What is it: a four-colour inkjet printer for personal or small group use
Applications: monochrome and low-volume, high-quality colour printing of documents in either standalone or network environments
Hewlett Packard's latest addition to its successful range of inkjet printers is the the Deskjet 870Cxi. It replaces the Deskjet 850C and, like its predecessor, is aimed at professional users.
The 870Cxi is a four-colour printer and uses two separate cartridges - one with black ink and one with cyan, magenta and yellow. The two-cartridge system is particularly useful for colour printers. It means that black ink can be used without swapping cartridges, and colour prints can use true black, rather than mixing cyan, magenta and yellow.
HP reckons the black cartridge lasts for about 1,000 pages (at 5 per cent coverage), and the colour for 562 pages (at 15 per cent). Given their replacement costs of #24 and #26.10 respectively, this works out at 2.4p for a black page and 4.6p for colour.
There are only two buttons on the 870Cxi - power and resume. The Tool Box software controls the printer features. It acts as a help system for common problems, and as an access point for certain printer functions.
Clicking on 'How do I print on both sides of the page', for example, tells you to change an application's print settings.
If you click on 'Align the print cartridges', the printer is sent through the necessary procedure.
The Tool Box also provides a useful visual troubleshooting guide. If a page hasn't printed correctly, for instance, clicking the appropriate button will display several examples of what might have gone wrong; and choosing the one that best matches the printed page will display a possible explanation and solution.
Although the 870Cxi works as a standalone personal printer, it can also be used in a network environment. It is not suitable as the sole printer on a network. However, it can work with PCs and Macs, which makes it perfect for low-volume, high-quality colour prints such as proofs.
In its 'network-connect' configuration, the 870Cxi can be connected to a LAN via the optional HP Jetdirect EX Plus print server. This allows messages relating to the printer's status to appear on each user's screen.
Alternatively, the 870Cxi can be shared locally by connecting it to the parallel port of one of the computers on a network, and using Windows 95 print-sharing features.
Although this is the cheaper option, status messages will appear only on the host computer's screen. Unless the host is actually the network server, it could suffer unacceptable slow downs when print jobs are sent.
The 870Cxi prints black text impressively, even on plain 80gsm photocopier paper. In normal mode, characters are generally well-defined. In marginally slower best mode, they become almost indistinguishable from laser output.
Solid blocks of colour do not perform at their best when run out on photocopier paper, but their vibrancy is regained on more expensive inkjet paper.
Even so, there is no trace of the ink bleeding or paper rippling often found on plain paper with some inkjet printers.
Verdict: the new Deskjet 870Cxi is comparatively expensive for an inkjet printer, but its performance and versatility go a long way to justify its price. It is easy to use and is ideal for low-cost, low-volume colour printing in standalones and networks. Its functionality should earmark it as a corporate standard for these common tasks.
A printer with pedigree
Inkjet printers have several advantages over dot-matrix or laser models. Inkjets are relatively cheap to buy and to run. They are reliable and quiet because of their mechanical simplicity, and are still the most cost-effective way to add high-quality colour to documents.
Inkjets account for 66 per cent of the UK printer market and Hewlett Packard holds the largest share with 43 per cent of total unit sales*.
HP has 5,000 employees in the UK and a 1995 turnover of #32bn. Its five R&D and manufacturing divisions exported #3,700m-worth of equipment in 1994, making it the UK's 39th largest exporter.
*Based on Romtec figures for July 1996.
Contact: Hewlett Packard on 0990 474747 or www.hp.com
Price: #420;Jetdirect EX (print server: #259).
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