Most portable printers cannot consistently turn out business-quality sharp text and graphics. However, Canon's portable bubble-jet printer, the BJC-50, is an exception, scoring amazingly well in both performance and quality tests. This is not a new product, but it is the best portable printing solution available and will more than likely retain that title for a long time to come.
The BJC-50 is small and light enough at 2.1 pounds not to dislocate your mobile worker's already overburdened shoulders. It measures 11.8 by 4.4 by 1.9 inches.
And it's fast: In my tests it produced sharp, black text at about five pages per minute, and turned out clean, well-saturated, four-color graphics at the rate of just over two pages per minute. Color reproduction was crisp and accurate with no oversaturation, and I was especially impressed with the realistic skin tones the BJC-50 produced. The quality of the black text was equally excellent. In fact, it was distressingly similar to the printouts that my very expensive laser printer spits out.
The BJC-50 is powered by a rechargeable battery pack or AC power. When running off its battery, the BJC-50 produced 96 pages of text copies before needing a recharge. You can attach the adapter to continue printing when the battery power is running low, or you can force every last bit of juice from the battery by pressing the resume button when the BJC-50 warns you that you're just about out of battery charge. Recharging the battery fully took 5.5 hours with the printer turned off.
Data can be sent to it by hooking up the printer to a portable's parallel port or wirelessly via IrDA, which means one less cable to carry while on the road. Transferring data from my portable to the printer via IrDA worked flawlessly.
Setup was easy, basically consisting of snapping the battery and ink cartridges into place and installing the Plug and Play software. After a reboot, Windows 98 automatically recognized the printer.
The BJC-50 can also be turned into the world's smallest color sheetfed scanner and copier by adding the optional IS-12 Color Image Scanner ($99). Make sure to purchase the optional sheet-feed attachment-without it users will have an extremely difficult time printing out more than one page at a time. Both the manual and the sheet feeder can handle a wide assortment of paper and envelope sizes. If users would prefer not to tote around the sheet feeder, the printer's preferences should be set to Manual Feed. This way, users will be prompted to insert a new sheet of paper at the end of every page of a multipage document.
Getting the Drop
Canon backs up the BJC-50 with a one-year warranty. Technical support is as solid as the product, 24/7 automated support to walk you through the basic troubleshooting issues, with an option to speak to a technician free of charge during regular business hours and days for products that are under the one-year warranty. You can also opt for paid support during nonbusiness hours, but before you do that, browse through the support offerings on Canon's help Web site.
This printer would be a winner when judged by any one criterion-portability, power or quality of output. But since all of its features are equally top rate, the BJC-50 gets my vote for a must-have peripheral.
The price is $250. For more information, contact Canon Computer Systems at www.canon.com or call (800) 848-4123.