[ Go to April 1997 Table of Contents ]|
-- by Cheryl Dominianni
Want a quick overview of the low-end printer market? We rounded up some of our recent budget-priced ink jet and laser printer reviews and also took a look at Canon's new $349 desktop laser, the LBP-465, in this month's WinLab Reviews section. Stay tuned for a review of the newly released Epson Stylus Color ink jet printers, which, unfortunately, didn't arrive in time for this issue. Epson's new line includes models 400, 600 and 800, which are expected to sell for $229, $299 and $449, respectively.
Undisputed industry leader Hewlett-Packard is well represented in the ink jet arena. Current offerings include three DeskJet models-the 400, 820Cse and 870Cse. The top-of-the-line 870Cse is currently on our Recommended List. At $499, it provides bright, sharp colors, and is rated at 8 pages per minute monochrome and 4ppm color (it's the fastest of any printer in this roundup). For $100 less, the 820Cse also provides excellent color and black text, but speeds drop to 5ppm monochrome and 1.5ppm color. The 400 uses a single printhead, so you have to swap cartridges for color and black printing, and the color quality doesn't measure up to the other two models. But at $199, it is significantly cheaper.
Canon's entry-level ink jet printer offerings (the company calls them Bubble Jets) include the BJC-240, -620, -4200 and -4550. The two less expensive models, the BJC-240 and the BJC-4200, sell for $179 and $279, respectively. Our advice is to spend the extra $100, even though both models use the same drivers and have similar features. The BJC-4200 provides much better color, a separate black cartridge and faster print speeds-5ppm monochrome and 1ppm color compared with 4ppm and 0.27ppm for the BJC-240.
The BJC-620 ($399), aimed at the small business market, provides a choice of resolutions up to 720x720dpi and speeds of 3ppm monochrome and 1.7ppm color. Both black and color print qualities are excellent, and you can replace one color cartridge at a time. The BJC-620 is currently on our Recommended List, along with the BJC-4550 ($499), which operates with either Macs or PCs. The 4550's color output is also exceptional. Speeds are 5ppm monochrome and 1ppm color, and you can choose among a variety of ink options, including photo-realistic and specialty neon inks.
Also on our Recommended List is the Epson Stylus Color 500. For $279, this industry favorite offers outstanding monochrome and color output, three resolutions (720x720dpi, 360x360dpi or 180x180dpi), and speeds up to 4ppm monochrome and 1ppm color.
Rounding out the ink jet vendors is Lexmark-a company that's gaining a reputation for reliable ink jets at a reasonable price. Three of its models-the 2030 ($199), 2050 ($249) and 2070 ($349) Color Jetprinters-print color at 1ppm. Monochrome print speeds range from 2ppm for the 2030 and 4ppm for the 2050 up to 5ppm for the 2070. The newest release, the 2030, offers very good black, and has an optional six-color photo cartridge. The 2050 includes a six-color upgrade.
Affordable Laser Printers
Two laser printers are currently on our Recommended List: the NEC SuperScript 860 and the Brother HL-720. The NEC SuperScript 860 ($399) offers a combination of speed, power and quality. In our reviewer's tests, it actually bested its rated speed of 8ppm by a half page. This printer was also one of the first to use Adobe's PrintGear architecture, which provides faster and less expensive processing than PostScript.
The Brother HL-720 is 2ppm slower than the SuperScript and comes with half the RAM (0.5MB), but it produces sharp, clear documents for only $350.
Another successful entry in the desktop laser market is the HP LaserJet 5L Xtra. Although its rated speed is only 4ppm, it produces high-quality output quietly, and it's easy to install and use. With a reduced street price of $399, it bears watching.
The Panasonic KX-P6500 ($449 before a $100 rebate) and the Okidata OL600e ($387) have been on the market since early 1996. The Panasonic unit produces excellent print results and adds some special features-it uses Edge Enhancement Technology to simulate 1200dpi output (true resolution is 600x600dpi), prints upright to save desk space and uses a refillable toner cartridge. The Okidata printer isn't truly a laser printer (it uses LED technology instead), but the results are virtually the same. Images are dark and clear, and it is simple to install and operate. The rated speed for both units is 6ppm.