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Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Printers boost performance while dropping in price
    Latest round of space-saving models combines scanning, copying, faxing in compact units

    by Alan Zisman (c) 2002 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue # 696 February 25- March 3  GearGuide column

    Once rare and expensive, it's seemed recently that flatbed scanners and printers have become almost cheap throw-aways. As with a lot of hardware, though, more expensive models not only offer more features, but better quality and reliability. Instead of paying $100 or so, here's what $500 can buy.

    Turn paper into bits and bytes

    HP Scanjet 5500c
    HP's Scanjet
    Some scanners are primarily aimed at graphic designers, as a way to turn art and photos on paper into digitized files. HP's new Scanjet 5550 ($499) may instead be of interest to businesses looking to convert paper forms and documents into digital form. Features include an automatic document feeder that lets users load up to 35 pages, then scans them at eight pages per minute. That useful feature eliminates those minutes spent hovering over the scanner.

    Hp's Scan-to-CD feature lets users bypass their hard drives entirely, putting the scanned images right onto a CD-R disc. The high-speed USB 2.0 interface offers speedy performance; HP promises preview scans in about seven seconds.

    Included ScanSoft PaperPort software helps manage the storage, archiving and access of scanned documents, while bundled OCR (optical character recognition) software converts scans from pictures of text to word-processable digital formats.

    Quality printing on the road

    Canon i70
    Canon's i70

    Also $499, Canon's new i70 Bubble Jet Portable Printer aims at notebook-toting road warriors who travel with portable computer and digital camera and want reliable quality printing on the go. It promises desktop-comparable print quality, up to 4800x1200 dots per inch (dpi), with text pages printing at speeds of up to 13 pages per minute (black) and nine ppm (colour). It can print borderless eight-inch by ten-inch and four-inch by six-inch photos, with the four-by-six photos printed in under 90 seconds.

    Select model digital cameras and camcorders can be connected directly into the Canon printer's USB port, which enables printing without involving a computer. The printer can run off AC power, or an optional battery pack (for an additional cost). Ink cartridge capacity has been increased compared to previous Canon portable printer models, lowering the cost of operation. The printer is Windows and Mac compatible.

    All-in-one for stay-at-homes

    HP Officejet 6110
    HP Officejet 6110
    All-in-ones combine printer, fax, scanner, and copier in a single unit, saving on desk space and money. Quality has improved to rival stand-alone components. HP's just-released Officejet 6110 (once again at $499) offers improved performance in a model aimed at small offices, featuring 4800x1200 dpi printing (on photo paper) with optional six-colour ink cartridge for improved photo quality. Its 35-page document feeder allows for multi-page unattended faxing and scanning.

    Duplexing allows for two-sided printing, while its flatbed scanner offers quality scans, copies, and faxes. As a colour or black-and-white photocopier, it can produce up to 19 copies per minute (black) or 14 cpm in colour, with reductions or enlargements ranging from 25 per cent to 400 per cent.

    DVD recording gets more practical

    Recordable DVD isn't commonplace yet, but Sony's DRU500AX makes it a couple of steps more practical. It costs a relatively affordable $599, and offers compatibility with most of the alphabet-soup of previously incompatible standards. With blank DVD discs falling in price, this drive is an attractive option for users needing the 4.7 gigabyte capacity of DVDs (about seven times as much as can fit onto a blank CD disc) for storing data, video (about two hours' worth) or music.

    The DRU500AX is an internal, PC-only model; the external DRX500ULX model ($750) offers both high-speed USB 2.0 and Firewire (aka IEEE1394 or iLink) connections.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan