing needs only stretch as far as printing out the odd boarding card for a flight or a few maps here and there, it's a good option thanks to the incredibly low price tag, the convenience of its Wi-Fi support and the fact that replacement cartridges won’t cost you an arm and a leg.