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Printers to go.

With more folks working on the road, portable computing is becoming increasingly popular. These days, busy professionals need more than a briefcase that holds important documents, a calculator and an appointment book. High-powered, on-the-go executives need a road companion - namely a high-powered traveling desktop.

Thanks to notebook computers, fax-modems, LAN (local area network) adapters and lap-sized printers, executives can now tote their offices under their arms. Over the last five years, laptops and notebooks have been getting lighter and as powerful as desktop personal computers. In fact, the latest breed of portable computers includes 486-based machines.

The increasing popularity of portable computers has undoubtedly boosted the sales of peripheral equipment and other devices. One of the most useful hardware components is the printer. With prices averaging $500, portable printers are becoming viable and affordable alternatives to larger units. In fact, some professionals would rather have a portable at their side than share an office laser printer. Today, you can find a pack of portable printers weighing less than 10 pounds that run on batteries or AC power.

What To Shop For

The key to shopping for any computer component is to first look at the features offered in relation to the cost. The type of computer you are using and the applications you are running on it will more than likely dictate the type of printer you will need.

The typical buying concerns of businesspeople include durability, size, weight, price relative to performance, ease-of-use, and printing quality and variety of fonts. The size of paper your printer can handle is another important consideration.

A dot-matrix printer can handle perforated forms, allowing you to print invoices and other such documents. If you want to update presentation overheads, you'll find a high-resolution printer more suitable. In this case, you would want to buy an ink-jet or thermal printer that is capable of handling transparencies.

The speed of an ink-jet printer is comparable to that of a dot-matrix printer, and the quality of print ranges from good to excellent. However, the biggest drawback with ink-jet printers is that some of them require special paper, which can be quite expensive.

In Search Of Quality

The appearance of the print produced by printers varies. Some inexpensive dot-matrix printers produce traditional computer print, while others produce quality print that rivals that of laser printers.

Because they are fast and versatile, laser printers have been growing rapidly in popularity. What most users like about them is that they produce camera-ready output, including special typefaces and graphics.

When compared with their high-end laser counterparts, however, most portable printers have a limited number of fonts. For versatility, you'll want to buy one that has at least three typefaces. The most common typefaces are Helvetica, Times Roman and Universe. You will also want at least three different type sizes and 150 KB of memory.

If you intend to work with clip art and other graphics, you will also want to check which software formats your printer supports. Different software packages use various formats (i.e., TIP, PCX or EPS) to save graphic files to a disk.

Some printers are capable of accepting downloadable fonts. These units have additional buffer memory to temporarily hold special characters that are sent from the computer.

There is no universal standard for the software codes - or, emulation modes - that printers use to communicate with computers. However, some printers serve as "unofficial" standards. The most frequently emulated are IBM, Epson (for dot-matrix printers) and Hewlett-Packard (for ink-jet and laser printers). Due to the popularity of these printers, other companies are making compatible units, thus increasing the versatility of their own brands.

Speed is another issue when selecting a printer. Most units print anywhere from 25 characters per second (cps) to 400 cps. Several printers offer more than one speed, depending on the quality of the print. Print speeds of under 200 cps are probably adequate for the average user.

When it comes to portables, some units take 3 minutes to print one page; others print one page in only 20 seconds.

If you don't want to feed each sheet of paper one by one, you'll prefer a unit with a paper feeder. This is a major plus for anyone who plans to do lots of printing. Sheet feeders accept multiple pages as well as different sizes of paper and envelopes.

Here is a checklist to use when shopping for a printer: * Will the printer support the applications I will be running? * What optional equipment is available? * What is the cost of the output per page? * What are the printer's paper-handling capabilities? Can it

print envelopes and labels as well as individual and/or multiple

sheets of paper? * Is the output quality sufficient for my needs? * Is there a fee for maintenance service?

Sizing Up The Market

One of the smallest and lightest printers on the market is the PN48 from Citizen America Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif. This 2.5-pound notebook printer delivers laserlike quality output. Unfortunately, it's somewhat slow, printing only one page per minute. This makes it less suitable for high-volume jobs. The complete system, including battery, cable, case, cartridges and adapter, lists for $549.

Irvine, Calif.-based Toshiba America Information Systems' ExpressWriter 201 weighs a mere 1.87 pounds and measures only 11.9 inches by 3.2 inches. Even with its wallet-sized AC adapter, this pint-sized printer leaves plenty of room in your briefcase for a Toshiba notebook computer.

Compared with most other portable printers, the Expresswriter and the PN48 offer high-quality, laserlike print. But whereas the PN48's thermal fusion ink technology yields 360 dots per inch (dpi), the Expresswriter has 180 dpi resolution for graphics. The Expresswriter retails for $499, excluding a 10-ounce, nickel-cadmium battery that lists for $125.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman Kodak Co. produces the Diconix line of portable printers, which can handle higher volumes. The Diconix 180si is a 3.5 pound printer (including battery) with 192 dpi and 2 MB of memory. The 180si retails for $399.

Canon Computer Systems Inc. in Costa Mesa, Calif., offers the Bj-10ex, a bubble-jet portable printer. The bubble-jet's print quality compares to that of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s DeskJet and LaserJet III printers. Retailing for $499, it has seven resident fonts and supports downloaded fonts. It also has 37 KB of memory. The BJ-10ex's biggest drawback is its slow speed - you must feed each sheet of paper separately.

The new BJ-200 bubble-jet printer from Canon is a fairly inexpensive, low-volume unit for personal or home use. This $549 portable prints four pages per minute, producing laser-quality text and 360 dpi graphics. Measuring 13.7 inches by 7.6 inches and weighing 6.6 pounds, the BJ-200 is about half the size and weight of a typical printer. This battery-operated unit features built-in sheet feeder and input and output trays, and offers a combination of 10 fixed fonts.

Whatever your printing needs, there's a printer for you. Vendors are hard at work creating a viable market of fast, quiet and affordable printers to help you create professionally produced documents.

TECH TIPS

While the Macintosh is becoming a musthave, many computer buyers believe that it is out of their price range. In fact, Apple Computer Inc. has introduced a family of competitively priced Macintoshes that are ideal for first-time buyers and home users.

The Macintosh Performa line includes three models - the 200,400, 600 and 600 CD, which range in price from $1,250 to $2,500. The latest Macs offer specific features for families with school-age children.

The Performa 200 includes a built-in 9-inch monochrome monitor, while the Performa 400 has a built-in color display. With the Performa 600 you can add a video card to play or record a live video from your VCR or video camera.

The Performa 600 is the first Mac with an internal CD-ROM drive. This lets home computer users take advantage of a host of titles incorporating photography, full-motion video, audio and text. About eight to 10 CD-ROM-based titles will be bundled with each Performa 600 CD.

Each Macintosh Performa is packaged with an integrated program that includes a database and word processing, graphics and communications capabilities. A special version of the System 7 operating system (which runs on Macintosh computers) was developed to make the computers even easier to use.

Each Performa also features Apple's Superdrive, a 3.5-inch floppy drive that is capable of using disks from IBM-compatible and Apple 11 computers. All models come with a keyboard, mouse, microphone and training manuals.

The Macintosh Performa family is available in general merchandise stores, consumer electronics outiets and office products stares.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:portable computer printers
Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:1436
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