Canon BJ-5. (Evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
Canon's BJ-5 printer is nearly indistinguishable from the other entries in its portable BJ line. It uses the same buble-jet technology that brought ink-jet printers out of the closet and put them in the briefcases of mobile executives and on the desks of home office workers. In fact, except for the color of the case--a traditional computer cream, rather than the dark gray of the BJ-10e--you won't be able to tell much difference between this and the original.
Like the other BJ printers, the BJ-5 draws power from either an AC adapter or a rechargeable ni-cad battery pack. And, though larger than some other portable printers, the BJ-5 makes a good traveling companion for sales personnel or anyone else needing access to high-quality printing while on the road. But don't sell this unit short if you're looking for a desktop printer. The compactness--12.2 x 8.5 x 1.9 inches--that makes it such a good traveling companion also serves well in a home office, where space is at a premium. When coupled with the automatic sheet feeder, the BJ-5 rivals many more expensive printers, including low-cost laser printers.
The BJ-5 setup procedure is simple and is aided by clear instructions from the brief but complete manual. The process of installing a ribbon cartridge and printing a test pattern takes about eight minutes. Characters come out clean and without smearing, though not quite as dark as characters printed from a laser printer. The quality of the BJ-5's printing certainly offers competition to 24-pin printers, however. The BJ-5 is much quieter than either a laser printer or a dot-matrix printer.
It took me about ten minutes to print a five-page, 14K text file using Ami Pro 2.0 under Windows, with a standard Helvetica typeface and the printer set to IBM ProPrinter emulation (other emulation modes include Epson 24-pin and BJ-130e). A file of the same size took six minutes using a DOS-based word processor in a Courier typeface. Both speeds are acceptable for home office and other light-duty print jobs. For Windows applications, there is a driver available from Canon (call 800-423-2366); alternatively, you can download the file BJWIN.ZIP from the Canon forum on CompuServe. With the Windows driver, you can take full advantage of the printer's 360 x 360 dpi resolution for graphics printing.
Clearly labeled touch-panel controls are located on the front of the printer. From here you can set the top of form, adjust the line and form feeds, set pitch for condensed or regular spacing, and switch back and forth between the two printing modes: Economy and High Quality. Economy saves ink but is no faster than High Quality.
Paper can feed into the printer from the top or bottom. Envelopes or thick paper should move through the bottom slot, as it has the straightest paper path and is least susceptible to jamming. An optional sheet feeder holds about 30 sheets of paper, is very simple to operate, and installs in less than five minutes (including time spent reading the directions). In weeks of testing, the BJ-5 didn't jam once, either from the sheet feeder or in main printer mechanism. Plain bond typewriter paper is recommended.
The BJ-5 makes a solid component for the home office desktop. With simplicity of operation and very good print quality, low noise levels, portability, reliability, and low maintenance requirements, this printer is very easy to work with. And that makes it easy to live with.