DESCRIPTION & SET-UP continues ...
The B9180 is a consumer/prosumer level desktop printer capable of printing up to 13 inches wide. It is a well made and designed unit with an impressive feel of quality and rugged construction. This is no flimsy printer and when I unpacked it in my kitchen I had a difficult time carrying it upstairs to my digital darkroom.
The distinguishing design features of the B9180 include:
- User replaceable print heads (4 print heads – each housing two colors)
- 27 ml capacity ink cartridges (larger than what is typical for this class of printer)
- Self calibration through densitomic closed loop color calibration
- Paper cassette tray with 200 page capacity and a "Specialty Media Tray" for manually feeding single sheets of thicker papers and canvas
- USB 2.0 and built-in Ethernet connectivity
- Printing plug-in for Adobe Photoshop (available for versions up to CS2)
QUICK START GUIDE
Once I had the B9180 settled into its new location I reviewed the quick start guide. HP is to be applauded for providing clear and concise instructions that are logical and easy to follow. The first step is to plug the printer into a wall socket. At this point you DO NOT connect the printer to your PC via the USB connection. This will be done later in the set-up process when you install the software provided on the install CD.
Turn the printer on and the LCD screen lights up and provides easy to follow instructions. After selecting the default language you will be prompted to install the ink cartridges and then the print heads. Once the print heads are installed the printer will go through the self calibrating process on its own. Simply load a few sheets of photo paper (provided by HP in the printer packaging) in the main paper tray and sit back and watch the printer do its thing.
The calibration takes about 40 minutes to complete and consists of the printer printing some test targets with color patches. As these targets are printed they are automatically fed back into the bowels of the printer where a sensor (a densitometer more precisely) reads the color patches and calibrates the printer against factory standards stored in the printer. Adjustments are made to the delivery of ink via the print heads to achieve factory color densities.
This calibrating, or what is commonly referred to as linearization, is not to be confused with printer profiling. Since the HP B9180 uses replaceable print heads which are installed by the user this closed loop calibration process is necessary. The benefit of this calibration is that the HP provided paper profiles that are installed on your PC to produce very accurate colors. These profiles are also available on the HP website.
Although it is only necessary to perform this calibration once (during initial set-up) and each time the print heads are replaced, users have the option to re-calibrate at any time. This is a useful feature if the printer is ever moved to another location. It should be noted that HP engineers estimate that under typical use the heads will last the lifetime of the printer, so the replacement of heads is not likely. It is comforting to know that the user can replace them on their own without the need for services from a repair center which with other printer manufacturers can be a very expensive endeavor.
After the calibration is complete you can then install the software. I installed this printer on a new Gateway PC running Windows Vista Home Premium. As a precaution, and because the quick start guide says the software on the provided CD is for Windows XP, I first visited the HP website and downloaded the version of the Photosmart software that is Windows Vista compatible. Installation was simple and uneventful. The software comes with a Photoshop print plug-in designed specifically for HP printers. If you plan to use this Photoshop plug-in, and I highly recommend that you do. You must first make sure Photoshop (CS2 or earlier) is installed on your PC. Otherwise the Photosmart software will not detect it on your system and will not install the plug-in. If you do install Photoshop at a later time you can always reinstall the printer software.
For those of you who are running Adobe Photoshop CS3 please note that there is no compatible print plug-in. Since the release of CS3 Adobe has retooled their print routine. The features of this plug-in are already incorporated in their new "Print" command. According to HP the plug-in is not necessary for CS3 users.
One last item of note I encountered during the software install routine. The HP installer checks via the Internet to see if there are newer drivers for the printer and downloads them for you - another nice touch from the HP design team.
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