The technology race in the inkjet printer category has heated up with Lexmark and Hewlett-Packard offering 4800dpi level resolution in their newest and upcoming models.
Digital photography is driving this upgrade as printer vendors try to produce units capable of printing the 5-megapixel images that the current cameras can capture. While only small numbers of people are snapping such large images, the companies firmly believe this will change in the future — and they must be ready.
Lexmark this month started shipping the Z65 Color Jetprinter that is capable of prints with a resolution of 4800 x 1200 in black and color on photo paper and 4800 x 600 on plain paper. The Z65 has a text print speed of 21-pages per minute and 15ppm when printing color graphics. It has a $199 suggested retail price. HP has not announced any specific 4800dpi-level products, but did say it would incorporate the technology into future inkjet printers sometime this year. These printers will be optimized for printing digital images larger than 600dpi.
"We are in a race with scanners and digital cameras," said Jeff Willard, Lexmark's director of marketing.
Not all printer vendors agree.
"4800dpi is more for the lower-end products, I don't see a need for consumers to create a 600DPI image. It's beyond what they need, 300-DPI would suffice. It's going to be a slow process to create this 600DPI image [from a 5-meg file] so I don't know if consumers will benefit," said Parker Plaisted, Epson's photo printer product manager.
Plaisted added, that despite 4800dpi being above and beyond what the average consumer requires, Epson would eventually go to that level because consumers are impressed by specifications and will someday want to buy these higher resolution printers over their 3600dpi cousins.
HP's 2002 road map includes 4800dpi printers primarily to keep ahead of customer needs, said Paul Speers, HP's general manager of desktop printing. He could not give a firm date when the first 4800dpi capable printers would be out except to say some movement would be seen in a few months.
Because print speed is greatly reduced and ink consumer increased when printing at this level, HP and Lexmark are choosing to make 4800dpi printing an option instead an always-on function. Speers added that since consumers are highly focused on features like print speed.
"Consumers are going to see 4800dpi and think, bigger is better," he said. —Greg Scoblete contributed to this article.