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Desktop print shops.

Business and personal computer users are taking advantage of a vest world of word processing, spreadsheet, desktop publishing and presentation-quality graphics software programs. Even the average computer user's needs are becoming more sophisticated, since everyone wants to produce rich, professional-looking documents. Keeping in step with the software boom are printers that rival full-fledge print shops with their high-quality output and color. Today's printers also offer faster speeds and portability.

The most commonly used printers are dot-matrix, which continue to outsell laser printers. Last year, roughly 5 million dot-matrix units were purchased, twice the number of laser printers sold. The reason is partly because they are cheaper to buy and use than both laser and ink-jet printers.

The latest line of 24-pin dot-matrix printers are considered ideal for personal printing. Thanks to new noise-reduction techniques and advances in printer control languages, many dot-matrix printers run as quietly as laser printers and offer laserlike quality.

Letter-quality speeds range from 150 to 180 characters per second, and many of the new generation dot-matrix printers come with six different typefaces. Those who want even fancier typefaces can download with font scaling software. Costing between $300 and $1,000, these new dot matrixes offer versatile paper handling.

Laser printers may not beat dot-matrix printers when it comes to cost, but at a resolution of 300 to 600 dots per inch (dpi), they're superior in print quality. In addition, the vast majority of laser printers sold today are in the four- to 12-pageper-minute print range.

The latest generation of laser printers are not as pricey as their forebears. Current prices are well within the financial reach of many small businesses and individuals, who can enjoy laserquality printing for under $2,000. Some discerning features of these printers are footprints, bitmapped versus scalable fonts and printer control language (PCL).

The prevailing PCL standards of the Palo Alto, Calif.based Hewlett Packard (HP) are Level 4 PCL for the HP Laser Jet IIP and IIP Plus; Level 5 PCL is for the HP Laser Jet III series. Both languages support bit-mapped fonts to print text. But Level 5 PCL can also generate scalable fonts, which means that a single font file can produce characters of any size.

Scalable fonts are characteristic of Adobe Systems' PostScript printers, although PostScript drivers are available on most Microsoft Windows software programs. And Adobe PostScript or compatible cartridges are available for upgrading PCL-compatible printers,

Torrence, Calif.-based Epson America Inc.'s EPL-8000 has a ROM (read only memory) card, which lists for $649 for the PostScript upgrade. At $1,999, the EPL-8000 is a cost-effective printer for most business applications that support PCL 5; it prints 10 pages per minute. In comparison, the HP Laser Jet III uses a larger format PostScript cartridge, which lists for $695. The Laser Jet III printer lists for $2,395 and produces eight pages per minute. Designed for the Apple Macintosh, HP's Illsi is a combination PostScript and PCL 5 laser printer. The 94-pound super printer handles up to 17 pages per minute and uses resolution enhancement technology, which brings it up to 600 dpi in quality. It's worth its weight at a hefty $6,995 list price.

A recent addition to the line of IBM printers, produced by Lexmark International Inc., connects to Macintosh computers--a match made in heaven. The Lexington, Ky.-based company is a former division of IBM Corp. that was spun off into a separate company a year ago to handle Big Blue's printer operations.

The IBM LaserPrinter 10A is a flagship PC printer packaged to run on the Mac platform and includes an Apple LocalTalk network interface. The high-power unit prints 10 pages per minute, provides 600 dpi resolution and offers a PostScript option. The 10A lists for $3,995.

Add A Little Color

While black-and-white printers may not be passe, these days everyone wants to add a splash of color to their documents. Executives are quickly and easily making in-house color presentations and slides, while small and home-based businesses are producing sharp, colorful brochures, newsletters, fliers and pamphlets. Personal users are printing everything from homework to household budgets in color. No longer exorbitantly priced, dot-matrix, ink-jet and PostScript color printers start at about $500.

Dot-matrix color printers, such as those from Citizen America Corp., use a multicolor ribbon. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company offers a family of 24-pin dot-matrix printers that can be upgraded to color. The company's popular GXS-140 Plus lists for $499 and provides 360 dpi, It also has a graphics driver for Windows and an optional $59 Color On Command kit.

