- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2001

It's amazing, sometimes, what can come out of a box, and for what price. The $199 Canon S600 Bubble Jet printer can only be described as the Sammy Sosa of printers. It?s a solid, dependable home run hitter. The only mistake (as President Bush found out a few years back with the real Mr. Sosa) is in letting such a high-powered performer slip away.
Computers and printing evoke conflicting feelings in me, as noted here before. There?s nothing to beat the crispness of a laser, but most lasers are monochrome, and the color ones I?ve seen are either way too big, too expensive or too bulky for desktop use. Inkjet printers (which is what the Canon S600 is; the ?bubble? referring to the drops of ink deposited on the paper) are offering better and better output, at reasonable prices. The $199 list price of the Canon S600 Bubble Jet printer is less than half what a similar printer might have cost a year or two earlier.
Out of the box, the Canon S600 offers 1,200-by-1,200 dots-per-inch (dpi) printing, enough to produce black text that rivals the sharpness of the Hewlett Packard LaserJet 3150 (a multifunction unit that includes a scanner and fax machine) with which it shares desk space. In terms of color, the ?standard? setting is enough to produce very nice printouts of, say, a 10-slide Microsoft PowerPoint slide presentation (two to a page) in five minutes. The resulting printout is photo-sharp and impressive overall. I?m using the notes for a presentation in the morning.
Where the S600 can truly shine is in printing photos, where it can be set to print 2,400x1,200 color dpi for 2,880,000 dots. Canon says this bests other inkjet printers offering 2,880x720 color dpi ? only 2,073,600 dots ? by adding more than 800,000 dots per square inch. This means the Canon printer places more ink on the paper, extending what the firm calls the ?color gamut? for deeper colors.
In plainer language, this is a printer that can go from running off the kid?s homework to household budget reports to family photos from a vacation trip, all without losing out in the speed race. Canon says the printer churns out pages at a rate of 15 pages per minute in black and 10 ppm in color. Photo prints at 8x10-inch size are created on plain paper in approximately 90 seconds, the firm says, a speed comparable to dedicated inkjet photo printers.
Although you would definitely know that the Canon S600 is printing ? it?s not silent ? the noise is so slight that I would not hesitate to print while speaking on the phone. Paper handling is straightforward, feeding from the rear of the machine to a front exit tray.
Admirable, too, is the way Canon has arranged the ink supply for its printers. An individual ink tank system is used for black and the three color inks of cyan, magenta and yellow. The print head, which is separate from the ink tanks, includes an optical ink sensor that detects when an ink tank is low, and then alerts the user in advance of the ink running out with an on-screen warning. Canon claims that by just replacing the ink color that has run out, users have a more efficient printer; other units require replacing either the entire print head/cartridge system or either the black or color cartridge.
Pricing for replacement ink tanks from Canon ranges from $11.95 for the color ones to $13.95 for the larger black ink tank. I noticed a deal at Costco?s Web site (www.costco.com) that would bring the ink tank price down to under $9.50 per cartridge, which is certainly reasonable. Oddly, however, I didn?t find the printer for sale at that merchandise warehouse?s Web site.
I have only one complaint about the Canon S600 Bubble Jet printer, and that is its handling of envelopes. I wish that, like inkjets from Hewlett-Packard, the Canon unit had a separate slot for feeding envelopes; with the Canon (as with similar inkjets from Lexmark), one has to remove the letter paper and adjust the feeder guide and an internal paper thickness lever in order to print envelopes successfully. But in practice it is far less complicated than it sounds, and the results are, in my view, well worth the effort.
Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer?s Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mark every Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m., Eastern time, on www.adrenaline-radio.com.


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