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With the Designjet 10ps/20ps/50ps and Designjet 120 printers, the Hewlett-Packard company has seen its first significant success in the field of graphic printers. The new generation of printers should strengthen this trend further.
We had the opportunity to test the HP Designjet 30 printer shortly, even if only with the RGB drivers supplied in the standard version (CMYK RIP was not yet available at the time we got the printer; we will subject the whole set to a more thorough test later).
At the first look, the new printers are similar to the previous series in many ways. The only external difference is color (the printer is realized in grayscale shades) and a small change of the control panel. No other visible changes are to be found even in other sections of the printer. The published parameters show that the main changes are hidden inside; especially inks and media have been innovated, just like the software equipment of the printer.
Basic equipment of the printers includes graphically oriented drivers for both operating systems, Mac OS as well as windows Windows. Mac OS is being supported including the most recent system, the Mac OS 10.3 (Panther).
In many regards, graphic drivers are a kind of a „mix“ between a normal driver and features known from the RIP formerly supplied with the Designjet 10ps/20ps/50ps series. That first of all means the possibility to use built-in densitometric measurement and to execute the system of closed color calibration, known already from former HP printers. Until now, it is not clear whether there has been any hardware or software change in this system, as seen from outside, the printer behaves in the same way as Designjet 10ps controlled by a standard CMYK RIP during calibration.
Besides RGB, a software RIP with Adobe PostScript 3 and features such as automatic Pantone color calibration and offset emulation will be supplied with the printer optionally – however, this we know from the first information from the manufacturer only.
HP Designjet 30/130 is a printer of the CMYKLcLm category. It achieves a resolution of up to 2 400 x 1 200 dpi and works with droplets of 4 pl. The printer prints on media in the maximum width of about 33 cm (DJ 30), or about 61 cm (DJ 130 from a reel). In these parameters, the printer does not differ from the previous generation (according to table data, the maximum length of printable material is smaller for DJ 130 than for DJ 120, having decreased from about 45 m to about 15 m).
The probably largest progress will be the new inks together with new print media. In particular, these are the HP Premium Plus Photo and HP Proofing Gloss papers. The new ink has been optimized for them and produces photo realistic printouts with a lifetime of up to 70 years (according to Wilhelm Imaging Research standard preliminary tests).
Experience from the operation
We had the opportunity to test the driver shortly in a version equipped with graphic drivers. We worked under Windows 2000 as well as under Mac OS X and we did not see any difficulties with the installation or with the follow-up printing.
The calibration for the print medium (printing and measuring the target) is not a part of the control windows in the version with the RGB drivers, but is being performed through a Web interface. The measured values are being saved to the printer’s memory (on the contrary a software RIP saves these correctional data internally), where they are than being used by RGB drivers. During the calibration we stumbled only upon one problem – the roll-down media menu for calibration is not very easy to understand, some names cannot be assigned easily neither to the media offered by the driver nor to the names on the media package. Here, we would recommend returning to the proven method of marking media with a combination of verbal description and catalogue number.
But what deserves appreciation is the print quality. First, the print drivers are offering RGB printing using the ColorSmart III proprietary technology, where all features expected from a RGB driver, such as for example color tone, saturation or printout brightness modification are available.
The other main method is printing with ICC profile support (in general Apple ColorSync). In this case, the printer will allow the selection of a RGB ICC printer profile (an option is printing without corrections, with color transformation in the host application).
Until know, we were able to perform only a quick print test, but the first results are very positive. Printing through the generic profiles supplied with the printer is, after calibration to the media properties, coming very close to printing on Designjet 10ps with a RIP supplied as a default in its colors. We expect that the print quality will increase further as soon as we have the possibility to print through a quality RGB profile or if a new version of CMYK RIP is used.
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