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LaserWriter 16/600 PS

Apple’s new LaserWriter 16/600 PS sports a new naming scheme that ties the name of the printer to the printer’s features. The name indicates three things: pages-per-minute (ppm), dots-per-inch (dpi), and page description language. In this case, the name indicates a 16 ppm, 600 dpi, PostScript printer. (Interestingly, the printer is actually 17 ppm with letter size paper but perhaps Apple decided 16/600 PS sounds better than 17/600 PS.)

Vital Statistics — The 16/600 PS uses the same case the LaserWriter Pro 600 series used. For those of you keeping score, this means a 12.13" high by 16.75" wide by 16.9" deep case. It weighs in at 40 pounds.

The 16/600 PS is driven by a 25 MHz AMD Am29030 RISC microprocessor and a Canon LBP-ZX Laser-xerographic engine. The printer comes with 8 MB RAM (filling one of two slots) which is expandable to 32 MB, using 72-pin SIMMs.

It includes a paper tray at the bottom that handles up to 250 sheets of letter size paper and a multi-purpose tray on one side that can take up to 100 pages of letter size or legal size paper and supports variable paper sizes including envelopes. The printer does not provide a straight paper path but instead a "C" path with the paper exiting the top of the printer and landing in a stacking bed.

The printer sports a internal SCSI device bay and an external SCSI port (PowerBook style), a LocalTalk port, a parallel port, and an Ethernet port (which itself supports EtherTalk, Novell NetWare IPX, and TCP/IP). EtherTalk users need a transceiver such as Asante’s FriendlyNet or Farallon’s EtherWave (we tested the printer using the latter).

FinePrint, Apple’s type-enhancing technology, works in only 8 MB, but PhotoGrade, Apple’s improved gray-scale printing technology, requires at least 12 MB. Both are available at 600 dpi. Previously, PhotoGrade was only available only in 300 dpi (thus making you choose between 600 dpi and no PhotoGrade or 300 dpi with PhotoGrade).

The printer is EnergyStar-compliant and has a user-definable idle time before the printer goes into a reduced-power sleep state. It generally takes about a minute for the printer to warm up from this state. The warm-up time presented a small problem when I tried to download a PostScript file to the printer. It aborted with the error message "Warming Up" rather than waiting for the printer to warm up.

Apple Printer Utility — The printer ships with a brand new printer utility from Apple. Apple Printer Utility 1.0 is a much-needed improvement over the older (and still included) LaserWriter Utility. First off, the program does not rely on the Chooser to know which printer to configure. (How many people are familiar with selecting a printer in the Chooser, using LaserWriter Utility to rename said printer, and then having to return to the Chooser to select the printer under the new name before proceeding? Those days are gone.) In addition, the printer options are presented in a single window in a nice format, making printer administration simpler.

Expansion Options — In addition to RAM expansion, the printer supports Apple’s Fax Card, enabling the printer to function as a plain paper fax machine. It can receive faxes directly to paper and you can also opt to print via fax through the printer. This option also supports PostScript fax so you can print vastly superior quality text and graphics when faxing to another Fax Card-equipped printer.

Finally, you can expand the printer’s paper handling via optional 500-sheet and 250-sheet universal cassettes which provide support for A4, B5, and Legal sizes. Apple also sells a 75-envelope feeder.

Print Quality — With regard to text, the print quality is superb. In fact, on text printed both with and without FinePrint I was unable to see any difference without a magnifying glass. I found text in small sizes clear and easy to read. Text printed in grayscale increments down to 5 percent were still legible even in small sizes

Graphics, however, were a bit disappointing when printed with PhotoGrade disabled. We tested our printers with three different graphics: a 72 dpi bitmap, a 150 dpi bitmap, and an Illustrator PostScript file. In all cases we found mild banding (which we expected). What we did not expect was distinct posterization in some areas of our grayscale images. It was almost as if rather than dither the images the printer just reduced the number of grays, leaving heavily banded areas on our images.

With PhotoGrade enabled, the grays were much nicer and the banding was reduced to a minimum. Also, PhotoGrade brought out detail that had been lacking in non-PhotoGrade prints, especially in areas otherwise too dark for any real detail.

Copies of our sample images as well as scans of some of the results on the 16/600 PS (as well as on other printers) can be obtained from the Computer Resource Center Web pages at: /printers.html

Printer Speed — In our timing tests, the 16/600 PS made an impressive showing. Of all the Apple printers we have tested, this one is the fastest by quite a margin. Our timing tests include a simple demo page with a small black and white 72 dpi bitmap and a variety of fonts in various sizes, a four page paper in Palatino 12 point (both from Word 5.1a), and a full page 72 dpi bitmap (from Adobe Photoshop 2.5.1). Included are the times for the 16/600 PS as well as a few other Apple printers for comparison (all times are from the clicking of the print button to when the last sheet comes out of the printer):

                 Demo Page  4 Page Paper  72 dpi bitmap  Total Time
  16/600 PS        0:38         0:45          0:32           2:55
  LW Pro 810       1:08         1:24         13:42          16:14
  LW Pro 630       0:58         1:42          9:13          11:53
  LW Select 360    0:39         1:08          2:37           4:24

Further printing times can be obtained from the Computer Resource Center Web pages at: /printers/printer-times.html

Conclusion — The LaserWriter 16/600 PS is surprisingly fast and provides impressive quality text at all sizes and shades at an ApplePrice of $2,429 (according to the 03-Oct-94 MacWEEK) If you intend to use this printer for serious graphics, I recommend upgrading the RAM to at least 12 MB to enable the PhotoGrade option. We found a dramatic improvement in printed graphics when PhotoGrade was utilized.

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