Putting Print to Paper

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted February 05, 2002
Laser Printers

Brother HL-1440 Laser Printer
by Jennifer Doran

With many small offices working on both Mac and PC platforms, it is impractical to buy a different printer and different software for each operating system. The Brother HL-1440 combats this problem with its multi-platform support and a low price of $299.

The HL-1440 printer is easy to set up, with both parallel and USB interfaces and a quick-loading CD-ROM. Two install wizards guide the user through the process. We encountered some trouble setting up the automatic e-mail printing function, which trolls the user's account and prints out any new mail. The wizard prompts for POP server name and SMTP addresses. For users who are unfamiliar with these terms, it can cause significant problems when trying to access new mail or waiting for messages to print out. Also once the POP address is entered, it is difficult to change.

As for the output, we were impressed with the HL-1440's shading capabilties and crisp printing. Brother touts its ability to print 15ppm and it came through when it comes to printing out Word documents. But in order to print 15 copies of a scanned document it only had enough memory to print at 300dpi. A printout informed us to change the driver settings in order to print at 600 or 1200dpi. After reconfiguring we were able to complete the original task at 1200dpi without a problem.

The HL-1440 is a worthwhile investment for a business looking to improve the quality of its printed documents. The price is more than reasonable and the cross-platform ability is convenient, as is the e-mail printing capability. But there is some degree of technical skill required to maximize the printer's functionality.

Brother HL-1440 Laser Jet Printer
Manufacturer: Brother; 908-704-1700; www.brother.com
Price: $299

Pros: Automatic e-mail printing software; quick and clean printing

Cons: May require some technical capability

Samsung ML-4600
by Wayne Kawamoto

Sharp, laser-quality output should be a given in printers for any modern-day office. In this regard, Samsung's ML-4600 is a competent, reasonably priced laser printer that can adequately serve low-capacity business needs.

In our evaluation, we found text output to be sharp and clear. As expected, text printed at 1200dpi was sharper and slightly darker than at 600dpi. When printing gray-scale pictures, we discovered that the printer could output a good range of tones and details, particularly at 1200dpi. In addition to crisp text, the ML-4600 does a great job of printing business graphics, such as charts and tables. However, it does only an adequate job on digital photographs.

During our testing, the ML-4600 performed just under its rated speed of 8ppm (pages per minute). The printer took a while to process the first page in a batch, but after that, it performed close to its official speed. We had no problem with configuration or installing the printer's toner.

The ML-4600 comes with two paper trays. The first offers storage for 150 sheets, and the second may be used to feed letterhead, envelopes, or labels.

The laser printer is a more powerful, pricier version of Samsung's ML-4500. The ML-4600 comes with more memory -- 4MB versus 2MB, and is better suited for offices. In all, the ML-4600 is a solid, competitive printer. However, it's not the kind of unit that should be at the center of a busy network. Samsung ML-4600
Samsung Electronics; 800-726-7864; samsungprinter.com
Price: $300

Pros: Good clear text output; 1200dpi resolution

Cons: No paper manual

Samsung ML-7300N
by Matthew Klare

In a busy office, there's no substitute for a good workgroup printer. Samsung's ML-7300N is billed as a 21ppm, 1200dpi laser printer. Belying its low price of around $1,000, the 7300N features an automatic duplexer and a 500-sheet paper cassette.

We found the 7300N's setup menu logical and easy to navigate via the top-mounted controls and LCD display.In a timed test, printing in default mode (600dpi) from Microsoft Word 2000, the 7300N kicked out the first page in 11.7 seconds. Including this delay, it achieved 18.5 pages per minute for a 30-page document.

The printer's text quality in 600dpi and 1200dpi modes was excellent. Samsung's smoothing algorithms, 'Samsung Resolution Technology,' delivered lovely, crisp, dark text.The 7300N also did a fine job printing from PowerPoint and Photoshop, producing smooth gray fills with some dither pattern at 600dpi, but nearly none at 1200dpi. It had some problems printing thin diagonal lines from CorelDraw, producing dashed lines, rather than solid ones.

Ethernet and parallel ports are standard. An RS-232 serial interface and an IrDA port are also available. Samsung bundles PCL 6 and PostScript III drivers with the printer. They also include 'SyncThru' network management software. SyncThru supports most Windows networking environments, NetWare 3.x and above, and Macintosh 7.0 and above, as well as various UNIX flavors.

