Stylus 800. (nozzle ink-jet printer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Tom Netsel
The Stylus 800, a 48-nozzle ink-jet printer from Epson, was hard at work in my office just minutes after it arrived. I had been using my 24-pin dot-matrix printer to print several letters, but I decided to finish the job with the new Epson. All I did was disconnect the printer cable and plug it into the Stylus 800, which performed flawlessly. I had to adjust the margins from my word processor, but I never even switched printer drivers.
Many older applications may not have a Stylus 800 driver, but the manual suggests more than a dozen Epson SQ- and LQ-series drivers that should work with most applications. I had no problem printing out banners, correspondence, and graphics with the driver that I had used with my dot-matrix printer. For convenience, the Stylus package includes drivers for ten popular applications, including Windows 3.1, AutoCAD 2.5 or higher, WordPerfect 5.1 or higher, Microsoft Word for DOS 5.5, and Lotus 1-2-3 3.1 and 3.1+.
The Stylus 800 delivers crisp 360-dpi text and graphics. Overall print quality is not quite laser-sharp, but it's pretty darned close. The drop-in ink cartridge is rated at 700 pages with 1000 characters per page. I've been cranking out page after page for weeks now, and the print quality is still high. When the ink supply is low, a light on the panel lets you know. Replacing a cartridge shouldn't put much of a dent in your budget; the suggested retail price of a new one is less than $20.
You can load as many as 100 sheets of paper into the 800's built-in paper holder. This is fine for most printing jobs. If you prefer, you can feed single sheets and envelopes manually without disturbing the other paper.
Paper quality does affect print quality, however. If the paper is porous or rough, you may see some blurring. Most conventional computer paper works fine. Should the print quality start to diminish, you can press two buttons on the control panel to clean the printhead. This simple 30-second procedure assures a good stream of ink through the nozzles.
The ink-jet technology makes the Stylus quiet and reasonably fast. Printing speed is rated at 180 characters per second. The compact size lets the Stylus fit easily into most any work area.
The Stylus has seven built-in character fonts; four of them are scalable from 8 to 32 points in 2-point increments. There's also an economy mode that uses less ink for draft copies and a condensed mode that's handy for printing spreadsheets. Many of the printer's controls can be set by your program rather than from the control panel.
Internal settings control the character tables for different language applications and similar settings. If your software has problems printing scalable font text combined with graphics, the Stylus has a mixed text and graphics mode that should help. There's even a setting for using the printer with several computers on a network.
If you're used to the large size of many dot-matrix or laser printers, you may wonder about the strength and reliability of the Stylus. Don't let its small footprint and light weight fool you. This little gem is a real workhorse. It's proved itself in my office.