ISSUE 422: THE HIGH-TECH OFFICE--Alan
Inkjets let businesses print high-quality colour
but the price per page is often more than with a laser printer - Nov 25
My wife and I enjoy watching old, Hollywood
movies. As a result, when my son Joey was younger, he had the
notion that "in the olden days" reality was black and white. He figured
that at some point, probably around his birth, colour was invented.
In terms of business computing, he's almost right.
Back a decade or so ago, most office computers sported monochrome
monitors: black and white (or black and green, or black and orange).
And documents were printed in black and white.
Now, however, nearly all computers sport reasonably
high-resolution colour monitors. And it's not just a frill -- colour
conveys information. With a lot of detail on screen, it's easier to
find what we're looking for on a colour system. Prettier, too.
But most businesses are still printing in black and
white. Some of that's due to cost. Colour laser printers, which for a
long time hovered around $10,000, have come down in price. But while
today's $4,000 is about what the first generation of black-and-white
laser printers cost, it's still too rich for most office budgets. And
there's also a sense that black and white is more serious, more
While black-and-white laser printers rule in the
office, in the home a different technology controls the printer market.
Most home users are purchasing colour-capable inkjet printers. With
prices ranging from $250 to $600, these printers spray tiny droplets of
ink onto paper to produce text and graphics. Companies with a major
share of the home inkjet market include Hewlett-Packard, Canon
Now these companies are all aiming products at the
small business and home-office markets. I recently had the use of an
Epson Stylus Color 800 printer (1-800-463-7766), which is widely
available at a price of about $559. The printer is designed to work
with both Windows PCs (Win 3.1, 95 and NT) and Macintoshes, and was
easy to set up and operate. It can print at resolutions up to 1440 x
720 dots per inch, a finer resolution than its competitors' -- making
it possible to print outstanding, near photo-quality graphics.
(It can only achieve this resolution on expensive,
glossy paper, however. On standard paper, resolution is limited to 720
dpi, although print quality on standard paper is still quite good.)
Epson claims that this model prints at speeds up to
eight pages a minute for black text, and up to seven pages a minute for
colour, faster than its competitors. The key words here are "up to."
While I found it printed photos faster than I'd expected, it didn't
print plain text documents at anywhere near the laser-like speed the
ratings would imply.
Like other inkjet printers, it costs less to purchase
than a black-and-white laser printer, but costs more per page in
consumables -- toner for laser printers ends up costing about two cents
a page, compared to about five cents for inkjet cartridges. And the
cost of printing large colour graphics can be much higher --
approaching a dollar per page. Epson provides a nice fuel-tank-type
gauge to indicate ink levels, so you're less likely to run out of ink
in the middle of a large print job.
With the ability to print onto transparencies, it can
be used to make colourful overhead masters for presentations. Other
possible uses include signs and labels for retailers, or for making
original copies of a coloured flyer, which could then be
colour-photocopied for quantity distribution. And even if you're among
those who believe that black-and-white text looks more professional, a
bit of spot colour in your letterhead will make your correspondence
stand out on a cluttered desk.
Eastside Datagraphics, a Commercial Drive
stationery shop, recently purchased an Epson Stylus 800. Co-owner John
Hamm reports satisfaction with the printer. They've used it to
make signs for the shop window, and labels for shelves and products.
And they're planning to replace their currently black-and-white sales
flyers with more eye-catching colour ones.
The Stylus 800 was recently selected Editor's Choice
as business inkjet in PC Magazine's annual overview of
printers. The Stylus range also includes the lower-priced,
home-oriented Stylus 400 (about $300) and Stylus 600 (about $400). The
Stylus 1520 (about $1,000) adds the ability to print onto paper sizes
up to 17x22 inches, while the $650 Stylus Photo is optimized for
While we're looking at top-rated products, Richmond
PC-clone maker Seanix (303-2900) has moved into the highly
competitive U.S. market, challenging companies such as Dell and
Gateway 2000. Two of their models have attracted
favourable reviews in big American publications: PC/Computing liked
their low-cost Baby Grand model, while Windows Magazine added
the company's DVD-equipped CS DVD 166 model to its best-buy WinList.*