Who says you can't take your printer on the road?

Who says you can't take your printer on the road?

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

The world still runs on paper. Many people print e-mail messages. But when you're on the road, printing is generally not an option.

That is, unless you have a Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 350CBi portable ink-jet printer.

The 6-pound DeskJet 350CBi'neither the best nor the worst printer the GCN Lab has evaluated'can supply the hard copy users occasionally need while on the road or in the field.

The letters CBi stand for the printer's color, battery and infrared capabilities. There are two ink-jet cartridges, one for black and one for three-chamber color. The printer accepts only one cartridge at a time, however, so output is either black or full color.

The problem with this arrangement is that the color cartridge blends magenta, cyan and yellow inks to render black areas, which look more like dark gray than true black. The three-color registration is decent, however; so even black text at a tiny 6-point size is legible.

The maximum resolution is 600 dots per inch by 300 dpi. Printout times range from one page per minute to five pages per minute, depending on the document.

The photographs and art won't win awards, and the printer won't win a race, but the DeskJet 350CBi does a pretty good job.''Hewlett-Packard claims the rechargeable nickel-metal hydride battery has no memory effect, which means it need not be entirely drained before charging. Nickel-metal hydride batteries commonly retain a memory of a partial charge and refuse to charge beyond that point.

A single battery charge is supposed to churn out up to 130 black-and-white pages. If you won't need that many pages while traveling, you could leave the AC plug in the office and reduce the carrying weight.

Box Score

DeskJet 350CBi

Portable ink-jet printer

Hewlett-Packard Co.; Palo Alto, Calif.;

tel. 888-999-4747


Price: $299

+ Weighs 6 pounds

- Needs a carrying case

Real-world requirements:

Any Windows operating systems or Mac OS 8; parallel or infrared port

But for a road warrior device, the printer needs a little buffing up. The plastic cover where the battery rests was difficult to close completely and sometimes fell off when I picked up the printer.

Some finesse work also needs to be done on the infrared adapter, which makes the DeskJet 350CBi the ultimate portable printer. I finally gave up trying to make Microsoft Windows 98 understand that a printer was installed on my notebook PC's infrared port. HP ought to include a wizard within the drivers to automatically look for the infrared port.

I did succeed in printing from my handheld organizer, a Palm V from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. The adapter, which plugged into the parallel connector, needed the Palm held within three inches of the infrared eye to capture data accurately.

Hewlett-Packard has done an excellent job on the DeskJet's Toolkit software, which correctly detected the presence of the color or the black cartridge. It also monitored battery life.

No protection

One thing that road warriors will sorely miss, however, is a carrying case. Hewlett-Packard should provide a soft-sided, form-fitting case for the oddly shaped unit. A traveling user will also need someplace to stow the infrared adapter and unused ink cartridges.

Hewlett-Packard has tested the DeskJet 350CBi for rough handling and reports that the unit can handle a drop of 2.5 feet. But I wouldn't feel comfortable about accidental drops, even in that range, without a sturdy protective case.


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