Brother HJ-400. (ink-jet printer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Tim Victor
Bargain hunters looking for a new printer are no longer forced to settle for a noisy, near-letter-quality dot-matrix printer. Ink-jet printers offer entry-level prices and near-laser-quality printing. Brother's new entry in this nascent low-end category, the HJ-400, is particularly flexible, offering printer drivers for both Windows and the Macintosh and including both serial and parallel interface ports.
It also includes what might be the world's most awkward sheet feeder. According to the manual, you remove the printer's cover and the entire sheet feeder, flip levers, insert tabs in slots, and then reassemble the works every time you add paper. With practice, most of these steps can be skipped, but it's still trickier than it should be. Fortunately, the rest of the printer is much easier to use. Switching from the sheet feeder to manual feed in order to print an envelope is a onebutton operation, and the ink cartridge can be replaced in seconds with no mess.
The HJ-400 has the sharp quality that's typical of most ink-jet printers. Its 360-dpi (dots per inch) output isn't noticeably sharper than 300-dpi output, but the extra resolution is a big plus if you use a modem to receive faxes. Doubling every other dot of a 200-dpi fax page to render it on a 300-dpi printer makes for coarselooking images, and the HJ-400's extra resolution really helps to smooth things out.
Since it prints by spraying liquid ink on the page, an ink jet's print quality depends on the type of paper used: On thin or absorbent stock, the ink spreads, blurring the shapes of the characters. But Brother must have selected a very quickdrying ink--it isn't nearly as fussy about paper as some inks. Nor is it as prone to soak the page when you're printing solid black areas or to smear when you remove a freshly printed page from the output tray.
The HJ-400 isn't exactly a speed demon--it barely manages one page per minute with graphics, a pace that some ink-jet printers can double. But with above-par print quality, a compact and attactive package, and a price that makes it competitive with middle-of-the-line dot-matrix printers, this newcomer deserves serious consideration. And it's a natural choice in households with both Macs and PCs.
Brother (800) 276-PRINT (908) 356-8880 $369
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