DeskJet 550C. (Hewlett Packard computer printer) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
Few of us watch black-and-white TV sets any more, and most of us even have color monitors on our computers. So why do we put up with boring gray-scale output? If you're looking to add a splash of color to your documents and presentations, Hewlett-Packard's DeskJet 550C printer is just what you need.
The HP DeskJet series of printers has been around awhile, providing crisp, 300-dots-per-inch output at a low price. Last year's DeskJet 500C added 300-dpi color to the line, allowing you to remove the black ink cartridge and replace it with a color cart when you needed color on your printed output. This approach wasn't without problems. It was a pain to have to switch cartridges whenever you wanted to print color. Worse, the color cartridge had only cyan, magenta, and yellow inks, so black had to be created by mixing all three colors. This resulted in a muddy, oversaturated printout whenever you had large areas of black.
The new Deskjet 550C cures these problems by having both print cartridges on-line simultaneously and letting your printer driver control the mixing. If you print a monochrome document, only the black cartridge is used. When color comes into play, the printer driver activates the other cartridge, mixing the colors with the true black from the black ink cartridge.
Output quality from the DeskJet 550C is nothing short of wonderful. The 300-dpi text output rivals laser printing - only a very close look discerns any difference. Both gray-scale and color graphics look very good as well. The printer mixes and dithers the three primary colors and black to represent thousands of different colors. I tested the printer using the included Windows 3.1 driver on a 486 PC, and using the Creative Focus Super_DJC2 driver on an Amiga 4000. The print quality on both computers was superb, with 24-bit picture files looking (from a small distance) almost like matte-finish photographs. The DeskJet uses a version of the HP PCL printer language, which tends to allow much better-looking graphics printouts than the Epson emulation used by many competing ink-jet printers. You should make sure you're using the latest HP Windows driver, which you can get from HP or download from CompuServe.
The Windows driver affords you great control over font selection; Courier and Letter Gothic fonts are built into the printer in both portrait and landscape formats, and CG Times and Univers fonts are available in portrait format. In addition, scalable Courier, Univers, and CG Times fonts are included on the Windows driver disk. Additional fonts are available on plug-in cartridges. True-Type and ATM fonts from Windows and Compugraphic Intellifonts on the Amiga looked just as good as the built-in fonts, but printed significantly slower.
DeskJet printouts used to smear if they got wet, but HP reformulated its ink cartridges a couple of years ago; you can now spill coffee on your printouts with the best of them. The DeskJet uses regular paper - special ink-jet paper isn't needed (which is good, since it usually produces poor results). Some papers will give better results than others; I've found that Strathmore Legacy and Hammermill Laser Print papers give excellent results, as do Paper Direct's fancy letterhead papers. Only single-sheet paper is supported; the paper tray supports letter, legal, and executive paper sizes, as well as European sizes. You can even print on transparency film. New to the DeskJet 550C is an envelope feeder that holds up to 20 envelopes,
Quiet, flexible (with both serial and parallel connectors), and reliable, the DeskJet 550C is a great printer for anyone bored with black-and-white.