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Plain Paper Color

Color printers are neat but still saddled with major problems. For me at least, the main problems are price, quality, and speed. Two companies, Tektronix and Dataproducts, should be addressing these problems soon with some plain-paper color printers that use solid wax transfer. The printers still aren't cheap - Tektronix's PhaserJet PXi lists for $9995 and the Dataproducts Jolt PS will cost about $7000, but the price of consumables is quite a bit cheaper, 25 cents per page for the PhaserJet and possibly less for the Jolt PS. The fact that these printers don't require special paper is also interesting, because some projects simply cannot use printouts made on the slick, shiny paper used by most color printers.

As far as quality goes, the solid wax should be a bit brighter than ink-jet or thermal transfer inks, and it will certainly be more striking than the ink-jet output, which tends to bleed slightly, muddying the edges. The resolution will be the standard 300 dpi, which is fine for many applications but which means that these printers will not replace traditional methods of printing publication-quality color photographs. We have a color photograph printed on an older Tektronix color printer that is good but certainly nothing impressive. If these solid wax printers can improve on that quality, they will do quite well.

Last, but not least, speed. The color photo I mentioned earlier took four or five minutes to print on the old Tektronix, but the new ones should improve on that, perhaps dropping into the two minutes per page range for a full color PostScript image. Even that speed won't make them useful for high-volume printing, but most people will use the printers primarily for drafts before going to film for the final output.

Tektronix -- 800/835-6100
Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 18-Jun-91, Vol. 5, #23, pg. 6
MacWEEK -- 11-Jun-91, Vol. 5, #22, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 17-Jun-91, Vol. 13, #24, pg. 26