Epson Action Laser II. (laser printer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Tom Benford
Epson's Action Laser II provides HP LaserJet Series II compatibility, a print speed of six pages per minute (PPM), and dual-interface flexibility, along with other outstanding standard features, to produce a mid-size laser printer that's big in performance.
The Action Laser II measures 14 x 18.9 x 27.6 inches and weighs about 29 pounds with the paper cassette, photoconductor unit, output tray, and toner cartridge installed, ready for use. These dimensions make fairly heavy demands on the desktop area, so giving the Action Laser II its own roll-about printer stand or stationary table wouldn't be a bad idea.
The Action Laser II is equipped with 512K of RAM as its standard complement, and this can be expanded up to a maximum configuration of 5.5MB. As with other lasers, the 512K RAM configuration is good for text-only work; graphics, desktop publishing, and presentation applications will require at least 1MB or more, so upgrading the basic RAM is something you should consider to make the Action Laser II fully functional for these applications. The unit 1 reviewed came equipped with 1MB of RAM already installed.
Sixteen bitmapped fonts are resident in the Action Laser II: The Courier typeface in medium, italic, bold, and bold italic variations is available in both landscape and portrait orientations in 10- and 12-point sizes; Line Printer Medium is available in 16.66 pitch in portrait and landscape modes; and Prestige Medium is also included in both 12 and 20 pitch in portrait mode only. If additional fonts are required or desired, an expansion slot is also provided which will accept HP Series II font cards, in addition to down-loadable soft fonts. An additional expansion slot is also provided to accept "identity" cards that can change the printer's "personality."
The Action Laser II can also emulate Epson FX and LQ print modes when desired, providing greater flexibility. Dual Epson emulation capabilities permit the Action Laser II to emulate a 24-pin dot-matrix printer such as the Epson LQ-2500 or a 9-pin dot-matrix printer such as the Epson FX-850/1050 models.
The printer cranks out a respectable 6 PPM on the average, which places it in the middle ground between the competitive 4-PPM low-end models and pricier 10- to 12-PPM high-end printers. Paper weights from 16 to 24 pounds can be fed into the Action Laser II directly by the paper cassette, and paper and cardstocks in the 16- to 42-pound range can be manually fed into the printer. Plain and colored paper, labels, paper with punched holes, envelopes, and transparency stock can be imprinted with the Action Laser II.
The standard paper cassette will hold up to 100 sheets of standard 20-pound bond paper; the optional multimedia feeder can hold an additional 150 sheets or 15 envelopes. Default paper ejection is facedown only.
All controls for selecting functions and operations are easy to use and top mounted for easy access. A 20-character liquid crystal display keeps users informed of the printer's operational status, as well as presenting menu choices for configuring the unit.
Epson's documentation is excellent, especially in the technical and specification information it provides. According to the manual, the toner cartridge has a life expectancy of 8000 pages at 5-percent density, which makes it one of the longest-life toner cartridges available. In reality, however, 5-percent density isn't a practical measurement, since the average page of double-spaced text produces 20- to 35-percent density depending on how wide the margins are set.
With its good selection of emulations, fonts, interfacing, and print speed, the Action Laser II will probably have broad appeal--especially since it also comes standard with Epson's reputation for quality and reliability.