*NEWS*INKJETS CATCHING LASER PRINTERS

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*NEWS*INKJETS CATCHING LASER PRINTERS

 user 2005-11-17 at 11:19:00 am Views: 92
  • #13257

    Inkjet catching laser down the homestretch
    Buying a printer for your home – whether for work, school or recreation – begins with a basic choice: inkjet or laser.
    A
    decade ago, the choice for most home users was an inkjet, which hit the
    market in 1992. Sure, the ink smudged if the pages were not handled
    gingerly, and the machines were slow. But inkjets were wonderful
    replacements for those old dot-matrix printers that not only produced
    inferior results but also made enough screeching racket to wake half
    the neighborhood.
    Laser printers existed back then – a desktop model
    was introduced in 1984. But they were so expensive they were far
    outside the grasp of most home users. Then about five years back,
    black-and-white laser printers plunged in price, becoming affordable
    for those who wanted fast, professional-looking documents at home. They
    didn’t offer color, but many of us got around that for special
    occasions (party invitations, for example) by printing on colored paper.
    Lasers
    for home use have continued to come down in price (solid performers are
    available for $200 and less) and have gotten even faster and easier to
    use. They’re also generally less expensive to operate than their inkjet
    brethren.
    But now the printer landscape has shifted again. Inkjets
    have gained speed tremendously, even at the $100 price level, and their
    printing quality has improved to the point where it’s often tough to
    tell the difference between inkjet- and laser-produced documents unless
    you examine them closely.
    And inkjets retain one big advantage over low-cost lasers – the ability to print color, not only for documents but photos, too.
    To
    check out the current state of inkjet versus laser, I tested two recent
    models aimed at the home and home-office market. In the inkjet corner:
    Canon Pixma iP4200. And representing lasers: Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet
    1022.
    To test speed and print quality, I printed three identical
    files on both – a Microsoft Word text document, a document in Adobe
    System’s Portable Document Format (PDF) and a color brochure, also in
    PDF.
    The LaserJet 1022 (about $200) processed and printed the
    documents with great speed. From clicking on “print” to completed
    copies in the tray, the Word file and black-and-white PDF document took
    just 37 seconds.
    This was slightly slower than the advertised 19
    pages a minute, but I think printer companies have a secret,
    low-gravity location where they get results seemingly impossible to
    duplicate under real-world conditions. (Maybe it’s the same place where
    auto companies test gas mileage.)
    The color-brochure print test took
    longer because of the increased processing needed for graphics, but the
    laser printer completed it in an impressive 1 minute and 9 seconds.
    Of course, the printouts were in black and white.
    The
    quality of the text and graphics was razor sharp. It looked as if they
    had been bonded to the page, which indeed is exactly what happens
    during the laser printer process.
    The toner used in the printers is made up of pigment and plastic.
    The final step in the process uses heat to melt the plastic and thus seal the toner into the fibers of the paper.
    The heat can cause the paper to curl somewhat in laser printers, but there was no sign of that with the LaserJet 1022.
    Moving
    on to the Pixma iP4200 inkjet (about $120, normally, but it can be
    found for as little as $99), the Word document printed in 1 minute and
    17 seconds, and the government PDF finished in 1 minute 17 seconds.
    That’s excellent speed for an inkjet.
    As for quality, the inkjet did a beautiful job.
    This
    type of printer works by spraying tiny droplets of ink – each of which
    is less than the diameter of a human hair – precisely onto a page.
    Because ink is a liquid, there is danger of smudges, but the inks now used dry quickly, making the text far sharper.
    In blind tests, several colleagues found that the inkjet text pages looked just as pleasing as those done on the laser printer.
    Some testers even liked the inkjet pages better, as the print seemed slightly darker.
    Ink is ink
    Still, it is ink and will run if a page gets wet.
    The
    brochure took 4 minutes and 27 seconds – more than three times as long
    as on the laser. But the fact that it was in color made up for the
    longer wait.
    On paper stock specifically for color inkjet printing,
    the colors in the brochure were quite passable for a document that is
    not a final, commercial presentation.
    The truly great color
    printouts from the Pixma were of photos, printed on photo paper – a 4 x
    6-inch print of a snapshot from a digital camera rivaled what could be
    gotten from a consumer lab.
    When it comes to operating cost of inkjets versus lasers, it’s difficult to make comparisons.
    But
    that will change next year when the International Organization for
    Standardization in Switzerland releases its standards for testing the
    efficiency of inkjet cartridges.
    (The organization’s standards for laser toner cartridges are widely accepted in the industry.)
    Meanwhile,
    some consumer inkjets are becoming so efficient that they are getting
    close to challenging lasers in terms of operating costs, said David
    Spenser, head of one of the leading independent printer-testing labs in
    the country
    Which to buy?
    So, which type of printer to buy? A
    laser model is still probably the right choice if you do a lot of text
    printing and don’t mind going elsewhere when you need color.
    The inkjets are more versatile machines and give you the option of printing your color photos at home.
    In any case, keep in mind the consumer printer field is continually evolving. On the horizon: color laser printers for home use.
    They’ve already broken through the $400 barrier and are headed ever downward in price
    .