The Promise of LED: affordable color and high
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Canadian Computer Wholesaler, February 1999
Printer technology has been pretty quiet for years,
since colour inkjets
replaced dot matrix models as the standard for home and small office
Still not at the price where everyone?s going to run
out and get one,
though, advances in colour page printing are on the verge of shaking up
the networked business market, with eventual fallout into the mass
I said ?colour page printing? for want of a more sexy
why in a moment.
Popular inkjet printers, like dot matrix models, print
a line at a time?you
can watch the page being produced, one strip at a time. This means they
don?t need high-end microprocessors or a lot of ram, to store an entire
page?s design. This helps keep the price low, ensuring their
but also ensures slow speed.
The alternative has been page printers?in most cases,
but not always,
laser printers. Most page printers have their own CPUs and RAM?some
models use the processor and memory on the computer, resulting in a
printer, but one that?s dependent on the computer?s resources. In
design, the entire page is laid out, then printed at once.
While most page printers have used laser technology,
some have used
an alternative?a row of light emitting diodes (LEDs), instead. This
has been around for years, used primarily in a series of black and
printers from Okidata. Not needing the rotating mirrors and focusing
required by laser technology, these printers have been smaller,
and less expensive than comparable laser printers. At the same time,
have offered laser-quality print outs.
Offering a ?laser-quality? printer has sometimes been
a bit of a burden
for the company?Okidata Canada?s general manager Lon Campbell talks
retail salespeople who haven?t shown the company?s products to
shopping for a laser printers?they?ve known enough about the company?s
products to realize that they?re not laser printers, but not enough to
realize that they really do offer comparable quality.
While LED printers have quietly occupied a niche in
the laser market
for years, the advantages of the technology becomes clearer when
up to laser-quality colour printers. While colour inkjets are the major
player in the home/small office market, the technology is simply too
for adoption in the larger business market. At the same time, colour
printers have remained large, slow, and expensive.
Much of this is due to the complexities in moving
those mirrors and
lens back and forth, while moving the paper through the printer four
(once for each colour). By contrast, recently-introduced LED colour
again require fewer moving parts, and a straight-through paper path.
The result: less complexity and better paper handling,
even with heavy
paper stock, transparencies, envelopes, or labels. And that translates
into lower prices and faster print speeds.
While colour laser printers from major players such as
offer colour print speeds of 4 pages per minute (ppm), Okidata?s
Okipage 8c offers 600 dpi colour printouts at 8 ppm?possible because
paper only needs to pass through the printer once.
The Okipage 8c features a base of 32 Megs of RAM
(expandable to 80 MB),
a 100 MHz MIPS 4700 RISC CPU, and both Adobe Postscrypt Level 3 and PCL
5c page description languages, at a suggested price of under $CDN5,000.
A networked version includes 10/100 mbs Ethernet.
Okidata is no longer alone in pushing the superiority
of LED over laser.
Lexmark has recently introduced the technology into its model line,
its high-end Optra Color 1200 promising 12 ppm colour print-outs. Like
the Okipage 8c, it offers a straight-through paper path, with four
LED printheads. It?s higher speed, however, comes at a much higher
Still, the simpler technology and higher performance
of the LED models
seems a compelling argument?rumour has it that even laser stalwart HP
taking a second look at adopting it for some of their future models.
that makes it even more likely that as it becomes more widely adopted,
prices will drop to a level where these colour laser-like printers can
become standard office features.
The end-result could well be greater availability of
that paradoxically lack lasers?look for colour LED printers coming soon
to a workplace near you.
Earlier in this issue, you may have noticed a review
of four books from
the recent deluge of volumes covering Windows 98. Here?s another that
too late to make it onto that page, but may be of interest to CCW
? John Woram?s ?The Windows 98 Registry? subtitles
itself: A Survival
Guide for Users. And for many users, it may prove to be just that.
95, NT, and now Win 98 replace the host of INI files used in earlier
with a single large system registry, compiling hardware, software, and
user information into a single listing.
But the Registry seems like a scary black box to most
fearful to tamper with its innards. Woram?s book offers background on
Registry?s structure and contents, and tips to using it to tweak
performance and solve problems. $35.99CDN, from MIS Press
And many readers of this column may have made use of
website (www.tomshardware.com)?one of the key places on the Internet to
keep up to date on the ever-changing computer technology. Independent
hardware manufacturers, Dr. Thomas Pabst (a practicing MD?where does he
find the time?) is averaging over a million hits per month, from people
wanting the straight goods on CPUs, motherboards, and more.
? Now, Dr. Tom?s expertise is available in hard
guide? (yes, CapsLock Off),
promising High-Performance PC Secrets. A Que book, $42.95CDN.
lacking the up-to-the-minute-ness of the web site, but a valuable
nonetheless, with late-98 state of the art on CPUs, chip sets, BIOS,
RAM, video, and disk systems. Especially recommended are the sections
overclocking, and on BIOS setup commands, two topics that tend to be