Canon's BJ-600 provides affordable colour

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, August, 1994

Once, we all did our computing with green lights on a black screen. Some
of us moved to orange letters on black. Maybe we even defensively
claimed that we didn't need colour for word processing or spreadsheets.

But it doesn't take much time working on a nice colour monitor to
discover that even if we don't NEED it, it sure seems to be nicer... and
not just for playing games.

So now, we'll see colour monitors gracing the desks in many workplaces,
schools, and homes. Go get your car's exhaust checked, and at the same
time, check out those nice large NEC monitors everywhere in the BC
AirCare centres. Even hanging from the ceiling. In colour. Naturally.

Hardly anyone wants to compute in monochrome.

Still, almost all of us print in monochrome.

Some dot matrix printers have let you add a colour ribbon, but the
output was... well, dot-matrix quality. But laser-quality colour
printers have started coming down in price... down past the $10,000
mark, that is. Too rich for my wallet.


Inkjet printers have, for years, provided better quality and less
noise than dot-matrix, for less money than laser printers. Monochrome
inkjets are facing competition from low-end lasers, but have pushed
even 24-pin dot matrix printers out of the $300-400 price range.

And colour inkjets are all the rage-- good quality colour, at a more-
or-less reasonable price.

For a long time, this market segment was controlled by Hewlett-
Packard, with the colour version of their venerable Deskjet series.
Their models 500C and the newer 550c and 560c have almost defined the
low-cost colour inkjet.

Enter Canon. They've been battling HP's monochrome inkjet line, with a
series of Bubblejet printers. Lighter than HP's models. 360 dots per
inch (dpi) resolution compared to HP's 300 dpi. A few dollars cheaper.

The newest of the series, the BJC-600 adds colour to the equation.

This $719 (US list) printer features a permanent 256-nozzle printhead, and four separate colour
cartridges... one each for red, blue, yellow, and black. This allows
the user to replace each as it runs dry, and is a contrast to HP's
single colour cartridge, which forces the user to replace all the
colour inks, even if only one has run out. As well, the HP cartridge
includes the printhead, resulting in a unit that's more expensive to

It's a small, light design, that looks like it belongs on a Star Trek
set. There's a 100 sheet paper tray on top, and a selection of
top-mounted switches and indicator lights. It sets up quickly and

Unfortunately, the supplied software doesn't match the printed
documentation. Instead of a Windows SETUP program, there's a DOS batch
file, offering to install Windows drivers. What it really does,
however, is copy the Windows drivers to a C:\CANON directory on your
hard disk, while using the printer to print out some very basic
directions (Start Windows. Open Control Panel. Select Add Printer.
Click OKAY). This process seems a little silly when they could have
just included the same print out in the box!

Once the Windows drivers are installed, it's possible to actually try
out the printer. A second disk includes a nice selection of 20 True
Type fonts, from Bitstream. A good variety, but couldn't they use more
appealing filenames than "TT075M_.TTF"? (When you install them, you DO
get real font names). There are also drivers for the standard popular
DOS programs, but this printer is really designed for graphical
environments like OS/2 and Windows, where users are most likely to mix
text and graphics.

Text, even printed on stock photocopier paper, was near-laser quality,
with minimal wicking, which can sometimes occur with inkjets, as the
fibres of the paper spread some of the liquid ink. Speed is slower
than a laser printer, but unlike a laser, which needs to compose the
entire page, it starts printing almost immediately.

As a line printer, it doesn't need large amounts of memory on the
printer to compose complex pages... there's no way to upgrade the
printer's memory, and in fact, no need to.

This becomes apparent when printing large graphics. One entry-level
laser printer I tested last year choked when asked to print a page
mixing graphics and text with its base memory... it could print one or the
other, but not both on the same page. These sorts of task are no
problem for the BJC-600 (or other inkjets)... while it takes longer to
print complex graphics, they will print, one line at a time.

I printed several 256-colour pictures, including some art from the
Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia. A full-page, full-colour picture took
about 4 1/2 minutes to print... which I'd consider a pretty reasonable
abount of time. The full colour graphics showed little of the banding
which sometimes detracts from other line-printed output, and even with
the large amount of liquid splattered on the paper, the pages dried

Like 300 dpi laser graphics, the dot-patterns produced by this 360 dpi
printer were visible, but not particularly annoying-- less visible
than the dots used in printing graphics in this paper, for example.
Colours were rich and well defined, and close to what appeared on screen. The
printer drivers will even support 24-bit (16.7 million colour)
pictures, although these may take significantly longer to print out.

If you feel like you're not getting the print-quality you saw in the
store demo, the answer is most likely in your choice of paper... this
printer, like other inkjets, works best printing on expensive coated
paper. Colour pictures are especially vivid on the pricy stuff.
Unfortunately, this can drive your cost per page right up... and even
with lower cost paper, the secret down-side of inkjets is their cost
per page. Canon estimates about 4 cents per page for average coverage
monochrome and 15 cents for colour... and that's without buying
special paper.

Even keeping this in mind, however, this printer is easy to recommend.
It's affordable to buy, simple to use, and produces nice quality
output. It's colour pages will be immediately appreciated in a
classroom or in any home with children. And in a business environment,
too, users will find that colour for emphasis can add impact to many

Just try to keep it restrained, guys, eh?

Maybe sometime soon we'll see colour printing as affordable and as
common as solour monitors.

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