REVIEW - HP Designjet Z2100 Photo Printer

An Inkjet NEWS & TIPS article by Royce Bair for 2006 Nov 30

 

We've had an HP Z2100, 24" model on loan from HP for a little over a week now. The HP Designjet Z2100 Photo Printer (24" and 44" models) is an 8-ink wide-format printer, similar in ink technology to the 13-inch wide HP B9180. However, where the B9180 has a built in densitometer for calibration, the HP Z2100 goes one better, with the first-ever embedded spectrophotometer -- allowing one to easily create and edit ICC profiles, saving one the time and expense of outsourcing the ICC creation. The Z2100 24" model has a list price of $3,395.00, and the Z2100 44" model has a list price of $5,595. We have sample prints available for this printer and others on http://www.inkjetart.com/custom/

BUILT-IN MEDIA PROFILING: Our first task was to have the Z2100 create an ICC profile from its built in Eye-One spectrophotometer, and compare its profile with our top of the line ($6,000+) X-Rite DTP70 stand-alone spectrophotometer. Creating a custom media profile takes about 30 minutes with the Z2100 - and 10+ minutes of this is for ink drying time. The process was relativity simple, and the results were quite good. Compared to the our X-Rite (with 1728 color patches), the Z2100's spectrophotometer (with 464 color patches) produced very accurate colors. The only thing we noticed was a little lack of contrast and some minor banding or posterization, which we attest to the fewer number of color patches (this minor posterization would probably never show up except in some delicately, gradated image areas). NOTE: For a more detail discussion on the setup and built-in profiling process, see Chris Bair's comments at http://www.inkjetart.com/hp/Z2100/

NOTE: The contrast on these gradient comparisons has been exaggerated to reveal the banding or posterization in the Z2100 built-in profile. Actual banding is very minimal, and would rarely show itself in most prints.

IMAGE QUALITY: The Z2100 uses exactly the same print heads and ink (in larger cartridges) as the HP B9180, so we were not surprised that the image quality was also identical. Colors seemed as rich as prints from Epson UltraChrome K3 inkjet printers. Close examination (10X) showed very accurate dot placement that rivals the Epson Stylus Photo printers. The HP Vivera pigment inks deliver exceptional fade resistance, producing prints that resist fading for over 200 years (certified by Wilhelm Imaging Research). Grayscale neutrality on a color print appeared similar to Epsons. We felt Epson only excelled in producing slightly less noticeable gloss differential (called "bronzing" in some circles) on glossy, semigloss and luster surface papers.

PRINTING SPEED: Our tests showed the HP Z2100 to be 11% to 29% faster than current comparable Epson Stylus Pro models.

INK USAGE: One thing that has concerned some potential users of the new HP Z2100 was how much ink it consumed when making a print. This data is easily obtained from the printer driver software, and a complete history of all print jobs is maintained. Information on the media type used, the size of the printing area, the printing duration time and ink usage (as well as other data) are all given. Epson Stylus Pro printers give similar information (except media type), but organization is different and access is not quite as easy in our opinion as it is with the Z2100.

Our tests showed that the HP 2100 used an average of only 2% more ink on the same print jobs as comparable Epson Stylus Pro printers - so close as to not be an issue.

INK USE & COST: The HP Vivera pigment inks are a little more expensive per millimeter ($0.58/ml) than the Epson UltraChrome K3 inks when using the Epson 220 ml cartridges ($0.51/ml), but less expensive when using the Epson 110 ml cartridges ($0.64/ml) -- all prices at MSRP.

After running 20 - letter size test prints through each printer, and checking the ink consumed, we came up with the following average ink cost per 8.5" x 11" print:

$0.41 - HP Z2100 (130 ml cartridges)
$0.44 - Epson Ultrachrome K3 Pro printers (using 110 ml cartridges)
$0.35 - Epson Ultrachrome K3 Pro printers (using 220 ml cartridges)

Even when using the 220 ml cartridges, the Epson printers were not significantly less expensive to operate. And when one adds the ink lost from changing black inks (from matte to photo and back again) that is required with most Epson printers, the HP make be even more efficient.

If HP's "electrostatic drop detection" system really works as well as they say it does, the HP Z2100 could also waste less ink by way of clogging and cleaning than Epson's piezo ink droplet delivery system. Remember, the HP Z2100 does not have a "Replacement Ink Maintenance Tank," like Epson wide-format printers. The pads in the Epson tanks are provided to absorb the large amount of ink that is pumped through the Epson piezo print heads to keep the nozzles clean and when changing black inks.


NOTE: The above article may have links to Inkjetart.com web pages when referring to certain inkjet products. While InkjetBuzz.com is NOT associated with Inkjetart.com, many of the articles found in this section originated from Inkjetart.com news letters, which were written by Royce Bair, a private consultant.

 

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