When I signed off last month, I asked for questions, suggestions, or gripes that I could take to the major printer vendors on your behalf. I've been overwhelmed by your feedback and received questions from as far away as New Zealand and Slovenia.
It quickly became apparent that, although I couldn't possibly include everything you were worried about in one column, some questions were more common than others. Accordingly, I've spent the last couple of weeks chasing ten of the biggest printer vendors for their official responses to your most asked and most interesting questions.
I'll kick things off with topics of special interest to business but also applicable to the rest of us: ink smears, legal-size paper support by multifunction printers, 64-bit driver availability, and wireless networking options. In the next column, I'll look at some of the photo-related issues: all-in-ones that print onto CDs or DVDs, minimizing photo edge cropping, and printing gallery-quality prints and slides.
Note that some questions and responses have been edited for brevity.
So here we go.
- How Do You Solve Inkjet Text Smearing Problems?
- Are There Multifunction Printers That Support Legal-Size Paper?
- Which Printers Come With Drivers for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition?
- Are There Multifunction Printers With Wireless Printing Options?
1. How Do You Solve Inkjet Text Smearing Problems?
One of the biggest problems that I have with inkjet printers is the smearing of the ink. When I print out a PDF and use my highlighter on a page of printed material, the ink smears. If the page gets wet for any reason, the ink runs. I understand that some printer companies now manufacture inkjet printers that have one black ink cartridge that contains non-smear ink--waterproof, if you will. Please advise.
--Dr. C. Galdos, Brentwood, New York
Upshot: The best way to beat this problem is to use pigment-based black ink and also to give the page more time to dry after being printed. See below for specific details from each vendor.
Brother: To reduce or eliminate smearing, use the paper recommended by your inkjet manufacturer and be careful to always select the correct print resolution for the paper you are using. So don't select glossy paper when you are printing on plain paper. Brother also offers pigment black ink for its inkjet multifunction products. The pigment ink will also reduce smearing.
Canon: Many of Canon's Pixma products support an ink called PG-5 (Black). This pigment ink formulation prevents smearing, especially when it's marked with a highlighter.
Dell: Waiting a few minutes for the paper to dry will obviously help with smearing. Also, with Dell's Photo All-in-One inkjet printers, customers can reduce smearing by printing text documents in the photo mode setting (composite black).
Epson: Epson offers a line of printer and all-in-one products with Epson DURABrite Ultra, a four-color, fast-drying pigment ink that provides fade-resistant, water-resistant, and smudge-resistant prints.
HP: HP Advanced Paper is specially formulated to retain ink color near the surface while allowing the liquid carrying the inks to penetrate into the paper. This results in much faster drying, so you can handle printouts sooner with less risk of smearing. Additionally, you'll prevent streaking from water splashes. Most retailers offer HP Advanced Paper at the same price as other HP printing papers.
Lexmark: Lexmark's black ink is pigmented and waterproof, but not smear-proof. Therefore, highlighting may cause some smudging. The reader's PDF may be printing in composite black. As the black used may not be a true black, the color cartridge could be being used to create it, rather than the black ink cartridge. To help alleviate this problem, Lexmark recommends choosing "Black Only" in the printer options; the driver will then assure that the printer uses the waterproof black cartridge to print the document, instead of the color cartridge.
Oki Data Americas: Printouts from our toner-based digital LED color laser printers do not smear whether you're printing text in black or in color. This is because our products have a fuser that binds the toner to the page, ensuring that it won't smear in water or otherwise.
Ricoh: Does not apply as Ricoh does not make or market inkjet products.
Samsung: Does not apply. Samsung only offers laser printers.
Xerox: Printouts from Xerox's solid-ink laser printers do not lose resolution to smearing or wicking. The printers can print on any kind of paper and don't require coated papers, labels, or special transparency materials. With inkjets, the ink must dry quickly onto the paper to keep from smearing. The durability and adhesion of solid ink tends to be better on rougher papers.
2. Are There Multifunction Printers That Support Legal-Size Paper?
Multifunction printers copy, but only in letter size. Why do printer manufacturers only make letter-size copiers? This is a large market that they are missing. There are millions of lawyers and real-estate professionals who use legal-size paper, as well as other professionals who use large-size paper.
--B. Nissen, The Bronx, New York City
Upshot: It looks like there's actually quite a bit of support for scanning and copying legal-size paper, particularly through the use of an automatic document feeder. See below for specific details from each vendor.
Brother: Brother has had letter- and legal-size copy capability for quite a while. This is available through flatbed models that accommodate legal-size copying or scanning or by way of an automatic document feeder when copying multiple pages.
Canon: While this is an area that Canon continues to research, the main deterrent would be a larger footprint for the printer itself.
Dell: Customers can scan/copy legal-size paper only with a printer containing an automatic document feeder. The Dell Multifunction Laser Printer 1600n and Dell Photo All-in-One 964 support this feature.
Epson: All-in-ones are available with automatic documents feeders that do support legal-sized paper, but Epson does not participate in this part of the market.
Lexmark: Any Lexmark printer with an automatic document feeder is capable of copying and scanning legal documents, even though the flatbed glass is only letter-size.
