The HP Designjet series packs some powerful photo printing into a sleek and
stylish format, and all at very reasonable prices. The original Designjet 130,
which prints up to 24" wide, and the Designjet 30, in a more desktop friendly
13" wide size, have now been joined by the new Designjet 90 which brings
16x20" printing to the sub-$1000 price point for the first time.
Looking just like its larger and smaller family members, the Designjet 90 is
able to print up to 18" wide through either manual feed or an optional
roll-feed adapter. The paper tray can handle widths up to 17" and, depending
on paper thickness, up to 100 sheets. Unusual for a printer of this size is
the ability to print on small sizes as well as going down to post card size.
All three printers in the line use the same ink cartridges and print heads,
making it a logical choice for the photographer looking to upgrade from the
Designjet 30. The printer uses HP's dye-based Vivera inks which have a
broad color gamut and rich, saturated colors. When used with HP's Premium
Plus papers the display life is rated at 82 years; very impressive for a dye
ink print. The printer features 2400x1200dpi resolution and a 4-picoliter ink
drop size, which all adds up to highly detailed photos.
The HP Designjet 90 is a compact (relatively speaking) printer capable
of printing anything from 4x6 to 18". The paper tray handles
cut sheets up to 17x22" while the optional roll feed and the
manual feed path adds another inch to the printable width. The printer
takes up much less space than the Epson 4800, its closest competitor.
Setup And Use
Unpacking and setting up the printer was quick and relatively painless. Although
it looks small compared to the Epson 4800, you'll still need to find about
3 ft of desk or floor space for the printer. The standard version with no roll
feed is about 16" deep, while the Designjet 90r with roll feed is about
21" deep (there is also a 90gp model, which adds a GretagMacbeth colorimeter
for monitor profiling). If you'll be printing on thick media, you'll
need to allow for this when setting up. The printer has a total of four paper
paths: tray, front manual, roll, and rear manual. Both the front manual and
paper tray have a curved path, making them suitable for normal printing needs,
but heavy stock will need to be run through the straight rear manual feed.
The Designjet is a six-color printer and includes separate print heads and ink.
The advantage to this method is lower costs for replacement inks as well as
lower repair costs should a print head need replacing. The yellow, black, light
cyan, and light magenta cartridges are each 69ml, while the cyan and magenta
cartridges are 28ml each. In theory you should run out of all colors at about
the same time with this configuration, although despite my best efforts, I wasn't
able to get beyond half empty during all of my testing. This printer truly sips
ink at an amazingly low rate.
After installing print heads and ink, the printer charges all ink lines and
does a diagnostic check which takes about 10 minutes. Unlike most large format
printers, the control panel on the Designjet 90 is spartan with only three buttons--power,
paper feed, and cancel. All maintenance features are accessed through the System
Maintenance utility which is a web page with options to calibrate color and
paper feed, check and clean the print heads, and perform test prints to check
Ink cartridges are sized according to typical use, with magenta
and cyan holding less ink. The Designjet series is extremely frugal
with ink use--I hardly put a dent in the ink levels throughout
HP includes profiles for all of their supported paper types, including photo
gloss, semigloss, matte, coated, transparency, and satin finishes, all in different
quality levels, which reflect the print quality settings available in the HP
driver. If you prefer to use other papers, a unique calibration system makes
it easy to get good results from non-HP papers.
The Calibrate Color application launches a web-based utility to select the paper
type and quality level of your new paper. Once you've selected the correct
type and click the Calibrate Color button, the printer generates a test pattern
and reads the values with a built-in closed loop color checker. While very handy
if you only use a specific paper type, this method of calibration overrides
the existing settings for that paper type and becomes the default. The web page
shows which paper settings have been calibrated and the date, as well as the
option to delete the profile and revert back to the original default settings.
The Designjet feature closed loop color calibration which means
that you can automatically profile new papers and ink whenever you
need. The utility is accessed through a web browser and couldn't
be much easier.