QMS has produced a printer which is superior to any other normal office laser printer. But to really get this printer to produce full-page large size photographs at the full quality the printer is capable of, you have to burrow into the options in the printer menus. If you rely on default settings you will get deficient prints.

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Other Suggested Improvements for documentation of QMS 2060 EX and QMS 2060 FX black and white laser printers.

Manual needs to adequately explain lpi and especially that the lpi needs to be upped from default 71 to at least 90 (Screen Frequency, Reference 4-49, 4-50, 5-5)--if you indeed to print halftones (photos). Overall the manual is great for an office and for computer technicians, but might be altered a bit for the end user. Of course in a large corporation the end user is shielded from reality by the technical staff. I can still remember in Japan, the computer technicians would come in bowing, and exit backwards when they finished, also bowing. I find it satisfying to be able to fix things on my own, but I do need some encouragement and help from a manual.

QMS now has an update that allows you to tweak the lines-per-inch. As soon as this arrives and I can test it, I will report the improvements. The printer was already quite impressive even as is for '98 (the new capability is for models shipped in '99).

It would be helpful if a section could be added for people in the graphics world, such as for artists, photographers, digital imaging people. This printer is capable of printing photo quality, exhibit quality images (if tweaked). This section should be written by a graphics person, not a computer technician.

Tweaking the lpi and arranging the proper dpi are two tasks that depend more on digital imaging awareness than on the technical features of the printer. In other words, the output of a QMS printer, good as it is on its own, can be tweaked to even better exhibit quality appearance if you know how to prepare the images in Adobe Photoshop with the new channel mixer mode. Do not use the old mode change to grayscale.

For example, if a user plans to print photographs, they have to be as light as possible (easiest to do in LAB mode, in the luminosity channel, mode change from RGB). Just go to Adjust, Curves and make the image lighter. The lighter the image the higher lpi; the higher the lpi the fewer dots you can see. At default 71 lpi photographs look wretched--all dots, all monotone dull gray, no contrast.

I noticed that the QMS advertisements were printed at 85 dpi. I was able to reach 90 lpi for dark images and mixed out at 95 lpi for white and other inherently light images. This was after tweaking the images in Adobe Photoshop ver 5.0.2. Xante indicates that a lpi of easily 150 lpi can be obtained with their comparable printer, which handles paper up to 37 inches long (as opposed to 26 inches long for the QMS). I have not yet had the opportunity to test the Xante printer. It also uses the newer PostScript 3. It would be interesting to see if the higher lpi allows a higher dpi in the original image, and if the PostScript 3 really makes a difference in gray scale. The newer generation of scanners such as Polaroid Sprint Scan 4000 produces 4000 dpi at 35mm size which would allow a higher dpi for 1200 dpi printing at 150 lpi. I routinely print 35mm slides at both 11x17, A3 (approximately European equivalent). Images from the Better Light Dicomed digital camera are so good that I can enlarge them to 13x19 easily (paper as long as 26 inches is hard to find). When I visited the QMS offices in Mobile recently, they indicated that several features that QMS builds into their printer allow QMS to achieve its high quality with photographic images. Naturally these improvements are constantly coming on line, so keep tuned for the latest breakthroughs.

QMS 2060 print system documentation
QMS 2060 print system documentation CD

To repeat, to create a black-and-white image in Adobe Photograph, do not use the automatic mode change to grayscale; you can get much better control by using Adjust Channel Mixer. You can get a mix of the four channels (CMYK) of up to 200%; the channel mix does not max out at 100% as common sense would suggest. FLAAR has a section of book reviews on the pertinent books that can help out.

To achieve the best graphics images, the option windows (on your monitor, not on the printer) need to be printed out in the manual, with explanation of every option, one after the other.

It would have helped also if the manual had explained that graphics files over 290 dpi will cause a PostScript error message. This is true in most other printers I have used; too much dpi will choke the system. This is not a fault of QMS at all, just a constraint of the basic laser system. It would be nice to see how PostScript 3 handles such an overload of dpi; PostScript 3 is now available on several comparable printers of other companies.

Laser Paper

In a corporation, people probably are stuck with low bid "laser paper," which is often just relabeled copier paper. It is unrealistic to expect a purchasing agent in a bank or insurance company or other office to be familiar with the considerable differences in paper surface and quality. Hammermill paper is the only one listed (Reference, page 2-4, missing from the index, should be listed under, Paper, recommended).

We find that Weyerhaeuser First Choice produces handsome output on both color and black-and-white laser. If you are in Europe, where Weyerhaeuser paper is unfortunately not yet available, we have found Reyprint the absolute best paper. Reyprint is a French laser paper (distributed by International Paper, an American company). Futura Laser (Consolidated Paper) is an equivalent paper in the USA, wonderfully smooth surface for photographs. Photographs printed on paper of this premium quality are good enough to frame and exhibit. If you have to fold your paper (a mailing brochure, for example) the best paper is a Microprint laser from Georgia Pacific.

