Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 158 / NOVEMBER 1993 / PAGE S14

How to choose the best color printer. (Compute's Getting Started With: Desktop Publishing)
by Bill Harrel

Color printers aren't well suited for all desktop publishing environments. Professionals use them primarily for proofing. Some color printers are ideal for small publishing runs, such as an internal company newsletter or a church circular. There are three types of desktop color printers: inkjet, thermal wax, and dye sublimation. The type you should buy depends on your application.

Unless you plan to use your color printer for a proof printer, look for one that uses plain paper. Many color printers require special oversized paper that requires cutting and trimming. This paper is thick, unruly, and expensive--not really suitable for reproduction. All three color printer types are available with plain paper options.

Not long ago, thermal wax and dye sublimation printers were too expensive for the average desktop. Now there are several thermal wax printers on the market for less than $1,000. LaserMaster has just introduced a dye sublimation printer for under $2,500.

Color inkjets have always been relatively inexpensive, but until recently, print quality has been poor. Hewlett-Packard and several other vendors recently have released models that print almost as well as thermal wax and dye sub devices. Inkjets print as much lower resolutions than other types, meaning that quality will always lag behind. They also cost less and are less expensive to operate.

Another drawback of color printers is that they're seldom the only printer you need. Their operating cost and inability to print small text well make many of them impractical for jobs that don't require color. It makes no sense to print black-and-white jobs on a printer that costs two or three times more to operate. If your only printer will be a color printer, look for one that lets you switch back and forth between color and black and white.