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WinLab Reviews
Head to Head: Wide-Format Printers
Quality Printing Goes Wide

-- by Joel T. Patz and James E. Powell

The arrival of wide-format printers represents a breakthrough for business users because it allows them to print-in-house-presentation materials, reports, spreadsheets, newsletters and even sharp, precise engineering drawings. We tested two of the newest models, the Epson Stylus Color 1520 and the HP DeskJet 1000C Professional Series.

Epson Stylus Color 1520

The Epson Stylus Color 1520 uses the same Micro Piezo technology-involving electromechanical pressure that places consistent dots on the page-found in the company's Stylus Color 600 and 800 printers on our WinList. At 8 by 26.2 by 13.1 inches (24.4 inches with tray extended) and about 33 pounds, this model offers the option to print on just about any paper size, from 4 by 4 inches to 17 by 22 inches.

A front sheet-feed tray accommodates 100 sheets of plain or ink jet paper, 10 envelopes, 30 ink jet cards or 20 sheets of photo-quality glossy paper, while the manual rear feed accepts individual pages. The 1520's built-in tractor feed handles continuous paper from 4- to 16-inches wide.

The printer's 1440x720-dot-per-inch maximum resolution in both color and black along with a 13.6- by 21.78-inch maximum print area assures quality results. In the printer's highest quality mode (1440x720dpi), our photographic tests yielded accurate, outstanding flesh tones, with no streaking or granularity.

The 1520's documentation is clearly written. Its Status Monitor, available only in Windows 95, provides utilities for cleaning and aligning the print heads, as well as for checking nozzle conditions. You can also check the ink level in the black and color cartridges ($27.26 each)

HP DeskJet 1000C Professional Series

The HP DeskJet 1000C uses thermal ink jet printing technology. At 8.8 by 22.8 by 13.5 inches (26.3 inches with paper tray extended), the printer is nearly the same size as the Epson but, at 20.7 pounds, weighs almost 13 pounds less.

The 1000C can handle paper sizes from 4 by 6 inches to 13 by 19 inches, but the maximum print image is 11 by 17 inches. The primary front-feed paper tray accommodates 150 sheets or 15 envelopes; the secondary tray holds 10 sheets and three envelopes. There's also a straight-through (back-to-front) path for heavier stock.

In EconoFast mode, the 1000C can print in black at 600x300dpi and in color at 300x300dpi. Normal and Best modes operate at 600x600dpi in both black and color. HP's Color-Resolution Enhancement technology (C-Ret) produces high-quality resolution and multi-level color printing. The 1000C uses two cartridges: black ($32.95) and color ($34.95)

HP's ZoomSmart software lets you scale documents, create tiles for 4-foot billboard-type posters and produce booklets, banners and two-sided printouts. Unfortunately, the printer's online tutorial and printed documentation are skimpy.

Print it!

Print speeds varied between the two printers (see chart). But the Epson was remarkably slow in printing text-only output. In our tests, it took 25 minutes to produce 20 pages of text-only output (that's .77 pages per minute) at 720x720dpi. In comparison, the HP printer took 5 minutes and 40 seconds to print the same materials (3.53ppm) at 600x600dpi.

When we used the HP 1000C to print graphics and photo-quality samples in Best mode on glossy or large-format paper, our results were decidedly inferior to those of the Epson 1520. Flesh tones were not as good, and grainy output resulted even on HP's best glossy paper. Plain text, however, prints faster and looks slightly darker than output from the Epson.

If you're printing on large media and occasionally need color, the HP DeskJet 1000C is adequate. But if color accuracy, image purity and versatility are important, the Epson Stylus Color 1520 is the clear choice. It earns a place on our WinList.

The Epson 1520 (left) offers impressive color on a wide variety of media. HP's DeskJet 1000C offers fast text printing but grainy colors.

Epson Stylus Color 1520
Bottom Line: Best all-around wide-format printer
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Price: $799
Pros: Good drivers; excellent color; built-in tractor
Cons: Slow text-only printing
Strongest Rival: HP DeskJet 1000C

Epson America, 800-GO-EPSON, 310-782-0770. Winfo #751


HP DeskJet 1000C Professional Series

Bottom Line: Color pales compared to Epson Stylus Color 1520

Price: $499

Platforms: 3x, 95

Pros: Fast monochrome text printing

Cons: Grainy color

Strongest Rival: Epson Stylus Color 1520

Hewlett-Packard Co., 800-752-0900, 208-323-2551. Winfo #864

Windows Magazine, September 1997, page 183.

[ Go to September 1997 Table of Contents ]