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-- by Joel T. Patz
Your CD-Recordable disc may be homegrown, but it doesn't have to look that way. Accessories like the Fargo Signature CD Color Printer provide a more professional alternative to peel-and-stick labels. The printer lets you imprint both a CD-R disc face and a booklet cover.
The boxy unit measures 7.5 by 10.5 by 10.5 inches and weighs 8.5 pounds. On its top, you'll find a Power button, another button to open and close the CD tray, and a third to position the ink cartridge for replacement. A parallel interface port and a power connection are on the back. The printer uses either a three-color (CMY) or a black cartridge. The CD tray, which opens from the front, accommodates either the CD-R or the booklet cover.
This thermal ink jet printer offers 300x300 dot-per-inch (normal) or 600x300dpi (high-quality) resolutions in up to 16.7 million colors. Fargo includes an initial supply of 10 CD-shaped cardboard cutouts for practice runs.
Our biggest problem during testing was the included software. Its unfriendly interface and poor documentation, combined with its poor communication with the printer driver, caused us to waste several CD-Rs while attempting to print. Since there was no Print Preview option, it required a lot of manipulation to get the image where we wanted it. Fargo says the printer works best with its own $9.50 Tuff-Coat surfaced media; this makes trial-and-error printing potentially costly.
Print quality was marginally acceptable. A simple text-only image printed in 1 minute, 6 seconds; a full gradient image took only another minute. With the three-color cartridge, however, black looks more like dark brown.
Setup is relatively simple, but the unit is noisy during operation. If you need to identify your CD-R discs' contents, you may prefer an alternative solution. We achieved better results for only $79.95 with Neato's peel-and-stick CD Labels and Kit.