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Review: HP Designjet Z3100 Printer

Features and highlights of the 44-in. Z3100.

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By Andrew Darlow

The world’s population of high-quality, wide-format inkjet printers priced at less than $10,000 has increased dramatically in recent years. One company that’s been busy developing new products in this segment is Hewlett-Packard. In 2006, HP announced the Designjet Z2100 (the 24-in. version) and the Designjet Z3100 (44-in.), and both are now shipping. The company has been marketing the printers to designers and photographers, as well as to its traditional large-format customer base (ad agencies, sign shops, and other print-for-pay firms).

Here, I’ll highlight some of the features of the Z3100 that I believe are of greatest importance to printmakers. I also recommend visiting HP’s website for additional specs and info. There, you can also find information about the HP Designjet Z2100, an 8-color printer with many of the same features as the Z3100.

Out of the box
The Designjet Z3100 is not a lightweight piece of equipment. The 44-in. model’s shipping weight with the palette is 271 lb and, after unpacking, the printer and stand weigh in at 189 lb. Even at that weight, it was surprisingly easy to unpack and assemble-with the help of a few friends. The box was very well packed and the set-up poster was easy to follow; it guided us step-by-step through the entire process with large, clear illustrations. The manual was also nicely produced and easy to read. It took about an hour and a half from the time we opened the box to the time we were ready to make the first calibration print. The print catch basket was especially painless to install, and it easily moves in and out of position as needed.

The dozen 130-ml cartridges and six printhead packages (two printheads are housed in each package) were easy to install, though I recommend working slowly just to make sure that the printheads are properly cleaned and seated. I installed the driver and utility software for Mac OS X and Windows XP, and a few weeks later upgraded both drivers, as well as the printer’s firmware. Since upgrading the firmware, I’m noticing better tonal separation when using the "print in grayscale" driver setting, especially on matte papers. I highly recommend restarting the printer and your computer after any updates like these. New calibrations and profiles for non-HP media will generally also need to be performed after a firmware update.