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7/96 Reviews What's Hot: Canon C LBP 360PS

Listing of July 1996 Reviews

Hot Printer Is Fiery at Heart

By James Alan Miller

I've never driven a Lamborghini, but at least I can say I've printed with Canon's new color laser printer, the C LBP 360PS, a $12,500 printer that purrs and performs like a high-performance luxury automobile.

The printer incorporates a number of excellent features, but what's even more noteworthy is its use of Electronics for Imaging's new Fiery XJE Controller for printers. EFI adapted the technology for the Fiery controller from its color copier servers. The XJE controller combines a powerful 64-bit 100MHz Mips R4600 RISC processor in the 360PS' case, with application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). The printer's main CPU concentrates on PostScript processing, while secondary functions, such as memory management and printer communications, offload to the ASICs. The controllers RIP-While-Print feature lets the printer process additional pages while one is being printed.

The controller's software qualities include EFI Color CRDs (color rendering dictionaries), which help optimize color printing by translating PostScript level 2 RGB files into the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) that the print engine uses.

The printer ships with a large 514MB hard disk, and you also get an ample 32MB of RAM. It uses the Adobe PostScript level 2 printer language and has 39 resident PostScript (Type 1) fonts. Other resident fonts include Times, Helvetica, Courier, ITC, Avant Garde Gothic, Palatino, New Century Schoolbook, Helvetica-Condensed, Helvetica-Narrow, ITC, Bookman, Symbol, ITC Zapf Chancery and ITC Zapf Dingbats.

Paper capacity falls a little short from what you'd expect for a printer that might serve a large number of people. The main paper cassette holds 250 sheets of letter-size plain paper, up to 24-pound. The cassette is adjustable to legal, A4, letter and B5 paper sizes. Other optional paper cassettes are available for different media sizes. In addition, the printer's multipurpose tray holds a wider variety of media, including transparencies. It also increases the 360PS' plain-paper capacity by 100 sheets. An optional paper feeder attaches at the bottom and has a 250-sheet universal cassette for more paper handling. The printer doesn't accept labels or envelopes.

For a print server, its 18.1-by-21.3-by-22.8-inch footprint isn't too large at all. In fact, the printer fit comfortably on the corner of my desk. Its 110-pound weight, however, will make you think twice about moving it once it's set up.

Other features include print speeds of 3ppm for full color, 12ppm for black and white and 1ppm for transparencies. Resolution is a smooth 600x600dpi. The printer can achieve 256-level gray-scale output. The unit's four toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) have rated duty cycles of 4,000 pages at 5 percent coverage on letter-sized paper. The cartridge implementation of the toner colors facilitates installation and replacement.

The printer's front has an LCD panel and several buttons for printer configuration and troubleshooting. Everything's accessible, and the documentation is clearly written. For instance, to change the printer's setup information, simply restart the unit and hit the Menu button. Here you can tune the printer to your needs from within a list of categories. These categories include System, Printer, Network, and Job Log setup, as well as Change Password and Clear Log/Queues. The SCSI port in the rear of the unit is only available for reinstalling system software. You get a Centronics parallel port and two Ethernet interfaces, AUI and 10BaseT. Supported Ethernet cables include Thinnet, Thicknet and Twisted pair. The parallel and Ethernet connections can run simultaneously. The printer supports AppleTalk, TCP/IP and IPX (Novell) network protocols.

After setting up the printer, I installed it on a machine running Windows 95. Setup and installation proceeded without a hitch, due largely to the thorough documentation. The printer's drivers and software seamlessly integrate with the operating system. The printer also ships with drivers and software for Windows 3.1x and NT and the Macintosh. The Fiery XJ Spooler allows the system administrator to monitor everyone's print jobs, while letting individuals manipulate their own.

When I first heard of the EFI controller last year, it promised faster, better and cheaper color laser printing. After spending some time with my review unit, I've concluded that it indeed offers extremely high-quality color output at a quick pace. What's most impressive about this unit is the rich saturation and color fidelity of its output. However, it costs a few thousand dollars more than most other color laser printers. A company that isn't serious about graphics and the need for relatively quick and accurate proofs might want to consider a cheaper model. But those who demand fast, high-quality output should seriously consider the 360PS. It'll pay for itself.

--Info File--
Canon C LBP 360PS
Pros: Color quality; setup; speed
Cons: Price; paper handling
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT, NetWare 3.11 or later, UNIX, Macintosh
Canon U.S.A.
800-OK-CANON, 516-328-5000
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

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