Printing in the workplace is quite different from printing at home. At home, people are prepared to wait a little longer for high-quality glossy photos. In the office, people want fast printouts, even if it means sacrificing quality. For the first time, HP has brought inkjet technology into the office with a view to capturing a colour market that colour-laser printers can’t fill. The Business Inkjet 3000 looks like a laser, and works a lot like a colour laser, but has the heart of an inkjet.
It’s an interesting exercise: bringing the benefits of a home inkjet printer to a machine capable of serving an office. The first thing it needs is an Ethernet interface. You can buy the BI 3000 without Ethernet, but if you’re going to use it on only one machine, buy a normal inkjet printer.
The BI 3000 is big and ugly enough to look like a colour laser, but performance is another matter. We pitched it against the Xerox 7700, which isn’t a fair fight, but it was the only colour laser we had to hand. The Xerox 7700 is an A3 colour laser and costs the best part of £7,000. The BI 3000 is an A4 colour inkjet, and costs £1,080, though you should be able to find it at under £1,000 if you shop around. In theory, the 7700 should trounce the 3000.
The results were interesting. As we expected, the 7700 did beat the 3000, but not by a great margin. The first page to print, using a single mono-page test, was actually a couple of seconds faster than the 7700 could manage. This is due to the fact that the inkjet doesn’t need to heat fuser wires as the laser printer does. Other tests were less impressive though, with heavy PostScript files (our printer killer file) taking up to seven minutes.
In fairness, this page has lain waste to many a laser printer, and seven minutes is still faster than some colour-laser models were achieving only a couple of years ago with the same file. Once the first page was out, it could output another ten pages in 90 seconds. These pages had an ink coverage of almost 100 per cent – pretty impressive for an inkjet. Mono output was measured at about 10 pages per minute.
The difference in technologies means that once a laser printer has processed the first page, it will run at engine speed for extra copies, regardless of the image. Because an inkjet printer prints in many passes, if there’s empty space on the page, then it can print faster. This makes it difficult to accurately measure print speeds for inkjet printers, and the tests we used favour the strengths of laser printers. But in some cases, the inkjet printer fares better.
In a test designed to put colour laser printers through hell, the Business Inkjet did remarkably well. It couldn’t match the performance of a high-end colour laser, but it’s at a level that low-end colour lasers were at two or three years ago. At a street price of under £1,000 including VAT for the top model, it’s ideal for departments with a need for colour on a budget. It is big, and more than a little noisy when it’s printing, but if you can’t stretch to a laser, then this is ideal. It could do with being a little faster when processing PostScript, and a little less noise would be nice. Otherwise it’s a cost-effective way to get network colour printing into an office.