Here's news we've been waiting years for. We can finally buy a laser printer for under a thousand bucks.
Fujitsu's new RX7100 S/2 printer lists for $1,395. Its street price - the real price anyone pays who shops around - breaks the thousand buck barrier. To cash in on the bargain, you give up a little speed but not much more.Fujitsu is far from new to printers. It's been making and selling lots of different models in the U.S. for decades. But until now it's been selling them to companies who pasted on their own labels. Now Fujitsu wants to sell under its own name.
Judging by the printers we've been testing, this is good news for computer users! By far the biggest news is the S/2.
Most $2,000 to $6,000 laser printers crank out six to eight pages a minute. This one does five a minute. It comes ready to hold 150 sheets of blank paper; many others hold just 100. Or it can feed 25 envelopes.
After initial setup and adjustment, we tried to trick the Fujitsu into jamming paper. No luck until we loaded some wrinkled secondhand sheets. Since we trust that you'll never do that to your printer, we can safely vouch for the paper-handling mechanism.
For $145 or less you can add a second 150-sheet bin. Then you can put letterheads in one bin and plain paper or envelopes in the other. If your software is modern enough to select which paper bin it prints from, you can compile a long letter or report without hand-feeding any paper into the printer.
Unlike most laser printers, both S/2 input bins can hold legal-size paper or big envelopes. But there is one big problem: The Fujitsu output bin holds a ridiculous 50 sheets. Virtually every laser printer maker has this math problem: Input bins nearly always hold much more than output bins!
Ah, but there's a way to fool Fu-jitsu. Pull off the output tray, turn it over, lay it under the output slot, and it holds all 300 sheets that can be sent through without paper reloading. The pages don't stack very neatly, but that's a small price to pay.
Now that we've got you interested, we have to confess: Technically, this is not a laser printer. There is a laser in Hewlett-Packard (H-P), Canon, Apple and similar laser printers. But there's no laser inside this one.
Fujitsu replaces the laser light source with a strip of tiny LCDs (liquid crystal displays). The printer turns the right LCDs on and off to produce letters and numbers at 300 x 300 dots per inch. The output is indistinguishable from laser printout.
The printer uses a proprietary Fu-jitsu toner cartridge that lists for $185 and cranks out 6,000 pages. That's double the output of other cartridges at much less than double the price per cartridge. But this cartridge is not yet widely available. So if you buy the S/2, buy a spare cartridge.
Despite its bargain pricing, you needn't worry that your programs can't send the S/2 the right printer signals. It prints out perfectly any files sent in H-P LaserJet II format. Nearly every program nowadays comes able to "drive" H-P LaserJets. Just in case your favorite program can't, it also emulates three other printers: Epson FX-85, IBM Proprinter XL and Diablo 630 ECS.
Don't expect instant success making your software communicate with the S/2. Even a printer with H-P's name on it may demand some program set-up and fine-tuning since there are four current H-P "standards"! In our test, setting up the S/2 was very similar to what we'd gone through setting up the LaserJet II.
The printer plugs into either a serial or parallel port. We prefer the easier-to-use parallel hookup. Fujit-su's manuals are good and if you've set up printers before you may not need even need one. The front panel's push-buttons control much of the configuring.
The S/2 (and other non-Postscript H-P compatible printers) are best used for cranking out office correspondence, simple reports and all types of forms (including IRS-ready tax forms).
It can produce a number of type fonts and, as with H-Ps, it creates additional fonts and graphic symbols if you slip an accessory cartridge into the right slot. (It won't take H-P cartridges. You have to use Fujitsu's.) But even investing heavily in extra font cartridges won't produce very small, very large or very varied type on a page.
You'll have to buy a software package, such as Ventura Publisher that can produce graphical H-P output, or opt for a Postscript printer.
On Postscript compatibles, you're typically able to specify font sizes from 1 to 127 points. (One point is pencil-lead tiny; 127 points is 1.75 inches.) The earliest Postscript printers were sold by Apple, but many others, including Hewlett-Packard, now make them.
We're now testing Apple's new low-cost Postscript printer and will report on it soon. But keep in mind that Postscript has two major limitations. It's slower than H-P type printers, and even Apple's new one adds hundreds of dollars to the price. ((Fujitsu's number for more information is (800) 626-4686.)