Diconix Color 4. (Evaluation)
by Tom Netsel
Kodak's Diconix Color 4 is a lightweight and quiet desktop color ink-jet printer that uses four drop-in cartridges of black, magenta, cyan, and yellow ink to produce an expansive palette of color combinations.
The Color 4 offers 192 x 192 dpi resolution on both plain paper and ink-jet transparencies. Its ability to print transparencies could be a real boon to anyone who needs to create display or presentation transparencies for use in overhead projectors. The Color 4 accepts both cut-sheet and tractor-feed paper.
Setting up the Color 4 is simple. A system card which contains driver information slips into a slot in the back of the printer, and the four color cartridges drop easily into their color-coded receptacles in the printhead assembly. The cartridges to have to be primed for use first. This involves using a paper clip to start the flow of ink before the cartridges are inserted. A small sheet of blotter paper supplied with the printer must also be inserted in a special receptacle. This blotter absorbs excess ink and helps prevent smearing.
The printer's display panel contains the usual online, linefeed, and form-feed buttons, plus a 16-character LCD display window. This display keeps you informed of any errors, and it also serves as a menu from which to select printing functions. From this menu, you can select either paper or transparency, print quality, any of three resident fonts, text color, and text mode.
This display is especially useful whenever a malfunction occurs. The Color 4 can diagnose most problems and flash an appropriate message on the screen. Some messages, such as ADD PAPER, are easy to understand, while others, such as CARTRIDGE D 41, require help from the manual in locating a possible cause and remedy.
I experienced this latter message a number of times when I first used the Color 4 near an office window. One possible remedy involved removing, inspecting, and priming the black ink cartridge. This error persisted intermittently and became quite annoying. Later, I discovered that ambient light could be the culprit, causing such repeated errors to occur. An optical sensor tracks carriage and printhead movement, and bright light on this sensor can cause errors. After I made certain that the printer's lid was closed and I moved it away from the window, the Color 4 worked very well.
I tried the printer with a number of color printing programs, but very few of them had a printer driver for this new model. The manual recommends selecting a Hewlett-Packard PaintJet driver as an alternative.
Whenever this driver was available, the Color 4 performed quite well and the quality of its color images was impressive. Drivers are supplied on a separate disk for using the Color 4 with Microsoft Windows.
On the negative side, I was not impressed with the quality of the Color 4's text printouts. Draft, NLQ, and Quality modes are available, but even at its highest resolution, I'd hesitate to recommend the Color 4 for business correspondence. I would recommend it, however, for use at home, at school, or anywhere else that low-cost color printouts are needed.