I’ve had my HP Z3200 24″ printer for several months now and I thought I would write a few notes about my experiences with it. Initially, I had a terrible time with a hardware error that caused banding and a posterization like effect in prints but it has now been resolved through the help of HP technicians (and replacing every circuit board on the printer). Since I’ve got my printer working I’ve gone through a full 50′ roll of paper and half a set of the starter inks making prints. So here are my initial observations:
I’ve been using the instant dry satin paper and the print quality is very good. The gloss enhancer really works and avoids any bronzing or gloss differential in white areas. I’ve also printed a few black and white images and I’ve been very impressed with the output. The blacks are very deep and because the Z3200 only uses the black and grey inks the print is neutral.
Once or twice, I’ve experienced a print defect that appears as if the entire print head came in contact with the paper (Figure 1). Basically it looks like you took your thumb and smeared the ink on the print before it had a chance to dry. I’m not entirely sure why this is occurring (it’s not repeatable and very rare) but I suspect it may have something to do with there being too much curve in the paper.
Calibrating and Profiling Papers
Calibrating and profiling a paper is very easy and literally the press of a few mouse buttons. It takes about 10-20 minutes to complete and you don’t really have to do anything as the process is automated. However, I was surprised that after using a profile for just a few months I received a warning that it was now out-of-date. I was expecting the profiles to be good for a much longer time period (i.e. half a year or more) but perhaps the engineers are just allowing for a big margin of safety.
I haven’t had a chance yet to try out the other paper types but I plan to experiment with the professional satin paper and the matte canvas for my prints.
Without question, the printer is loud. When printing, the carriage makes a fair bit of noise as it goes back and forth (the whole printer shakes). Furthermore, the control ribbon vibrates against a metal rail and making an annoying ringing noise. I’m not sure if just my Z3200 makes this noise or if it is a problem with all of them.
The printer is also loud when it is not in use as the HP engineers decided to keep the fan on ALL THE TIME. The fan is even on when the printer is sleeping. I could turn the printer off, but HP recommends keeping it on so that it can perform head maintenance periodically.
On the Z3200 the paper is loaded from the rear of the printer and can be a little difficult to access unless you have adequate space behind it. I have my printer in a small room and place it right up against the wall so if I can want to change the paper I need to roll it out. Not a big deal but still somewhat of an inconvenience.
I’ve been printing from a Mac and I’ve been less than satisfied with the print drivers. They seem to be a little buggy. For example, the driver keeps warning me that there is a new profile in the printer and that I should update the version on my computer. The driver also does a poor job canceling print requests — if I cancel a job in the middle of printing the driver will stop applying any of the color inks but will keep advancing the paper and will apply the gloss enhancer over the entire area of the image.