Qume CrystalPrint Express. (laser printer ) (evaluation)
by David English
What kind of printer costs $5,600? Or to put it another way, why would anyone want to pay $5,600 for a printer?
In the case of Qume's Crystal-Print Express Page Printer, your money buys PostScript emulation, a 32-bit RISC processor that dramatically cuts down on the time you have to wait for your documents, and the option to print at twice the resolution of a standard laser printer (600 X 300 dpi, as well as the more usual 300 X 300 dpi).
You also buy the freedom to use your printer with both PCs and Macs, as well as many LANs (Local Area Networks). Finally, most buyers won't actually pay the full list price. You could expect to pay about $3,600-$4,200 if you order from one of the discount mail-order houses.
Is it worth it--even at the discounted price? Only if you're doing a lot of desktop publishing. Otherwise, you'd be better off with a slower, and cheaper, laser printer. This printer is appropriate only if you print hundreds of documents a week and need the higher resolution.
I assume the desktop publishers are still with me and almost everyone else has turned to the next page. So let's dig a little deeper into what makes this printer tick. One potential problem with the CrystalPrint Express is its PostScript emulation--it's not real PostScript but a PostScript clone. I didn't have any problems with the printer in its PostScript mode (it has a LaserJet mode, too), but I can't help feeling that, for the money, you should be able to get the real thing.
Because many desktop publishers send their documents out to be printed at even higher resolutions (that's one of the great advantages of Post-Script-based documents), you have to wonder if you line and character spacing will always match the line and character spacing of a real PostScript printer.
In addition to the question of PostScript printer emulation, there's another potential problem: While this printer comes with 3MB of RAM, that may not be enough for some jobs. The printer's memory holds the text and graphics for the current page and a font cache for each of the soft fonts used for that page. In addition, if you want the printer to print as its rated speed of 12 pages per minute, you'll need to use the 2-page buffer, which uses even more memory. This buffer allows the printer to begin working on the second page of a document while the first page is waiting to be printed.
Taking advantage of all of these features can quickly consume your 3MB, especially if you're printing at the 600 X 300 dpi resolution on legal-size paper. With 600 X 300 dpi, Qume recommends 4MB for legal-size paper without the two-page buffer and 8MB for legal-size paper with the two-page buffer. In general, adding RAM will improve performance and allow you to print more complex images.
Otherwise, I have no reservations about the CrystalPrint Express. It's easily the fastest PostScript printer I've ever used, the extra resolution makes using scanned photos a real option, and it prints blacks that are solid and dark (not the blotchy grays you find with many laser printers). If you need the extra speed and higher-quality output--and you're willing to shop around for the best price--this printer is definitely worth a serious look.