Seikosha (UK)
Not Known
1984
Hardware: Printing
£69.00
£59
Unknown (Imported From Infoseek)
Not Applicable
Undetermined

30,31,32
Chris Bourne

GETTING INTO PRINT

THE DECISION to buy a printer to complete your computer system will be one of the most difficult and certainly one of the most expensive which you as a Sinclair user will have to make. The variety of printers available tends to confuse rather than facilitate your choice and many of them are likely to cost than the rest of your system.

Yet if your are intending to use a Sinclair machine for something other than games playing, you will, sooner or later, need to make a permanent copy on paper. With that in mind Sinclair User looks at 11 printers, from the inexpensive to those suitable for small business.

THE FIRST consideration must be the purpose for which you intend to use a printer. All the printers reviewed will produce listings of programs, some faster than others and some more legibly. If you intend to do some word processing the type-style and method of printing is also important.

Most of the machines reviewed are dot matrix printers. That means that, just as characters on the screen are composed of a number of dots - pixels - the printer has a number of little pins which are pushed on to the paper, through the ribbon, to form the character. The greater the number of dots the better the definition of the character.

Just as user-defined graphics are made by changing the arrangement of the dots, dot matrix printers can easily change the type-style or the character. The printer holds those definitions in ROM and by telling it which set you want to use it can print in different type-styles and use different national characters, in some cases even Japanese.

Some of the printers use different methods. The Alphacom 32 and the Brother EP44 are thermal printers. That means they use special, more expensive paper although they are still dot matrix types. The pins become hot and cause the paper to change colour. The Brother can also use plain paper with the addition of a special ribbon.

The Dyneer DW16 is a daisywheel printer, using a wheel which has each character, like those on a typewriter, at the end of a spoke. To change type-styles the wheel has to be changed.

The Olivetti JP101 has a small cartridge which fires an ink-jet at the paper. As there are few mechanical parts the printer is quieter than most.

The Tandy CGP-115 has four ball-point pens which form characters by moving the pen horizontally and the paper up and down.

The speed of a printer normally is measured in characters per second; in theory the higher the number the greater the speed. To test that we used a standard body of text, the first chapter of Genesis, and timed how long it needed to print. The text was prepared using Tasword 2 and printed via a Kempston E interface, where suitable, a total of 796 words over 77 lines.

The results were surprising. The Microline 80, with a quoted speed of 80 cps, took nearly twice as long as the Mannesmann Tally MT80 and three times as long as the Olivetti. The answer would be to take such quoted figures only as a very rough guide.

Another thing to consider is how you want to drive the printer. Two of the machines reviewed connect directly to a Sinclair computer, the Alphacom 32 and the Seikosha. While that is undoubtedly the cheapest method, when and if you upgrade your computer you are left with a printer you may not be able to connect to your new machine.

There are two standards by which printers normally are driven, Centronics and RS232. Roughly speaking, Centronics interfaces have eight wires so that the bits of each byte travel to the printer at the same time along each wire. Serial interfaces have one wire and the bits travel along it one after the other.

Whether you use Centronics or RS232 does not make much difference so long as you do not try to mix them. On many of the printers Centronics is fitted as standard and RS232 is available as an add-on at extra cost.

Your future plans must be taken into consideration. Users with a Microdrive can use the RS232 port fitted. If you are thinking of buying a QL it also has an RS232 port fitted as standard. Other add-ons such as modems also tend to use RS232 and so the system has advantages, despite the extra cost.

The width of paper the printer can handle may also be a consideration. Normal listings may use only 32 columns but if you like to add REM statements at the side or for word processing, 80 is the minimum.

It is often necessary to indicate to the printer what you want it to do, whether changing the type-style or feeding paper through it. There is a standard for it known as ESCape codes, i.e., codes which escape from normal printing to do something different. Those codes were originated by Epson and are now used by most other makes of printer.

To help you each printer is now considered, briefly, in turn. The Sinclair printer has not been included as it has been discontinued and will be available only while stocks last.

Alphacom 32 is the cheapest on the market at the moment. It has reasonable print quality and is easy to use. It has only a ZX-81 size connector, so Spectrum users must use it as the last add-on. From Dean Electronics or Prism.

Seikosha GP50S is an inexpensive plain-paper printer, not particularly fast and rather noisy but easy to use. It has a Spectrum-size edge connector, so ZX-81 users will need an extender card not yet available from Seikosha, so try Eprom Services. From Dean Electronics or Prism.

Tandy CGP-115 is the cheapest colour printer; it is very slow but can do pleasant graphics with the appropriate software. From retail shops.

Microline 80 is supplied with roll paper holder as standard. It uses ordinary typewriter ribbons. It has only one type-style. From X-Data.

Brother EP44 is a portable typewriter with RS232 connection. It is not really suitable as a computer printer but as a typewriter it is amazing. From local typewriter shops.

Olivetti JP101 is a quiet ink-jet printer; it has slightly blurred print but is reasonably fast.

Epson RX80 is the standard by which other printers are measured. It is versatile with clear print and all the facilities you are liable to need.

