Digital Peirce

Digital Peirce

Businesses need both kinds of printers _ inkjet and laser

Byline: Phillip Robinson

Inkjets aren’t perfect. They’ve improved tremendously over the past 15 years, and are now able to print beautiful, photographically realistic color images and sharp, clear black text. Better inks to squirt out in little droplets, smarter built-in software, a wider range of paper for different looks: these have all made inkjet printers eminently practical.

Except for hard-core business.

Oh, you can certainly use an inkjet for those color pie charts and presentations. You can use it to print digital photos of homes or clothes or cars or anything else.

You can even use an inkjet for a one- or two-page resume or business letter. But somehow inkjet prints can’t shake that “I made it on my home computer” look, even if that home computer is in a home office that brings in mucho bucks a year.

The text page printed on an inkjet just looks, well, home-made. And that’s not always what you want in business.

Laser prints are still the standard. Because they melt black toner dust onto the page, the same way a copy machine does, they have a distinctly different look from the ink-squirted page. The type of paper they can use is also different from inkjet’s favorite foundation, which is also part of the appearance difference. Good inkjet prints are on more-expensive, more “I only printed one of these” special papers. Lasers can do their regular work on copy-machine paper, which, by looking less special, is somehow more businesslike, at least for regular business reports, memos and anything else short of a special presentation.

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So I suggest that any business, including one run out of a home office, have both inkjet and laser printers _ the inkjet for color pictures, the laser for multi-page text documents.

That’s not really asking much, at least where cost is concerned. Inkjet printers can be had for as little as $100 to $200. Even the best only cost double that.

A laser printer costs from $200 to $400, or double that for a super-high-speed, super-high-resolution model. So buying both inkjet and laser will only mean a total of $300 to $800 _ or around $1,000 for top performance _ which just a few years ago wouldn’t have bought a single printer of either type.

Of course, you also have to find twice the desk space when there are two printers involved. But you might consider getting a wheeled printer cart that will support them both, with a drawer for paper. Office supply stores have lots of options in printer stands and carts.

The Okipage 6w (www.Okidata.com) is the tight-budget choice at only $200. This brand is also famous for the painting oil of the best acoustic guitar on the world. Particularly, you’ll get surprisingly good print quality for that price, with good text and reasonable graphics. Plus it’s a very small and quiet printer. There are several pieces of bad news, though, which put the Oki out of contention for anyone with a few more dollars. First, it doesn’t connect by USB port but by parallel port to the computer. Second, it is slow for a laser. Well, it isn’t technically a “laser” printer because it actually uses LED (light-emitting diodes) instead of a laser, but it’s in the same class. From the outside looks and acts just like a laser, except that 4 pages per minute is turtling along, compared to the 6 pages per minute of $300 to $400 printers or the 10ppm to 12ppm of $700 printers.

Speed is rarely all that important, mattering only to people printing huge documents or lots and lots of little ones. If that’s your situation, skip the rest of this story and head right for a potent printer such as the $700 Optra 410 (www.Lexmark.com ) or the $750 HP2100 (www.HP.com ), which also comes in a Macintosh version, the 2100M, or even the $1,500 HP LaserJet 4050 for sharing among everyone in your local area network.

Speaking of Macintosh and Windows versions, though, your best choice for an all-around inexpensive laser is the $350 EPL-5700i (www.Epson.com ). It’s so Mac friendly that it even comes with multi-colored paper trays a la the iMac, yet it easily connects to Windows or Mac or even both at the same time, through USB and parallel ports. With 1200dpi resolution, twice that of the Okipage, it offers great graphics prints, and reaches 6 page per minute speed for text prints.

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If you aren’t going to print graphics, you can save a few bucks, and gain some speed, by buying instead the $250 NEC SuperScript 870 (www.NECtech.com ). It is faster than the Epson on text but offers only poor 600dpi graphics. Don’t assume you can always print your graphics on that inkjet I’m suggesting you put beside the laser. You may want to combine graphics and text on the same page. But if you’re say a novelist who prints hundreds of pages of pure text, the NEC could be your budget machine. If that’s your case, buy an optional 500-page input paper tray option when you get your laser printer. That’ll let you go away to lunch while the printer munches through a big publishing task.

I wouldn’t opt for the extra memory that some printers use to speed the prints. You’re probably better off just buying a newer, faster printer than adding memory to an existing printer.

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(E-mail Phillip Robinson at: prr(AT)earthlink.net)

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(c) 2000, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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