Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers Inc.
Months ago, when Apple announced that the StyleWriter printers would be in short supply, some suspected Apple wouldn't manufacture more to meet the unexpected demand because it had a replacement waiting in the wings. Among the four printers Apple introduced last week is the sleeker, zippier, sharable StyleWriter II. The others are the LaserWriter Pro 600 and LaserWriter Pro 630, and the succinctly-named Apple Color Printer. At the same time, Apple added a color version of the OneScanner to its imaging products lineup.
StyleWriter II -- The StyleWriter II, with its $359 suggested retail price, has a number of advantages over its predecessor besides its way-cool curvy design. The printer is approximately two times faster than its predecessor, eliminating one of the biggest complaints about the StyleWriter. Apple's new GrayShare technology offers both grayscale printing that the company says is comparable to the quality offered by LaserWriters, and the ability to share the printer over an AppleTalk network with other Macintosh users.
The printer includes the full set of familiar LaserWriter fonts in TrueType format, offers a multipurpose paper tray for up to 100 sheets of paper or fifteen envelopes, and prints up to one page per minute in best mode or up to two pages per minute in normal or draft.
It's hard to tell whether this is an advantage or disadvantage, but the new StyleWriter II is a single-piece unit, whereas the original StyleWriter is a two-piece printer. The detachable sheet feeder made the printer suitable for portable use. The all-in-one design of the new model may make it less confusing but eliminates the option of taking a streamlined printer along when you travel.
Of course, there are better solutions for portable printing these days, such as the battery-powered WriteMove II from GCC and the Diconix line from Kodak, so portability was probably no longer a big concern for the StyleWriter II's designers. Still, since the StyleWriter is better suited to desktop printing than these portable printers, it is a drawback.
Apple Color Printer -- More of a novelty in Apple's printer lineup is the Apple Color Printer, a $2,349 printer offering 360 dpi output on up to 11" x 17" paper, thanks to its Canon P691 Color Bubblejet engine. This printer connects to the Mac as a SCSI device but also offers printer sharing capability so other users on the network can use it. It supports Apple's new ColorSync architecture, which promises a standard way of matching image colors all the way from scanning, through editing, to output.
The Color Printer bears a striking resemblance to the ImageWriter II (this one won't be called sleek or curvy), though at 20.5 inches wide, it's a few inches broader than its cousin. Its use of four separate ink cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow) provides a much better color range, at a much better resolution, than the ImageWriter II with a color ribbon, and the separate cartridges also mean there's no wasting seldom-used colors.
In our opinion, the Apple Color Printer is too little, too late. It goes up against well-established competitors, such as Hewlett-Packard's DeskWriter C printers, and, yes, even the more-expensive color printers from HP, Tektronix, QMS, and others. It has the very real disadvantage that, as a SCSI device, it's likely to have interface problems galore, and we're just not sure that it offers sufficient print quality to compete with printers half its price, much less printers twice its price.
Answer us one question, Apple. Why is Apple's first real color printer also its first product in years (if not its first product ever) to sport a simple white-on-black Apple logo where the familiar rainbow-striped one belongs?
LaserWriter Pro 600 & 630 -- The LaserWriter Pro 600 and 630 printers may be most exciting for those interested in small-workgroup computing; they offer 300 to 600 dpi output with their Canon EX laser engines along with feature sets otherwise comparable to those of the LaserWriter IIf and IIg.
Both printers sport a 25 MHz 68030 processor (the same as the one inside the Macintosh IIci) but varying amounts of memory (4 MB standard for the 600 and 8 MB for the 630, both upgradeable to 32 MB). The 600 lacks the 600 dpi capability, which can be added with the optional PhotoGrade upgrade kit (i.e. a memory upgrade to 8 MB of RAM, and Apple's press release says, "As a special introductory offer, Apple will ship the LaserWriter Pro 600 with 8 MB of RAM, enabling users to take advantage of 600 dpi resolution and the superior grayscale printing capabilities of PhotoGrade."), and the Ethernet and SCSI ports provided by the 630.
It seems a bit odd that a printer called "LaserWriter Pro 600" would offer 600 dpi printing only as an option, but we've given up trying to figure out Apple's product naming strategies. The LaserWriter Pro 600 retails for $2,099 and the 630 for $2,529.
Apple Color OneScanner -- The $1,349 Apple Color OneScanner (to ship in Feb-93) can be aptly described as a color version of Apple's popular OneScanner, including the new Color Ofoto 2.0 scanning software from Light Source. It offers the same ColorSync technology as the Apple Color printer, so matching colors all the way through the image manipulation process will be much easier. A number of third-party vendors, including Aldus and SuperMac, have committed to supporting ColorSync, as well.
Lower Prices -- At the same time, Apple has reduced the retail prices of several of its previous imaging products, as follows:
LaserWriter IIf w/Toner & Cassette $1,869 LaserWriter IIg w/Toner & Cassette $2,309 LaserWriter IIf Controller Board $1,015 LaserWriter IIg Controller Board $1,455 Personal LaserWriter NTR w/Toner & Accessory Kit $1,649 Apple OneScanner w/Accessory Kit $949 Apple OneScanner w/Accessory Kit for Windows $1,059
So, not only has Apple introduced a good crop of imaging products at reasonable prices, but it has also brought some of its existing products closer to the reach of users lacking deep corporate pockets. There are some odd problems with the new products, and it remains to be seen how they'll do in the marketplace. The best news, we feel, will be the significant price drops on the existing technology. The star? Inexpensive IIf and IIg upgrades for all our old LaserWriter II printers!