Star Gemini-10X was caught by a recent price reduction for the Epson which it mirrors. It may be discounted further. From London Computer Centre or Micro Peripherals.

Mannesmann Tally MT80 is a good looking printer, also heavily discounted.

Canon PW1080A is very fast and has a good range of facilities, including programmable characters. It is slower in near letter-quality mode. From London Computer Centre or Micro Peripherals.

Dyneer DW16 is a business users' daisywheel printer. The code is compatable with Diablo printers. From X-Data.

British Olivetti Ltd, 86-88 Upper Richmond Road, London SW15 2UR.

Dean Electronics Ltd, Glendale Park, Fernbank Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 8JB.

DRG Business Systems Ltd, Peripheral Division. 29 Lynx Crescent, Winterstoke Road, Weston-super-Mare. Avon BS24 9DN.

London Computer Centre, Grafton Way, London N1.

Mannesmann Tally Ltd, Molly Millar Lane, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG11 2QT.

Micro Peripherals Ltd, Basing, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG24 0BY.

Prism Microproducts Ltd, 18-29 Mora Street, City Road. London EC1.

X-Data Ltd, 750-751 Deal Avenue, Slough Trading Estate, Slough, Berkshire SL1 4SH.

Alphacom 32
Rec. retail price: 70
Centronics Port: No
RS232 Port: No
Sinclair Port: Yes
Plain/Thermal: Thermal
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 32
Dots per character: 8x8
Characters per sec.: Not Known
Time for test (secs.): 50
Max. paper width (inches): 4.25
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: No
Different type-styles: No
Graphics: Yes

Seikosha GP50S
Rec. retail price: 138
Centronics Port: No
RS232 Port: No
Sinclair Port: Yes
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 32
Dots per character: 7x7
Characters per sec.: 40
Time for test (secs.): 152
Max. paper width (inches): 5
Line feed button: No
Escape codes: No
Different type-styles: No
Graphics: Yes

Tandy CGP-115
Rec. retail price: 149
Centronics Port: Yes
RS232 Port: Yes
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Pen
Characters per line: 40/80
Dots per character: N/A
Characters per sec.: 12
Time for test (secs.): 483 1440
Max. paper width (inches): 4.25
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: No
Different type-styles: No
Graphics: Yes

Microline 80
Rec. retail price: 229
Centronics Port: Yes
RS232 Port: £68
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 80
Dots per character: 9x7
Characters per sec.: 80
Time for test (secs.): 170
Max. paper width (inches): 8.5
Line feed button: No
Escape codes: No
Different type-styles: No
Graphics: No

Brother EP44
Rec. retail price: 253
Centronics Port: No
RS232 Port: Yes
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Thermal/Plain
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 80
Dots per character: 24x18
Characters per sec.: 16
Time for test (secs.): 383
Max. paper width (inches): 8.5
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: No
Different type-styles: No
Graphics: No

Olivetti JP101
Rec. retail price: 265
Centronics Port: Yes
RS232 Port: £40
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Ink Jet
Characters per line: 80
Dots per character: 7x7
Characters per sec.: 80
Time for test (secs.): 67
Max. paper width (inches): 9
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: Yes
Different type-styles: No
Graphics: Yes

Epson RX80
Rec. retail price: 286
Centronics Port: No
RS232 Port: £69
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 80
Dots per character: 9x9
Characters per sec.: 100
Time for test (secs.): 80
Max. paper width (inches): 8.5
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: Yes
Different type-styles: Yes
Graphics: Yes

Star Gemini 10X
Rec. retail price: 286
Centronics Port: Yes
RS232 Port: £80
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 80
Dots per character: 9x9
Characters per sec.: 120
Time for test (secs.): 69
Max. paper width (inches): Unknown
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: Yes
Different type-styles: Yes
Graphics: Yes

Mannesmann Tally MT80
Rec. retail price: 299
Centronics Port: Yes
RS232 Port: £57
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 80
Dots per character: 7x8
Characters per sec.: 80
Time for test (secs.): 92
Max. paper width (inches): Unknown
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: Yes
Different type-styles: No
Graphics: Yes

Canon PW1080A
Rec. retail price: 367
Centronics Port: Yes
RS232 Port: Unknown
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Dot
Characters per line: 80
Dots per character: 11x9
Characters per sec.: 160
Time for test (secs.): 48
Max. paper width (inches): 10
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: Yes
Different type-styles: Yes
Graphics: Yes

Dyneer DW16
Rec. retail price: Unknown
Centronics Port: £378
RS232 Port: £413
Sinclair Port: No
Plain/Thermal: Plain
Printing method: Daisy
Characters per line: 101
Dots per character: N/A
Characters per sec.: 14
Time for test (secs.): 330
Max. paper width (inches): 10
Line feed button: Yes
Escape codes: Yes
Different type-styles: Yes
Graphics: No

Not Rated

Screenshot Text

Alphacom 32

Seikosha GP50S

Tandy CGP-115

Microline M80

Epson RX80

Brother EP44

Star Gemini 10X

Olivetti JP101

Mannesmann Tally MT80

Canon PW1080A

Dyneer DW16