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THE CUTTING EDGE | SMALL OFFICE / HOME OFFICE

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June 24, 1996|SCOTT COLLINS

In the market for an inkjet printer? Get ready for a tough decision. The manufacturers are dumping new models on the market with dizzying speed. We asked Bruce Brown, contributing editor of PC Magazine, for some shopping tips. Here's what to look for when comparing inkjet hardware, in rough order of importance:

* Print quality. Many inkjet cartridges use combinations of three colors--cyan, magenta and yellow--to produce a full palette. But if you can afford it, go with a four-color machine, which adds black ink to the mix for about $100 more. The image will be crisper and less muddy.

* Ease of use. If you're using Windows, make sure your printer comes with the latest Windows drivers (the software that serves as liaison between your computer and printer). Some drivers offer special features, such as ink-level readings. The dialogue box you see when printing should be easy to understand. Brown warns that off-brand machines are especially apt to have poor-quality drivers.

* Cost per page. This will depend on the kind of documents you print. Printing text alone should generally run about 2 to 7cents a page (not including paper). But text with small color graphics will set you back 8 to 25cents a page. Photos and large graphics will run even more.

* Speed. Again, this will depend on how you use the machine. But an inkjet printer should be able to spit out between two and six pages of text per minute. Color graphics will slow things down considerably, to maybe a page a minute. "That's slow for an office," Brown says, "but probably OK for a report, map or birthday card."

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