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-- by Eileen McCooey
In the market for a low-cost printer? Start shopping. Four top vendors recently launched products for under $200-in some cases, well under.
Epson kicked off the price war this summer by cutting the price of its current low-end model, the Stylus Color 400, by $30 to a street price of $199. Hewlett-Packard followed a week later with the new DeskJet 400L, at $149 the lowest-priced inkjet HP has ever offered.
Rivals Lexmark and Canon entered the fray soon after. Lexmark unveiled the Model 1000 Color Jetprinter, the new price leader in the category at $139. Canon announced the $179 BJC-250 as the entry-level unit in a new series. The line also has some technological firsts, including seven-color printing and a $99 scanner cartridge that can be swapped with the printhead.
Not surprisingly, the value printers lack some of the features of their higherpriced siblings. The two lowest-priced-the Lexmark and HP-don't include software bundles; the slightly more expensive Canon and Epson entries do. And three of the four-the HP, Lexmark and Canon-are three-color, single-cartridge models, not four-color, dual-cartridge units like the Epson. That means users can install either a color cartridge (which produces composite black) or a black cartridge.
The HP, Lexmark and Canon units ship with one cartridge and offer others as an option for $25 to $35. HP's DeskJet 400L ships with a black cartridge, while Lexmark and Canon ship their units with a three color cartridge.
The most budget-conscious users should find the new economy models right up their alley. But those with a few bucks to spare might want to spring for the $200-range models, which offer the added value of software bundles and four-color printing, plus the convenience of not having to swap ink cartridges in and out.