Printer review: HP Designjet 130

I’ve been reading about this printer for a few months and everything I’ve read has been overwhelmingly positive. So I called HP and asked for a demo to be sent to my office for testing. Upon receiving the printer, I was immediately surprised by the size of the box. Pictures can be deceiving and I was not prepared for how big this printer is. It’s a large desktop model that comes in a box the size of a refrigerator. So be prepared to have a loading dock or lift-gate when receiving it!

Setup

Unpacking and setting things up were fairly straightforward. The manuals covered everything very well. I went straight to the Quick Start Guide -– that was all I needed. One small point is that this printer comes with a USB cable. Thank you HP for this small but appreciated extra step. Take note EPSON.

After setting up the printer, it’s recommended to calibrate all the medias you plan to use. Calibration was very easy. Just launch the Calibrate Utility, select the media you want to calibrate and the printer goes to work, printing and measuring colour bars. The calibration is an extremely useful feature that should be always be activated when you first receive the printer or after replacing a print head.

Specifications

The HP Designjet 130 is able to print up to 24” wide by 50’ with resolutions up to 2400 dpi and a 4-picoliter ink droplet size. The new dye-based inks are redesigned to offer much longer print life/fading than traditional photos. The printer can accept media up to 80 lbs. and offers a roll with an automatic cutter or a standard tray for sheet-sized media. The NR model includes an automatic roll-feed option as well as the Jetdirect 620n internal printer server.

Print Quality

The print quality from the HP Designjet 130 is as good or better than any printer I’ve tested. Where it excels is in its ability to print very dark, rich blacks. The darker blacks translate into more lifelike pictures because of the larger dynamic range. Larger than what, you ask?

I measured various prints using my X-Rite Spectrophotometer and came up with a series of L* measurements (L* is the L in Lab and is now used as a better measurement value than density. The lower the number the darker the black.)

Having a darker black increases the dynamic range of the print, producing a more brilliant and more realistic-looking print. In many images, it makes a big difference. The HP 130 printer produces the blackest black I’ve measured to date.

Epson is going the way of pigmented inks to reach the goal of longevity. But this comes with the price of a more limited color gamut than dye-ink-based solutions and is also limited in the black level you can reach. It’s also known that Epson mainly rules on matte papers while their glossy print show quite a bit of bronzing (this may change with the release of their new 7800 and 9800 and their K3 ink-set). HP decided to stay with dye inks utilizing improved formulas and uses swellable media papers that protect the inks from outside influences.

All this is reason enough to have a closer look at the HP Designjet 30/130 printers. The Designjet 30 can print up to 13 x 19” and costs about $900 (a clear competitor to the Epson 2200). The Designjet 130 can print up to 24” wide and starts at $1,600 (competes with the Epson 4000).

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