Fujitsu DL4600. (dot-matrix printer) (evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
As soon as you lift the Fujitsu DL4600 from its shipping box, you'll realize it must be a sturdy printer--it weighs 40 pounds. With dimensions of 7.5 X 22.9 X 15.2 inches, this wide-carriage workhorse isn't a good choice for the cramped home office. But if you need a heavy-duty, high-performance, high-volume dot-matrix printer and you've got the room and a sturdy printer stand, the Fujitsu may be for you.
The large size of this 24-pin printer allows it to use paper up to 16.5 inches wide, so it's a good choice if you're printing ultrawide spreadsheets or proofing tabloid-sized desktop-published documents. The DL4600 is also worth looking at if you need to do rough proofs of pages that will eventually be color-separated or printed on a color ink jet.
While it's true that newer printer technologies will generally provide faster, quieter, and higher-quality output, good old tractor-fed impact dot-matrix printers still offer some advantages. First and foremost is paper handling. The DL4600 will accept friction-fed single sheets and standard tractor-fed paper, and it has an optional cut-sheet feeder. If you need to print a long database listing on one strip of tractor-fed paper, a laser printer won't do. Also, only impact printers will allow you to use carbon forms to print multiple copies simultaneously--the Fujitsu supports one original and up to four copies.
When you run out of ink or toner in an ink-jet or laser printer, you're stuck. With the traditional fabric-ribbon technology used by the Fujitsu, the print gradually begins to fade. If you're printing archival records or other non-quality-sensitive documents, you can use an old cloth ribbon, extending its useful life. Cost per page is less than with newer printer technologies.
While not quite up to the standards of laser and ink-jet output, the DL4600's output is about as good as you can get with dot-matrix technology. The printer's four built-in letter-quality fonts are very cleanly formed and display no dottiness. Correspondence- and draft-quality fonts aren't as crisp, but they're still very readable. You can also plug in optional font cards to add typefaces such as Orator, Scientific, and Swiss. Fujitsu also sells a program that allows you to use Post-Script-style fonts with the printer. Graphics output is good, with up to 360 X 360 dots-per-inch resolution.
The DL4600's four-color ribbon produces eight pure colors for text. Printer drivers included with Windows 3.0, AmigaDOS, and many paint and desktop publishing programs will dither those colors to produce thousands of apparent shades. Color output looks washed out when compared to that of ink-jet and thermal transfer printers--the ribbon technology doesn't allow for much saturation. However, the cost per page is much less than with those technologies.
The printer uses the Fujitsu-specific DPL24C command set, which includes most Epson LQ and IBM ProPrinter commands. I had no compatibility problems using Epson LQ drivers with GeoWorks Ensemble and AmigaDOS. Change printer settings with touch-sensitive buttons and the LCD display on the front of the printer--there are no DIP switches to set.
The only problem in six months of using the DL4600 was jammed paper. Tractor-fed paper kept moving off the track and eventually would snag. I ended up using the single-sheet autoloading feature, which worked flawlessly. The jams might cause buyers to hesitate when making a final decision about what printer they want in their home offices. But for overall good performance in a heavy-duty color dot-matrix printer, the Fujitsu is still very much a contender.