Wide-Format Printers/Plotters

Which one? Hewlett-Packard's new line

30 Sep, 2000 By: Evan Yares

Inkjet, thermal, and LED plotters reviewed

Hewlett-Packard’s new line

As I wrote this article, Hewlett-Packard called to tell me about its new line of large-format printers. With typical nonchalance, Hewlett-Packard has, yet again, totally changed the competitive landscape in the large-format inkjet market. The only problem is that Hewlett-Packard now offers so many options that you need a scorecard to keep them straight.

Hewlett-Packard’s 500 Series is designed for individual CAD users.

The DesignJet 500 and 800 series share a common platform, replacing most of the 400 and 700 series printers. They are available in 24" and 42" widths, and all include roll-feed and a stand (stand optional for 24"; standard for 42"). The 42" models will print architectural E-size drawings without wasting any paper—a nice change. The writing system uses four 0.5" wide 600dpi printheads, each with 69mL ink capacity (which is more than 50% greater than earlier models). In its best mode, the 500 series prints up to 1200dpi, while the 800 prints at up to 2400dpi, for near photoquality images.

The 500 and 800 series are more similar than different. They’re just targeted at different users. The 500 comes, in its base form, as a raster-only printer, where all the processing is done in your host computer. Another model (the 500ps) includes a software PostScript processor. You can upgrade either of these to support HPGL/2. The 500 series is designed for individual CAD users and is priced from $2,495 (for a 24" base model) to $4,395 (for a 42" PostScript model.) The most popular model for AutoCAD users will likely be the 42" base model with an HPGL/2 option card at $4,090.

The 800 Series is network ready.

The 800 series comes with a powerful internal controller and optional internal PostScript. It’s designed for networked workgroups. Because of the internal controller, Hewlett-Packard was able to implement some advanced print modes, so the 800 can produce a slightly better print than a 500. The 800 series varies in price from $5,795 for a 24" model to $8,995 for a 42" PostScript model. All these prices are suggested retail. Actual street prices will vary.

Both the 500 and 800 series printers are significantly faster than their predecessors (as well as significantly faster than their competitors). They can print a D-size draft mode plot in about 60 seconds. If you read the review of the DesignJet 1000 series, you see that it produces the same plot in about 45 seconds. The 1000 series is still Hewlett-Packard’s flagship product for CAD users. With its very high speed and extended ink system, it’s the choice for people who do a lot of plotting. The 500 and 800 series are aimed more at normal users—those who don’t often print 50 or 100 drawings in one sitting.

Hewlett-Packard’s other new offering is aimed at professional graphics. The DesignJet 5000 series is the new top of the line for production photo-quality printing. Available in both 42" and 60" wide models, the 5000 series features 1200dpi six-color printing (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, and light magenta) and-supports both dye- and pigment-based inks). It’s available with or without a powerful internal PostScript controller. Please don’t buy one of these printers for CAD—they’re designed for professional graphics, signage, renderings, and any application that requires top image quality. The 5000 series starts at $10,495 for a 42" base model and goes up to $20,995 for a 60" PostScript model.

With the new models coming online, Hewlett-Packard will retire most of the 400 series models (except for the base 24" and the 36" monochrome 430 units) and all of the 700 series. Still, you’ll have at least 22 different DesignJet models to choose from. You’re likely to find the right one for you somewhere in this mix.

About the Author: Evan Yares

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