For graphic designers, design studios, advertising agencies and publishers, the requirements of colour output is twofold.
For most occasions, a faithful colour reproduction of an image that’s suitable as an inhouse proof or client presentation is sufficient. But creatives also need pre-press standard colour proofs, such as Cromalins that provide guaranteed colour accuracy. HP’s new DesignJet 10ps is the entry-level model in a new range of A3+ inkjet printers that aims to meet both these needs.
The DesignJet 10ps is targeted at graphic designers who need a personal printer. Its sibling, the DesignJet 20ps (£2,236 plus VAT), adds extra paper-handling capabilities and server-based processing to serve as a workgroup printer. Both models use a software RIP to process images. The 50ps model (£2,216) has a hardware RIP with technology licensed from Heidelberg.
Speed is of the essence
The DesignJet’s main competition comes from several Epson printers, including the Epson 2000P, the Color Proofer 5000 and the Color Proofer 5500 models. Epson’s dominance of this end of the inkjet market and its reputation for speed and high-quality colour is something HP is keen to tackle head on. The company has made much of the DesignJet’s ability to zip through print jobs – it claims a four-minute A3+ speed in Best mode. Our own tests (not recreating those of the manufacturer) saw a full A3 colour image in Best mode output in seven minutes.
Of course, unlike the Epson Color Proofer 5000 and 5500 which use an external Fiery RIP, the DesignJet 10ps uses your own machine to RIP the image. This means much of the printer’s speed is determine by the performance of your computer – the fastest its processor, the fastest the RIP. Our test machine was an average 466MHZ PowerMac G4 with 256MB of RAM. The other downside to a software RIP is that you’re left twiddling your thumbs, unable to use your computer, while an image is being processed.
Once the processing is finished, the actual printing is fairly quick as the DesignJet 10ps’ printheads print in half-inch swaths to quickly lay down ink on the paper.
Despite huge advances in print speed, most designers are used to waiting for inkjet prints simply because of the amazing quality they can provide. The DesignJet is no exception. Employing a six-colour, dye-based ink system, its printheads contain 304 nozzles per head that delivers a tiny four-picolitre ink drop to achieve a resolution of 2,400dpi.
Image quality was impressive with strong, rich colours, and no banding or loss of detail in shadow areas. Yet HP is claiming more for this printer – the ability to reproduce colour to contract-proof standards. The inclusion of the low-dye cyan and magenta inks leads HP to claim that the DesignJet range can match up to 90 per cent of Pantone spot colours. Despite not knowing exactly which colours this excludes, our tests showed a good level of accuracy.
The DesignJet can also emulate different offset print systems such as EuroScale, SOP, DIC and TOYO, and supports ICC profiles and ColorSync colour management. The printer uses an internal colour sensors and calibration technologies, which allow it
to detect changes in conditions such as ink and media and adjust its colour profile accordingly. This will also facilitate remote proofing capabilities, which HP plans to introduce early next year.
The Designjet 10ps’ media handling commends it to busy design studios. It has A3+ paper capability, so you can print full-bleed images with registration and crop marks, and its dual paper bins hold up to 150 sheets each – one of them doubles as a duplex unit for double-sided printing.
Despite being tagged as a ‘personal printer’, we found the Designjet 10ps a little too bulky for the average desk and its lack of hardware RIP makes a fast computer a necessity. Colour output is very impressive. While it may not be time just yet to say goodbye to expensive Cromalins, the Designjet 10ps’ excellent output makes it a good choice as a budget colour proofer.