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-- by Joel T. Patz
The new class of desktop printers capable of producing photo-realistic output grows larger with the release of the Alps Photographic Quality Color Printer, MD-2300. It's almost identical to the MD-4000 (see WinLab Reviews, February), but lacks a scanner. Like the MD-4000, it takes four passes to print a full color image.
The MD-2300 has slots for four standard ink ribbon cartridges (CMYK at $6.60 each) used for printing at the 300x300-, 600x600- or 1200x600-dot-per-inch settings. For photo-realistic printing, you swap these cartridges for a set of Micro Dry photo colors (CYM, $11.99 each; overcoat, $8.99). In our tests, the ink dried instantly and did not smear when water and pressure were applied.
Even with a 32Kb buffer, print speed of the MD-2300 was agonizingly slow. Our text-only document, printed at 300x300dpi, averaged 1 minute, 14 seconds per page (0.8 pages per minute), and our mixed text and graphics document took 2 minutes, 30 seconds per page (0.4ppm) at 600x600dpi. A beautiful photo-quality 5.25-by-7-inch color image required 8 minutes, 10 seconds. One thing to note: Our black ink cartridge ran out before printing 100 pages.
The MD-2300's drivers let you select from a variety of document types, including business graphics, photographs and monochrome. You can choose the media type and size, as well as adjust brightness, contrast and color balance.
The rear-mounted paper tray holds 100 sheets of plain paper or 20 sheets of photo paper. For special printing needs, such as transparencies or heavier stock, the paper tray folds down to provide a straight-through paper path. Photographic-quality media costs $21.99 for 20 sheets of 8.5 by 11 inches and $7.49 for 4 by 6 inches.
Though output quality from the Alps MD-2300 is high, our WinList's Epson Stylus Color 800 and 600 printers, at $449 and $299, respectively, are faster and less costly, and produce equivalent results.