February 18, 2008
Innovative CD/DVD Printer
What Goes Around Prints Nicely
$279.95 - Leopard Compatible
By David A. Saraceno
If you regularly print CD/DVDs on a tray-based inkjet printer, you know the whole process is a little wonky - - which literally means crooked, off-center and askew. At best, these printers require patience and a couple of resets to print a disc. But as the only low cost print game in town, they were a necessary evil -- until recently. DYMO, a leader in label printing, has implemented a radial print technology in a dedicated CD/DVD printer that sprays ink onto a spinning disc. The DiscPainter printer occupies a small footprint, is easy to set up and use, and produces acceptable prints on a variety of optical media. But it may not meet everybody's expectations.
The Hardware. The unit is small, lightweight, well-built, and oddly shaped printer measuring 4.3 by 5.7 by 10.6 inches. The package includes the Discus CD/DVD labeling application, Mac and PC drivers, a power cord/brick, standard USB cable, three-color ink cartridge, QuickStart guide, and several CD blanks. Mac Leopard (10.5.1) drivers recently became available at the company's web site, and will soon ship as part of the bundled installer CD.
Installation and Use.
Set up of the printer was straightforward. First remove the multiple safety styrofoam inserts and protective tape. Then insert the three-color ink cartridge into a slot on the top side of the printer. Power is supplied using a power brick and cord. There is no on/off switch. Then install the appropriate print driver, Discus labeling application, templates, and confirm the printer is recognized in your printer/fax pane in the System Preferences.
Once set up, the printer is delight to use. Launch Discus, which installs design templates and the instruction manual in your Applications folder. You can choose one of the supplied, but uninspired templates, or create one using your own graphics and text. Three progressively better print settings correspond with the type of blank CD/DVD you are using. The printer provides a default/draft mode that prints at 600 dpi in about one minute, but produces the least attractive output. The best quality mode (1200 dpi & 9-ink density) produces good results in about three minutes on glossy CD/DVD blanks. These settings are controlled in the print dialog tab of Discus. Best quality glossy discs come out slightly tacky, but dry quickly. Matte finishes were nice, but a step below in appearance to glossy blanks at best quality print settings. The printer is whisper quiet while printing.
The print process is a breeze, especially if your background is the tray-based mechanisms on low cost CD/DVD printers. Just slide the front cover open in the DiscPainter, place the blank in the tray, and close the cover. The printer moves the disc to the print area where ink is sprayed onto the blank as it rotates in place. There is no tray to align, or get stuck and the blanks stay in place as ink is applied. The $39.00 three-color ink cartridge should produce between 80 and 100 discs using the best quality setting with the highest ink density setting.
Things To Consider.
Despite this improved approach to printing CD/DVDs, the DiscPainter labors in a couple of areas. Most notable is the Discus label printing application, which lacks the polish and sophistication of competing software, such as Disc Cover from Belight Software. Its interface is clunky and counterintuitive, and the supplied templates are lacking. No clip art library is included, and text treatment is awkward. Fortunately, I could create CD/DVD graphics in Disc Cover, and export them for use in Discus. I also created a custom print template in Disc Cover and printed directly from the Disc Cover.
However, I was slightly disappointed with the print quality of the CD/DVDs. Even at best quality settings/ink density on glossy blanks the printed CDs exhibited some banding and dithering despite high resolution original graphics. A similar print from an older Epson R200 provide more even color. In part this may be attributable to the three-color ink cartridge used by the DYMO. The Epson utilizes a six cartridge system, but the cartridges are more expensive -- in fact, nearly three times the cost of the DYMO cartridge. I contacted DYMO with these concerns, and was assured that not all photos and graphics presented these issues and that company was focusing on continually improving the quality of the printer.
Finally, the DiscPainter is a one trick pony. It is limited to printing CD/DVDs. At $279.95, it isn't the least expensive alternative, but is certainly the easiest to set up and use. If you value your time and wish to avoid the frustration of tray based CD/DVD inkjet printers, then the DiscPainter is worth a look.
Copyright ©2008 David A. Saraceno
David A. Saraceno is a motion graphics artist located in Spokane, Washington. He has written for DV Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national legal technology magazines. David also moderates several forums on 2-pop.com.
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