Oki Data Americas: All three lines of Oki Printing Solutions color MFPs are able to copy on legal-sized paper.
Ricoh: All Ricoh multifunctions offer legal-size paper trays.
Xerox: Xerox offers many multifunction printers that are capable of printing on legal-size paper, such as the WorkCentre C2424, a color, solid-ink multifunction printer, or the WorkCentre PE220, a black-and-white desktop multifunction printer.
3. Which Printers Come With Drivers for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition?
I use XP Pro 64-bit and some printers just won't work with it. Can you list the ones that will?
Upshot: Some vendors are responding to this emerging need more than others so not every printer on the market will be supported. However, things look to be improving.
Brother: All of our current products work with XP Pro 64-bit. The drivers can be found on our support page.
Canon: All of our Pixma series of multifunction and single-function printers will operate with Windows XP Professional x64.
Dell: Dell has XP 64-bit drivers available online for the following laser printer models: 1100, 1710, 1710n, 3100cn, and 5100cn. The following inkjet Photo All-in-One models are XP 64-bit compliant: 810, 924, 944, and 964. Go to the Dell Printers page for more information.
Epson: All of Epson's current printers and all-in-ones work with XP 64-bit. Drivers can be downloaded from Epson's Web site.
HP: All HP inkjet products that were introduced in or after the fall of 2005 have had 64-bit drivers developed. Additionally, All HP LaserJet PDL-based products that have shipped since Windows XP x64 was introduced have 64-bit drivers. Depending on the product, the drivers are available either on the installation CD or by download from the HP site. There are two flavors of 64-bit drivers--x64 and IA64 (Itanium, least used)--and HP has created both versions.
Around June of this year, HP will introduce 64-bit versions of the PCL5 and PS UPD drivers. These drivers will support any LaserJets that have PCL5 or PS in firmware. HP has also done some unofficial testing all the way back to the LaserJet 4 series.
Oki Data Americas: Oki Printing Solutions offers three new products that are compatible with XP 64 through the installers, utilities, and drivers that are available on the product CD. These products include the recently launched C5500n, C5800Ldn, and C6100 Series digital color printers. We'll soon make XP 64-bit drivers available for download on our Web site for other products.
Ricoh: Does not apply to Ricoh, according to the company.
Xerox: All current and many legacy Xerox printers and multifunction devices have print-driver support for 64-bit versions of Windows XP. Win64 drivers are available for download at the Xerox Web site.
4. Are There Multifunction Printers With Wireless Printing Options?
I notice there still aren't many options in wireless capabilities for multifunction printers, especially lasers. Are manufacturers starting to address that issue?
--C. Vaughn, New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Upshot: Printers with built-in Wi-Fi are becoming more popular, especially in the multifunction market. As you'll see below, even if your printer doesn't have Wi-Fi, you can usually add it through options such as USB dongles, wireless print servers, and bridging adapters.
Read my "Printing Without Cable Clutter" column for more details.
Brother: We introduced our first laser multifunction printer with built in wireless capabilities, the MFC-8870DW, in February. We also have two color inkjet MFCs with built-in wireless connectivity: the MFC-640cw and the MFC-820cw. We also offer a wired Ethernet interface in many of our multifunction products. With the wired interface you can connect your MFC directly to your wired or wireless router and then share the functions over the network. We also offer the HL-5280DW, which is a monochrome laser with built-in wireless capability.
Canon: Canon does not have any wireless laser products. We have three wireless inkjet printers: the Pixma MP800R multifunction, the Pixma iP90 portable printer, and the Pixma iP5200R desktop photo printer.
Dell: The Dell Wireless Printer Adapter 3300 ($99) is compatible with the Dell Laser Printer 1710 and 1710n, as well as Dell's Photo All-in-One 924, 944, and 964 printers.
Epson: Epson offers an optional wireless print server for specific printer models; however, it is not compatible with any multifunction printers.
HP: HP currently has several multifunctions with full wireless networking capabilities. HP LaserJet multifunctions have wireless features when combined with the company's Jetdirect wireless print servers. Other current products from HP that include wireless features include the HP Photosmart 3310 All-in-One and the HP Officejet 7410 All-in-One.
Oki Data Americas: Our digital LED color MFPs don't currently offer built-in wireless connectivity; however, users can easily purchase an external wireless LAN and connect it to their laser/LED MFP and achieve the same functionality.
Ricoh: There are multiple ways to connect a Ricoh MFP to a customer's existing PC or data network. For customers looking for a wireless solution, we offer IEEE 802.11b Wireless LAN and Bluetooth options. These allow workstations and laptops to print to the Ricoh MFP without direct cabling.
Samsung: PC World did not receive a response to this question.
Xerox: Xerox printers and multifunction devices can connect to a customer's wireless network using any of the widely available and inexpensive external wireless-to-Ethernet bridge adaptors.
By the way, if you'd like to see what PC World thought of many printer models, click on any of the following links to see a list of printers we've reviewed from that company: Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Oki Data Americas, Ricoh, Samsung, and Xerox.