If you are looking for an A4 colour-inkjet printer, you won’t go far wrong with the 990Cxi. If you weigh up the features and the print quality, it’s a compelling buy. The Epson range is also capable of equally high-quality output, but for a novice the HP offers better usability. Even old hands will love not needing to select paper types, print resolutions and all the other settings required by most printers.
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Hewlett-Packard has been rolling out its new range of printers for the past year. The 990Cxi is the top-of-the-range inkjet from HPs consumer range. It includes just about every Epson-challenging feature that HP has in its armoury – from automatic paper-type detection, to wireless printing from cameras and PDAs. And, the 990Cxi’s image quality is impressive. The look of the 990Cxi is much the same as the rest of the range, though there is no special silver model, like there is with 930Cxi Macintosh Edition. The 990Cxi is bigger than the 930Cxi due to larger paper tray and duplex unit. However, it doesn’t make much difference to the desk space needed. It has a number of features that make it better than its smaller sibling and give the Epson designers something to think about. The first, and my favourite, feature is the automatic paper-type detection. Figuring out the right type of paper to use for different levels of print quality can be a nightmare – the 990Cxi takes all this away from the user. It has an optical detector that looks at the paper and tells the printer driver which type is present. This even works with non-HP papers. The other bugbear of owning a colour inkjet is aligning the heads. To make sure you get the best colour, you sometimes need to align print heads by printing a series of test prints and telling the printer which is best. The 990Cxi can do its own alignment automatically, another bonus. Something that’s not important to many people is the ability to print on both sides of a piece of paper (duplex). However, HP has included it for those that need it. Another feature that HP has added to the 990Cxi is the ability to print via infrared connections. Again this isn’t going to be exciting for a lot of users, but for anybody who owns a PDA or an infrared equipped digital camera it might be. For example, by loading a print driver on to your Palm or Handspring, you can print out addresses or pictures without even touching your printer. The speed of the printer is mostly determined by the kind of file it’s given to print. The printer’s default resolution is 600dpi, which doesn’t sound much – but the quality is just as good as the 2,400dpi prints it’s capable of. This is down to HP’s PhotoRET technology, which uses layering and other tricks to improve quality without slowing the printing down. Quality is always the main selling point of a printer, and in the past Epson has always won this battle. Not this time, though. The print quality of the 990Cxi is excellent. It doesn’t just print high-quality images, it makes it easy for everyone to do so. It does this with a combination of great driver software and intelligent hardware. The end result is close to Epson’s best – in fact in a Bush-Gore type of way, it’s a close call. Although print quality is evenly matched, the ease of use gives HP the edge.