In summary, since QMS sells the printer in Europe as well as in the USA, the recommended paper section should be updated to include paper available in Europe (Reyprint). Since the printer is capable of doing photo-quality output, the manual ought to include the appropriate paper, Weyerhaeuser for mass production, Futura Laser for smaller jobs where a glossy surface is desired, Georgia Pacific Microprint when you will need to fold the sheets.. Always go for the thickest weight of paper possible (unless you have to fold them or worry about postage excess weight). I would add that the QMS handled thick paper better than the Lexmark Optra N.

Connecting your Printer to a computer

If you have a Macintosh computer you will need a mini-hub (3 hubs is enough for most SOHO arrangements) and special cables. For a Mac setup this printer functions with Ethernet, not serial or parallel as with a PC. We leave our Dell PC and the Mac both plugged into the printer since only the Mac takes up the Ethernet receptor on the printer; the Dell uses a parallel cable.

The printer comes with 10baseT Ethernet. It would be interesting to test 100baseT to see if that speeds things up. We already maxed out the RAM to about 112 MB.

Shipping Your Printer

I took the printer as baggage from St Louis to Frankfurt on Delta Airlines. They managed to clobber the box so effectively that they bent in the bottom and dented the side. The printer itself is well built, and the exterior is solid, but Delta Airlines must have special machines for crushing your baggage. I would recommend first, using the original packing material; 2nd, insuring the printer against such damage, and 3rd, shipping in DHL or UPS or Federal Express. I would add that the QMS is fully portable (relatively speaking). I originally planned to bring my Lexmark Optra N to Germany--until I found out it weighed 110 pounds. The QMS weighs about 60 pounds or so.

Pros:

QMS is a reputable company and is international, has service available in both Europe and the USA. QMS had a substantial presence at the recent CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany. Print quality is very good if you can figure out how to set the lpi (lines per inch, don't confuse with dpi of your file). The QMS has done a better job of handling thick paper than the Lexmark Optra N. The Lexmark caused toner splatter all over the page when a thick (stiff) sheet went through. Also, the Lexmark manual advised against using coated stock. That was only partially true. On the QMS a very shiny and definitely coated Reyprint sheet went through beautifully.

I recently returned to the USA and printed some of the same images on a Lexmark Optra N. The output of the QMS was noticeably superior. The 1200 dpi of some models of Lexmark is feigned, good only for text, and actually causes banding to increase on the constant tone background. Banding, however, is a generic situation in all laser printers. Banding was the worst on an HP model 4MV, 11x17 size, since they were made for business use, for plain text, not for photographs, graphics, and certainly not for desktop publishing or pre-press.

Cons:

Service people in USA know the printer inside out; service personnel in Europe are not as experienced--very pleasant and well intentioned, but were unable to solve the page placement problem (actually a Microsoft Word defect, not a QMS problem). The guides for the paper (which have to be moved to proper paper size) might be strengthened in the next model. Otherwise the machine looks well built though I am not sure I would want to pull the paper tray in and out every day. It is best to get a second (optional) tray if you will use 11x17 and letter size more or less simultaneously. Of course you can feed one or the other paper size through the multipurpose tray. Overall QMS is a great machine and worth the investment. The Lexmark Optra N, a real workhorse, can only simulate 1200 dpi print, which actually is mainly suitable for text, not for halftones. The QMS has a smaller footprint and prints a much larger sheet. If I had to select between the two I would recommend the QMS. I never got deep enough inside the Lexmark software to know if you could tweak the lpi; the ability to set the lpi yourself is a considerable asset to the QMS system and makes it superior for reproducing photographs.

Conclusion: reproducing photographs with a Xerox machine was always a disaster. Bands of light area, streaks, generally wretched reproduction quality. A few brands such as Savin produced relative acceptable photo reproductions, but the better the brand seemingly the worse the quality. Now you can avoid all of this. Don't photocopy the photograph on a copier, scan it, then print it with a QMS. You can even connect a scanner directly to the printer. Of course nowadays the better copiers are also scanners, so photos should reproduce all right, but merely "okay" should no longer be acceptable. I am planning to exhibit my black-and-white photographs, proudly printed not in a photographic darkroom, but on my own desktop with a QMS.

The FLAAR Digital Imaging Technology Center wishes to express appreciation to Encad for providing a Wideformat inkjet printer, to Electronics for Imaging for providing an EFI Fiery RIP, to Lexmark for providing an Optra 1275c color laser and to QMS for providing a model 2060 FX black-and-white laser printer with a multi-res daughterboard and extra RAM needed to achieve 1200 dpi, especially at tabloid paper size.

FLAAR does not undertake quickie tests, we use the equipment day in day out, month after month. If you are going to pay x-thousand for a printer, perhaps you might like to know how your investment will hold up after the first year. For this reason it is difficult for us to test printers that are available only for a 30 day loan period. During the first 30 days with the Lexmark and with the QMS we were still excavating deep into the software options to tweak the optimum performance out of the machines. In both cases we have obtained better print results by experimentation than would be possible by just reading the manuals and sticking with default settings.

 
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Posted May 25, 1999, last updated June 21, 1999; links added May 1, 2000, links added Mar. 2002, redesigned January 2004
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