HP's Budget Ink Jet Printer Is No Bargain

SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - At the rate manufacturers are pumping out low-cost ink jet printers, every PC in your small office or home could soon enjoy its own. However, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s latest entry in the ink jet spritzfest, the DeskJet 648C, just misses the mark, in both print quality and performance.

This US$119 printer clocked a text speed of 1.9 pages per minute and a graphics speed of 0.3 ppm in PC World tests--positively poky. Other printers we have seen are at least slightly faster, and some of them break the $100 price floor.

In our tests of this shipping model, text looked somewhat light; lines were straight, but ink bled and smudged a bit. Gray-scale and color graphics showed smooth transitions and were light enough to keep detail; images looked grainy and dotted. When we printed on photo paper with HP's optional photo ink cartridge, colors looked much richer and transitions smoother, but even the best-looking of the pictures we printed retained some graininess. By comparison, a current Epson ink jet printer, the $89 Stylus Color 670, improved its output quality more dramatically, using just ink jet paper and a regular ink cartridge.

The DeskJet 648C was easy to set up, its drivers were simple to install and use, and it is PC- and Mac-compatible with both parallel and USB ports. But ease of use and a low price don't overcome slow speed and mediocre print quality, especially with so many other low-priced printers available.

--Lisa Cekan

HP DeskJet 648C

PRO: Inexpensive, easy to set up and use.

CON: Very slow output, grainy and dotted images.

VALUE: There are better and cheaper ink jets out there.

Street price: $119




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