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6/96 Reviews HW: HP DeskJet 820Cse

Complete listing of June 1996 reviews

Affordable Jet Woos Hues Fans

By Jonathan Blackwood

In color ink jet printing, as in laser printing, it sometimes seems that Hewlett-Packard occupies the ground held by Honda in the automotive world. The company has consistently produced extremely reliable printers that use the latest technology, perform superbly and are very competitively priced. Now the company's latest entry into the color ink jet printer market, the HP DeskJet 820Cse, has been specifically designed to take advantage of Windows. The 820Cse offloads the printer formatting tasks to the host PC's CPU, resulting in faster performance.

Setup is easy: This is a Plug-and-Play printer, and Windows 95 recognized its presence immediately. The five diskettes in the supplied software contain 50 TrueType fonts, in addition to the sophisticated driver itself. Microsoft Publisher is also included. Remove some packing materials, pop in the two ink cartridges, align them and you're ready to print.

The 820Cse handles paper up to 8.5 by 14 inches, and can print on envelopes, index cards and transparencies as well. Though the printer provides superb output on plain paper, if you're going to print color-saturated images such as photographs at the best quality, you'll want to use premium ink jet paper. Not only are the images reproduced to better effect, but the heavier paper doesn't wrinkle as much.

Output was consistently excellent, both for color and black text, though the text seemed a bit more charcoal gray in color than I'd have liked. The color images were surprisingly good, but if you want the highest resolution, you must tell the driver that you want Best mode quality. The driver uses HP's ColorSmart technology for outputting text and images on the same page to their best advantage.

Black printing is rendered at 600x600 dots per inch, while color is output at 600x300dpi with color resolution enhancement technology (C-REt) in Best mode, 300x300dpi in normal or EconoFast mode. HP claims print speeds of 5 pages per minute in black normal mode and 4ppm in Best mode. Color printing averages 1.5ppm in normal mode, 0.34ppm in Best mode. My tests paralleled these predictions, though output varies depending upon what is being printed. Cost per page averages 3 cents for black and 8 cents for color.

The 820Cse is intended for use in SOHO environments, so the duty cycle is just 1,000 black pages or 160 color pages per month. Still, for many consultants in small offices, this printer is just the ticket for spicing up proposals and client reports with color photographs, at a price that's sure to please. It's one more opportunity for the small office to loom larger.

Info File
HP DeskJet 820Cse
$399 (street)
Pros: Installation; price; speed; output; driver
Cons: Duty cycle
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Hewlett-Packard Co.
800-752-0900, 408-246-4300
WinMag Box Score: 4.0
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