DeskJets Offer Photo Ops--Cheap

SAN FRANCISCO (02/01/2000) - Hewlett-Packard Co. looks to maintain its substantial market share in the ink jet printer market with the Tuesday debut of three sub-$300 printers for home and small-office users.

HP will ship the $299 DeskJet 952C and $199 DeskJet 932C to stores Tuesday. The $149 DeskJet 842C will ship March 1. All three printers offer good text and photo-reproduction capabilities, according to HP executives.

That's important because with the proliferation of less-expensive home PCs, digital cameras, and scanners, people are looking for better output from new ink jet printers, says Kathy Schultheis, product manager for the DeskJet line.

"They want robust, affordable printing solutions, and they want good photo quality," she says. But they don't want to buy one printer for photos and one for text documents.

To that end, HP's new 952C and 932C offer what the company calls "most like the original photo" print quality through its new PhotoREt III technology and an alternate photo mode. The new PhotoREt III technology can lay down 29 ink drops per dot, and the photo mode offers 2400-by-1200-dots-per-inch printing on photo paper, the company says.

The 952C has another feature aimed squarely at photo enthusiasts: a second built-in paper tray that holds HP's special 4-by-6-inch photo paper. The tray lets the printer hold 100 sheets of regular-size printer paper and 20 sheets of the snapshot paper. The lower-price 932C doesn't have a photo paper tray, but its existing paper tray does fold up, she says.

Least expensive of the bunch, the 842C is more of a general-purpose printer. It uses the older PhotoREt II technology, so it doesn't offer the same photo-quality capabilities.

It does, however, utilize HP's new ColorSmart III image-processing software that helps create less grainy photos with better skin tones and crisper details, Schultheis says. HP also ships ColorSmart III with the 932C and 952C printers.

Speed Demons

HP says the 952C can print up to 11 pages per minute of black text and 8.5 ppm color; the 932C prints 9 ppm black text and 7.5 ppm color; and the 842C offers 8 ppm black text and 5 ppm color. (While PC World has not yet tested these machines, it's very rare for our lab tests to show the speeds as high as what's claimed by vendors.)Attention to speed is important because research shows that while print quality is still important, the thing many people want is faster printing speeds, says Paula Bursley, principal analyst at Dataquest.

You can argue about which brand of printer offers the best images, but if you stay away from the sub-$100 printers, all of the major ink jet vendors offer units with high-quality output, Bursley says. Among the top sellers (HP, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark), image quality has become largely a matter of taste, she says.

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