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The HP CP1700 arrived at our office, in a box so big I was dubious that the contents really were a printer. Being an A3 printer this large box is understandable, but when you've grown used to A4 models the sheer physical size of the printer can be a little overwhelming. HP indicate the printer has been designed for small businesses and design houses 'that demand professional-quality wide-format colour printing'. This all sounds very good, but how is this printer going to fit into the average persons home and is the 'professional-quality' valid. This is also one of the cheaper A3 printers available, so we want to see what, if anything has been compromised
We start by looking at the cp1700's specification:
- 2400x1200 colour printing, 1200x1200 black printing
- USB, parallel port, Infrared, and a LIO slot for an optional module (enables network printing, internet e-services)
- Print on a wide variety of media types, from plain paper and transparencies to thick card stock (up to 72lb or 270 g/m2) and on a wide range of media sizes, from postcards to posters and banners (A5/4x6' to A3+/13x19' and 13x50')
- 16Mb memory with 500Kb buffer
- Two sided printing possible with an optional auto-duplex unit. This comes standard with the cp1700d
- Uses four new, specially designed print heads, as well as high-capacity individual cartridges for each of the black, cyan, magenta, and yellow inks
- Rear manual feed eliminates bending and smudging when printing thick card stock
- Automatic print head alignment
- Media type sensors
- Media width sensors
- LCD front panel shows ink supply levels, print head conditions, printing mode and printer status
- 15Kg weight, with dimensions of 673.3x284.3x575.8mm
- Priced at around 310
A few of these features are particularly interesting. People intending to use this printer as an office document printer as well as for photographic printing purposes may want to take advantage of the automatic two sided printing option.
The fact that the printer uses four separate print heads and cartridges will appeal to a lot of people who want the advantages of an individual ink system. Automatic print head alignment is a small bonus, making the printers first setup a little easier.
Media type and width sensors simplify the printing process even further. The media width sensor ensures that when A3 or A3+ media is required, such media is loaded. If the wrong size is loaded, the printer notifies you, rather than proceeding to print, wasting ink and paper. Media type is determined by an optical sensor, the printer then selects the ideal print setting and colour map for the best output on most popular paper types. It even determines how to best pick the paper from the tray so output should always be clear or sharp. This automatic sensor is enabled in software, and you can use manual settings if you prefer.
Design, interfaces and installation
Because this printer has been designed for small businesses connectivity is good. It's great not being limited to just one type of connection and this printer provides four options. USB is the fastest, but infrared is very convenient for some people using small PDA computers. Those of you with a network can use the optional LIO module for network printing and e-services.
The HP uses a different paper loading system to its two main competitors the Canon S9000 and Epson 1290. The design gives the printer a slightly smaller vertical footprint. It's still going to take up a lot of space on your desk however, as a reference for size the image to the right shows how the CP1700 compares to the Epson 790.
|The paper loading tray shown to the left can be pulled out to make loading the paper a little easier. Plastic sliders on rails ensure the paper will be aligned correctly when the printer picks it up.|
|Similarly the output tray shown on the right lifts up slightly so that you don't have to peer under it to check on the paper.|
One issue that will be important to many, is that of noise. This is by no means a quiet printer, we're testing the Canon S9000 alongside the CP1700 and the latter is noticeably noisier with a loud whirring sound and various loud clunking noises. Luckily the printer is quite fast, and the whirring usually stops a few seconds after it's finished.
Installing the print heads and cartridges in printers these days seems to take longer and longer. The CP1700 is no exception, with four cartridges and four print heads the unwrapping takes a while. No-one should have any problem with the procedure of fitting them however. After they're fitted you are ready to start printing thanks to the automatic print head alignment.
Software installation was typical of USB printers, easy as pie. Using the driver is straightforward and the animated image below shows the main four sections available.
With a USB, network connection option, 16Mb of memory and a 500k buffer HP are aiming this squarely at the business market where speed is vital. For us photographers speed is a luxury more than a vital requirement, but can sway the decision on choice of printers. We didn't have an Epson 1290 in the office to compare the HP CP1700, so we're being a little unfair and comparing it to the Canon S9000. The S9000 is notorious for being the fastest A3 printer around at the moment, and is around 160 dearer than the HP.
|Printer||Paper Size||Print type||Print Time|
|HP CP1700||A4||Mono text||34sec|
|Canon S9000||A4||Mono text||21sec|
|HP CP1700||A4||Colour Graphics||2min 32sec|
|Canon S9000||A4||Colour Graphics||55sec|
|HP CP1700||A4||Photo (High quality)||2min 11sec|
|Canon S9000||A4||Photo (High quality)||1min 45sec|
|HP CP1700||A3||Photo (High quality)||4min 23sec|
|Canon S9000||A3||Photo (High quality)||3min 35sec|
Costing about as much as the Epson 1290 we were expecting good performance from the HP CP1700. The results we got were indeed good, but comparing them to prints from similar printers raises some concerns. Due to technical problems we weren't able to compare print quality on the HP to the S9000. The next best thing we had were prints from the S800 which are close to the performance produced by the S9000.
Despite a high resolution in it's specification the HP doesn't manage the smooth photo finish of it's competitors. Instead looking closely the ink droplets are far easier to see. Colour performance was a little better and on a A3 print from the Canon EOS-1D the results were quite impressive showing only a little over saturation. We were also concerned about the printers inability to to produce the full dynamic range.
We can immediately see how much more visible the ink droplets are on the HP in this print. Another cause for concern is the lack of dynamic range, the deep black shades on the S800 print appear lighter on the CP1700. The red 'Casino Boardwalk' Sign shows a tiny amount of saturation overload. As you can see in the blown up section of the print detail is good but not at the same level as the S800.
|This print demonstrates some startling differences between the two printers. The S800 strides ahead, producing a far more pleasing print. Looking closely at the CP1700 I was far more conscious of this being an inkjet print, with the S800 this wasn't a factor. Again in the blown up area we can see how much superior the S800 is at producing fine detail and dynamic range. The S800 print showing clearly the reflections on the sunglasses and also skin detail throughout the print far better than the HP.|
Startling differences again between the two printers, but on an intense colourful print like this the HP CP1700 outperforms the Canon. Colours are much more like the actual negative though still a little over saturated. The HP does let itself down again on detail, with the rope tying the blue plastic to the boat far more defined on the S800.
Demonstrating again the superb definition, deep blacks, and smooth finish of the S800. In contrast the HP has clearly visible speckles, plus it lacks the high definition and deep black shown on the S800.
This demonstrates again the CP1700 doesn't quite provide the excellent dynamic range capabilities of the competition.
The A3 inkjet market is a little sparse compared to the crowded A4 arena. As a result this HP faces only a few competitors, this competition is serious however. We've demonstrated the flaws of the HP, and our comparison with the S800 shows that the S9000 will be a far more appealing printer to many. For the very budget conscious though the price is very competitive, and you can still get good A3 prints from the HP.
The CP1700 does offer several unique features that could attract people to it. Namely, the enhanced connectivity options, various paper type capabilities, automatic sensors, optional duplex unit, and perhaps even the quite striking design. For those of you seeking the highest possible photo quality output for reasonable money, the HP wouldn't be a bad choice but it's not the best choice either. Preliminary testing of the S9000 shows it to be a step ahead, and we expect other manufacturers to be releasing new A3 models very soon.