Ink-jet printers

Feds love these reliable workhorses

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

Color ink-jet printers from Hewlett-Packard Co. dominate the federal market in GCN's latest survey. And, to hear feds tell it, it's no wonder.

'They're like tanks,' said Charles Russell, information management officer at the Army Reserve Center in Louisville, Ky. 'They just keep on running.'

Russell said the reserve center uses older HP DeskJet 670s and 870s, both on networks and as standalone printers. Hewlett-Packard has since replaced those printers with the DeskJet 695 and 890, respectively.

'We do tons of graphics,' Russell said, 'and they just perform wonderfully.'

Hewlett-Packard ink-jets, rated No. 1 in the survey, accounted for a whopping 66 percent of the installed base in the federal market GCN canvassed.

Ink-jets from Epson America Inc., rated No. 2, represented 20 percent of the installed base, while ink-jets from Canon Computer Systems Inc., ranked third and accounted for 7 percent of the market. Printers from Epson scored highest in four-color output, but lagged in reliability. Canon printers scored low in the image-quality categories but edged Hewlett-Packard printers in reliability, the category feds said was most important to them.

User Views

'We've been using them now for three years and I have yet to have to fix one.'

'Charles Russell, information management officer for the Army Reserve Center in Louisville, Ky., on Hewlett-Packard ink-jet printers

'The Epson printers are cumbersome as paper loads. They're not as swift and easy as HP. A lot of times the carriage feeds just don't want to act for you and your paper will just sit.'

'Robyn Porath, design engineer and systems administrator for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in St. Louis

At the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, N.C., operations officer Ron Ochse likes the ironclad reliability of his HP DeskJet 890c, which he uses as a personal printer in his office.

'I've been here about a year, and my predecessor used it for about a year, and we've never had a problem,' he said.

A big plus for Ochse is that the printer lets users print in either black or color without switching ink cartridges. 'I use black 90 percent of the time,' he said. 'But if I do need to use color I have a color cartridge.'

Ochse also likes the way his HP ink-jet handles paper. 'It's got a slide-in, slide-out tray, and it's very easy to load,' he said.

At the National Imaging and Mapping Agency in St. Louis, a group of HP DeskJet 870s, 890s, 1120s and 6250s carry prodigious workloads and perform with high dependability, said Robyn Porath, design engineer and systems administrator.

'They're superb, even for the amount of work that we have them do, which at times can be quite heavy,' he said. The 890s are great for remote sensing graphics, he said.

Cartridges cost

Porath's only complaint about the HP printers was the price of the ink cartridges.

'They run anywhere from $29 to $35,' he said. 'If people pay $200 for a good printer and then the cartridges are maybe $15 to $20 apiece, it would be understandable. But 30 bucks a whack?'

Porath also has a few Epson Stylus Pro ink-jets in the office, and he's less impressed with them. He said he finds it cumbersome to replace the system's color ink cartridges, which tend not to last as long as HP cartridges. He also complained about the effectiveness of the Epson's paper-feeding system.

But he praised their image quality. 'The image quality's good when you get them to work,' he said.

At the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, chemist Gordon Cash and his office colleagues use an Epson 1415 Stylus Pro mostly for Microsoft PowerPoint graphics. 'The print quality is great,' he said.

The only problems are with the cartridges, Cash said. 'They seem to run out quickly.'

Suzanne O'Connor, command software manager at the Army's Entrance Processing Command in Chicago, said her Epson Stylus Pro stopped working after about a year. She shipped it to an Epson factory for repair. When she got it back, it worked for a week and then broke again.

'So I had to send it back again, and they fixed it again,' she said. 'But it's been working like a top ever since, knock on wood.'

Users of Canon ink-jets said they liked their printers' reliability most.

Government Computer News survey: ink-jet printers
Four color
to screen
Hewlett-Packard Co.83847377717469727146684356455045
Epson America Inc.60767872676972747637692964404428
Canon Computer Systems Inc.55657769467746694631694659313927

The Government Computer News Product Preference Survey is designed to give federal buyers detailed quantitative data on specific computer and communications products, as rated by federal users.

The survey also measures the relative importance of product attributes in selection of those products.

This survey on ink-jet printers was part of a questionnaire mailed to 4,000 federal readers of GCN who on their subscription application forms identified themselves as buyers and users of ink-jets. We received 184 responses to this part of the questionnaire.

The ink-jets in the survey were chosen because they represent the bulk of such products used in government. This report lists results only for those brands that received at least 13 responses.

The overall rating for each company was developed by averaging all individual attribute scores.

Top scores are in red.


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