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With plummeting prices, high-quality color printing goes mainstream.

Why don't you have a quality color printer in your office? Performance is up, and price is down. You can purchase a color ink jet for under $200, and it will do a much better job than its predecessors.

Most ink jet printers now provide separate black and color cartridges; many come bundled with a photo cartridge, which typically provides more shades of the three primary colors to produce exceptional picture quality when used with photo paper. You can get an ink jet with a photo cartridge for less than $300.

New ink jet technologies will increase output resolutions without boosting prices much. Lexmark's new print head and ink technologies yield a 1200x1200-dot-per-inch resolution for both black and color--in a printer for under $400.

Speeds will continue to increase (some ink jets can now print 7 pages per minute of draft black text), but expect vendors to focus on quality of output--developing inks that won't fade when exposed to light or smear from contact with water.

Desktop laser printers have also made strides in recent months. You can buy a 600x600dpi resolution laser with 4ppm to 6ppm output speeds for approximately $350. On-screen controls and pop-up menus that alert you to printing problems make laser printers much easier to use now. Desktop lasers will soon hit 8ppm or even 10ppm with little price increase. Their resolution will probably hold at 600x600dpi, but resolution-enhancement software will boost quality.

Network laser printers have also become significantly faster. They print at up to 16ppm to 18ppm, with "slower" 12ppm printers available in the $1,500 range. A 20ppm speed should become common among network printers soon. We'll probably see the introduction of more network printers with the copier functions.

Over the next year, expect to see even more software bundled with ink jet printers, and anticipate seeing more printers that include Web printing software, and printer-management solutions that use the Internet.






Printers: The Winners, Ink Jet and Page Printers

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