Equally popular among PC users are color ink-jet printers, which essentially shoot tiny droplets of ink onto a page. Priced between $1,500 and $3,500, ink-jet color printers offer high resolution at a relatively low cost. A desirable feature is the ability to print in color on plain paper of any size.

HP's Paintjet XL300 provides laser-quality output on plain bond paper, transparencies and glossy paper at 300 dpi resolution. It also handles letter, tabloid and legal-size paper. The XL300 has a color version of HP's PCL 5 language. For anyone who wants PostScript and scalable fonts, HP offers two Adobe Postscript Level 2 options. The Paintjet XL300 retails for $3,495. The PostScript option lists for $4,995.

Prices for color PostScript printers range from $7,000 to $13,000. But since these printers offer the maximum in speed, quality, resolution and print capabilities, their output matches professional services at a fraction of the cost. In addition to the price of the printer itself, other costs involve the technology employed. Some PostScript printers use thermal wax transfer, which requires specially treated paper. Transfer sheets and special paper can cost up to 75 cents per page.

Printers To Go

The popularity of portable computing has spread so much that now there's portable printing. The increasing sales of notebook computers and pen-based computers have boosted portable printer sales.

One of the smallest and lightest printers on the market is the PN48 from Citizen America Corp. This 2.5-pound notebook printer delivers 360 dpi, but its slow speed (printing one page per minute) makes it less suitable for high-volume jobs. Listing for $549 for a complete system, the PN48 includes battery, cable, case and cartridges.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman Kodak Co. produces the Diconix line of portable printers for high-volume jobs. Its Diconix 150 Plus uses ink-jet technology and prints on plain paper at 192 dpi. It also offers 50 minutes of continuous printing at six pages per minute. It retails for $499.

Here is a checklist of sorts that would-be buyers can use when shopping for a printer:

* What are the printer's paper-handling capabilities?

* Will the printer support the applications that I will be running?

* What optional equipment is available?

* How long does the printer take to output a page? What is the cost of outputting a page?

* Is the output quality sufficient for my needs?

* How durable is the printer? Is there a fee for maintenance service?

Whatever your needs, vendors are working at creating a viable market of fast, quiet and affordable printers to help you produce professional quality documents.

--Carolyn M. Brown

TECH TIPS

Durability, portability and speed are major considerations in choosing a portable computer. With laptops and notebooks getting lighter and as powerful as desktop PCs, more and more business professionals are not just taking work home with them but packing the entire officc computer, fax/phone and printer. High-powered, traveling corporate executives want a road companion-- namely a high-powered traveling desktop.

Among the new breed of portable PCs offering the power of 486 machines are the latest members of the TravelMate family of notebook computers. Texas Instruments Inc. (TI), headquartered in Temple, Texas, recently introduced the TravelMate 4000 WinSX and TravelMate 4000 WinDX. TI's high-power systems use the new Intel 486 processor and are configured with preinstalled Micrasoft Windows 3.1 and MS-DOS 5.0 software.

The WinSX is available in two models based on 16 and 25 MHz 486SX processor, and the WinDX is based on a 25 MHZ 486DX processor. The systems include 4 MB of RAM, which is expandable to 8 MB on the WinSX/16 and up to 20 MB on the WinSX/25 and the WinDX/25. The WinSX/16 comes with an 80 MB hard drive, while the WinSX/25 and WinDX/25 come with a 120 MB hard drive.

Other features include TravelPoint, a pointing device; various network connectivity options and an external color VGA monitor (which connects to the TravelMate 4000 units' 640-by-480 inch VGA display) are also available.

The TravelMate 4000 WinSX/16 lists for $3,199, TravelMate 4000 WinSX/25 for $3,799 and TravelMate 4000 WinDX/25 for $4,399.

Whether you are in the office or on the road, these slim, lightweight machines deliver plenty of performance.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:printers
Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:1480
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