All in all, the ML-7300N is a winner. If you need an inexpensive workgroup printer, this is a deal that's hard to refuse. Samsung ML-7300N
Samsung Electronics; 877-804-9949; www.samsungusa.com
Price: $1,250; Replacement toner: $229

Pros: Fast; inexpensive; automatic duplexer

Cons: Problems printing very thin diagonal lines

Ink-Jet Printers

Epson Stylus Photo 1280
by David Schloss

Epson's latest offering, the Stylus Photo 1280, packs a lot of upgrade into a small change in model number. Most impressive is the doubling of resolution to 2880dpi, a change that makes already sharp prints even sharper. Epson uses a custom six-color ink set, adding a light-cyan and light-magenta ink to the standard CMYK to provide a richer set of colors, and a four nozzle design that lays down incredibly precise drops of ink. The result is high-quality, lightning-fast output.

We compared prints from Epson's archival photo printer (the 2000P, $899) with output from the 1280, and the difference was clearly visible to the naked eye. Subtle shadow and highlight details were more noticeable on the 2880dpi print, and fine detail areas and gradations were clearly improved as well.

The 1280 offers BorderFree printing on paper from 4 by 6 inch up to 13 by 19 inch (albeit at 1440dpi). It's now possible to print full-bleed snapshot size prints, 8 by 10 inches, or even A3 pages with full edge-to-edge coverage.

Epson claims the printer will produce more than 300 pages of graphics at 5 percent coverage on a single cartridge. Our own tests involved printing 6- by 10-inch, full-color images at 2880dpi at the highest quality setting on letter-size sheets, and the 1280 yielded more than 30 prints before requiring a change of cartridge.

The 1280 comes bundled with Photoshop LE, Epson Film Factory TE, Qbeo Photo Genetics, and an offer for color calibration software, Monaco EZ color.

Setup of the 1280 is a breeze on either platform, and it performs flawlessly with such standard applications as Photoshop and Office.

The 1280 doubles as a very capable text printer, spitting out around nine pages per minute of black text memos. It uses a separate black-ink cartridge so printing the occasional cover letter won't affect the amount of print-life in the color cartridge.

Our only complaint with the Photo Stylus 1280 is the same as with all of Epson's USB printers: No cable is included in the box. While this lowers costs, it leaves many an unaware buyer with a printer and no way to connect it.

In these days of high-quality $99 printers, the $499 Epson Photo Stylus 1280 is still an exceptional value for the small office. Epson Stylus Photo 1280
Epson; 800-922-8911; www.epson.com
Price: $500

Pros: Great quality, BorderFree printing, ability to print larger paper sizes

Cons: No USB cable included

Lexmark Z53 Color Jetprinter
By Philip Albinus

It's a tricky balancing act to get great looking color documents without sending your accountant into cardiac arrest. The Lexmark Z53 Color Jetprinter meets the challenge. With a price of $139, this affordable inkjet won't break your budget as you add color to your printouts.

Setting up the Lexmark Z53 is a no-brainer. We followed the easy, seven-step, illustrated instruction chart. We placed the surprisingly light printer on our desk, opened the access panel door in the back, and plugged in the printer cable (not included) and the surprisingly heavy power adapter. After running New Hardware Set-up on our Windows 98 PC, we were instructed to pop in the Lexmark CD-ROM disk, which installed the software itself. After rebooting our PC and calibrating our printer, we were up and printing.

The Lexmark Z53 boasts 2400 by 1200dpi resolution, which is a step up from the Lexmark Z51's 1200 by 1200dpi inkjet printer. In fact, the Lexmark Z53 has the same chassis as the old Z51, but the new model has a tasteful blue sheet feeder and output tray.

Lexmark claims that the Lexmark Z53 prints up to 16ppm in black and white and 8ppm in color, but we couldn't reach those speeds. In our print tests, we printed 20 copies of black text in 3 minutes and 52 seconds in Normal mode at 600 by 600dpi.

We picked up considerable speed when we opened Microsoft Word's Print Preview window, clicked the Properties button, and changed the print quality from Normal (600 by 600dpi) to Draft mode (300 by 600dpi). When we hit the Print button, the Lexmark started cranking. In a minute, we had 11 legible pages of text. Upon closer inspection, however, we noticed that the black text was more gray-black - like a three day-old newspaper - than the deep black found in Normal mode. Users can print documents for internal use quickly and without wasting precious inkjet toner.

In our color test, we set out to print eight pages in Draft mode, and we wound up with four and a half faded printouts in 60 seconds. You would only want to print in this mode when doing a final read-through of your next PowerPoint presentation. But when we popped in a few pieces of Kodak Premium Picture Paper and selected Maximum Print Quality of 2400 by 1200dpi, we were bowled over. The colors were sharp, vivid, and ready for framing.

The Lexmark Z53 is a terrific value and should make an excellent addition to the small office with limited, specific printing needs. Lexmark Z53 Color Jetprinter
Manufacturer: Lexmark International800-539-6275; www.lexmark.com
Price: $139

Pros: Great price; easy setup; terrific ink level checking capabilities

Cons: Not as fast as company claims; draft mode is for your eyes only

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