Star Micronics NX-1020 Rainbow. (24-pin dot matrix printer) (evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
Star Micronic's latest rainbow release is a solid performer at a reasonable cost. The 1020 Rainbow boasts just enough special features, not only to set it apart from other low-cost dot-matrix printers, but also to make it worth considering over certain 24-pin models.
Top on the features list, obviously, is color. Adopting the Epson FX-850 emulation (the standard setup out of the box) allows the Rainbow to use the ZX9CL ribbon to print colorful documents from software that supports color printing. (Star is readying drivers specifically designed for the 1020 Rainbow; a Windows driver is already available, if you're using graphics programs in that environment.)
You can easily control color printing from the printer's front panel with the template card that Star provides. The plastic card fits over the control panel and indicates which button to press for selecting various colors. The selections are also documented in the manual, but it's much easier to use the card--keep it in a safe place.
The front panel controls much more than color, however. From here you can also control print modes, fonts, and paper handling. It's this last that makes the 1020 Rainbow worth considering as a low-end printer. The printer's paper-parking and sheet-feeding mechanisms work flawlessly, once the paper is properly loaded. These features allow you to print single sheets without having to completely unload tractor-fed paper. In addition, the printer handles multipart forms, which are useful for invoicing and shipping in a home office setting. Tractor-fed paper can be loaded either from the back or the bottom of the printer, giving you further options in placing your printer in the office.
Print quality from the 1020 Rainbow is what you'd expect from a nine-pin dot-matrix printer. From a highspeed draft mode to a Courier typeface in near letter quality (NLQ) mode, your printouts will serve the purposes for which they were designed. Draft mode is very quick and readable; NLQ in both serif and sans-serif faces is very presentable for short documents; a Script typeface is useful for documents needing a special touch.
Noise levels at home are a real concern, and impact printers are notorious for their high noise levels during operation. Star has mitigated this effect somewhat with a rounded, ergonomic design that somewhat muffles the machine noise, insofar as the noise level of a nine-pin printer can be muffled. The noise level is not so annoying that it requires you to leave the room when printing, but it will prove distracting during telephone calls.
Star built this printer for the first-time buyer and for home office workers who need a printer with solid paper-handling features at a low price. Both of these groups could do with better documentation than is provided with this printer. The manual is, in many respects, quite complete, and it covers everything from initial setup to external commands that you can send from your computer for advanced functions. There's even a section that explains how to create your own characters to use with the printer. For all of those excellent qualities, however, the manual assumes, perhaps wrongly, that the user knows a fair amount about printers. A second brief "starter guide" that describes printer setup, paper loading, and front-panel controls in general nontechnical language would be a superb addition to the 1020 Rainbow package.
Designed for low-volume home use, the NX-1020 Rainbow is a solid performer with superb paper-handling features and the added benefit of color printing. If you're in the market for a printer and you want to keep your costs down while maintaining a professional presentation, the Star Micronics NX-1020 Rainbow is an attractive option.