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Primera Signature IV CD Color Printer

Bob Starrett

Primera Signature IV CD Color Printer
synopsis: The Signature IV is quiet and fast, the print quality is outstanding, and, in testing it worked without a hitch. For those of us who are bedeviled by printer problems and are used to using a Sharpie to mark our discs, the Signature IV is a perfect addition to our recording repertoire. In business and professional applications that demand labeling acuity–from the clear and consistent to the attractive and artistic–an inkjet of this quality is a necessity, and a reasonably priced one at that. For the company that must distribute discs to customers, and is still using paper labels printed on a regular printer, Primera's Signature IV is a must-have.

price: $1495

Primera Technology, Inc.
Two Carlson Parkway North
Plymouth, MN 55447-4446
763/475-6676; Fax 763/475-6677
http://www.primeratechnology.com

June 2001 | I never got along well with printers. Somehow, the gods have seen fit to make me the target of every paper jam, bad toner cartridge, bad printer driver, and every other strange going-on that can happen when your simple goal is to print words or images on a piece of paper. In fact, I hate printers. I have hated every printer I have owned from my first four-character-per-second daisywheel to my current state-of-the-art laser printer/scanner/copier/fax. If my life depended on printing a single sheet of paper between now and the end of the day, I would surely die. So it was with some trepidation that I accepted the assignment to review the Primera Signature IV disc printer, lest my curse be visited upon an otherwise fine product.

For those companies who must present a professional appearance in the discs they produce, a CD printer is a necessity. Many computer programs are now delivered on CD-R instead of on pressed CD. If distribution is rather small, CD-R is a more flexible and cost-effective way to deliver software than pressed CDs, and recent consolidation in the replication industry only points toward a widening of the gulf between the cost-effective pressed-disc run and the typical business application volume output.

What's more, the printers have obviously done much to close the aesthetic gap between pressed and burned product. I can't count the times that I've opened a CD jewel case and mistaken a CD-R for a pressed CD because of the quality of the label. And many of those labels were printed on Primera printers. The Primera Signature IV is widely available as a standalone compact disc inkjet printer, and stands tall among the competition in the inkjet field. It has also made its mark as an integrated component of many disc duplication systems.

let's print?

Out of the well-packed Primera box comes the printer, power supply, print cartridge, spare cartridge holder, and 32-page manual. The included application software disc contains the SureThing CD Labeler software for Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000, the color printer driver for Windows 95 and 98, the color printer driver for Windows NT and 2000, and a 32-bit print spooler for Windows 95 and 98. An operator's manual in PDF Format and Acrobat Reader 4.05 are also on the disc.

The hardware setup is simple: plug it in, attach a parallel printer cable, turn it on, and install the print cartridge. Software installation is simple too, and well-guided by the manual. Install the printer driver, the spooler, and the SureThing software. That's it, you are ready to print. But what about me, ever-cursed in printing pursuits? Would my bad luck follow me into CD printing, and condemn me to permanent residence in Sharpie-labeling limbo? Could I actually get a CD to print when I had not been able to print a piece of paper in over three months? Read on.

just a printer-a good thing

Of course, the great thing about the Primera Signature IV is that it is just a printer. That means that you can print to CD from any program, so there are no limitations on what you can do as far as design. To generate surface-adorning content, you can use your favorite graphics program, a word processor, or any other CD labeling software. However, the SureThing soft- ware will perform just about any task; for ease of use, it has a completely customizable toolbar. It has a "wizard" that is handy and useful, taking you through each step and offering a range of nice backgrounds. All you need do is drop in your logo, enter the appropriate text into the preset boxes, and you are ready to go. On the other hand, you may import and use your own graphics, and even get text from a merge file.

It's easy to set print quality in the Printer Options box. Available resolutions and speeds include Fast 600, Normal 600, Best 600, Presentation 1200, and Super Photo. Average printing times go up incrementally, with Fast clocking in at 40 seconds, Normal at 1:30, Best at 2:14, Presentation at 2:44, and Photo at 4:05. Print quality changes too, of course, but Fast is good enough for in-house work, and Normal and above are good enough for distributed discs. Users should note that inkjet-printable CD-Rs are required for working with the printer; these are available from most major vendors, and pricing is, by and large, nicely aligned with comparable non-printable discs. The Signature IV is also the first model in the Signature series heralded as capable of printing on inkjet-compatible DVD-R media; this feature was not tested.

The SureThing software is, overall, very easy to use, especially if you are already familiar with graphics objects in other graphics programs. Of course, you may want to use your favorite graphics program, since the SureThing version that is included with the printer is a Limited Edition, and some features–like the ability to take input from scanners and digital cameras directly into the program–are disabled in this version. For a printer at this price ($1,495 MSRP) the user should not expect to have to upgrade the included software. Surely, Primera could have made a deal for the full version of SureThing that would've had minimal impact on its bottom line pricing on the Signature IV.

Overall, the experience with the Primera Signature IV made me wish that it would print paper, too. It is the only thing around this office that actually prints right now. The Signature IV is quiet and fast, the print quality is outstanding, and, in testing it worked without a hitch. For those of us who are bedeviled by printer problems and are used to using a Sharpie to mark our discs, the Signature IV is a perfect addition to our recording repertoire. In business and professional applications that demand labeling acuity–from the clear and consistent to the attractive and artistic–an inkjet of this quality is a necessity, and a reasonably priced one at that. While it would drive up costs considerably for the average user paying $200 for a recorder and $500 for a host PC, it makes a great addition all the same. It's also a PC-only product at this juncture, which is of little consequence in most CD-R circles, but its lack of Mac support could prove more significant as the next wave of CD-R-equipped iMacs inundates the market.

That said, for the company that must distribute discs to customers and is still using paper labels printed on a regular printer, Primera's Signature IV is a must-have. Fast, quiet, efficient, and easy-to-use best describe this latest CD printer product from Primera.


Bob Starrett (bobs@cdpage.com) is a contributing editor for EMedia Magazine, co-columnist for THE CD WRITER, and an independent consultant based in Denver, Colorado. He is the co-author, with EMedia Magazine contributor Josh McDaniel, of The Little CD Audio Recording Book, published by Peachpit Press.

Comments? Email us at letters@onlineinc.com.


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