OKIMATE 20 COLOR PRINTERREVIEWED BY PATRICK BASS, ANTIC ST PROGRAM EDITOR
Nearly every day Antic gets letters or phone calls asking if there are any color printers available for the Atari STs. We now answer that for picture quality at an affordable price, the $268 Okimate 20 color thermal (heat) transfer printer is an outstanding value.
Until now, our main complaint with most color printers has been their
dull colors, which never seemed to approach the boldness and richness of
the screen images. But the Okimate 20 can reproduce the colors on your
Atari ST screen with amazing fidelity. You get true ruby red, jet black,
lemon yellow, sky blue and over a hundred combinations in between. Tom
Hudson's famous Bee picture, originally drawn with his DEGAS software,
is reproduced almost perfectly, as you can see on these pages.
Above, a typical GEM Desktop in OKI-20 color
black, lemon yellow,
sky blue and over 100
At right, one of our DEGAS Art Contest winners, CACTUS.
Not only that, but due to the waxy ink used in the Okimate 20 ribbon, the printed picture has a sleek finish which makes it look impressively professional.
Okidata has taken a different course from most other printer manufacturers. Instead of making a lot of different printers that will be compatible with all the different brands of computers, they've taken the Okimate 20 and made small, plug-in cartridge interfaces for different computers. For example, here in the Antic offices we have the Okimate 20 for both the Atari ST and the Apple II computers. As an experiment, we commandeered the Apple II Okimate 20 and plugged the Atari ST interface into it. It worked perfectly the first time out.
The Okimate 20 is a snap to set up. While the printer comes m a separate box, the ST Interface package includes everything else you'll need to get going-including glossy coated paper, printer cable, a software printer driver, a color ribbon and a black ribbon. Olddata even includes an order sheet for more ribbons or paper.
Remove the printer from its box and plug it into the wall. The interface board plugs into a slot on the left side of the printer, and only fits in right-side up. (We know, we tried it upside down.) Install the color ribbon cassette by snapping it into place, thread some paper around the platen and the setup is finished. If you like, you can now run a built-in printer self-test routine to see how everything is performing.
To get pictures printing out, you need to run the Okimate software which drives the printer. This software may be installed inside an AUTO folder on your power-up disk, so the printer driver installs automatically when you turn the Atari ST on. After the driver is installed, all you do to print out the picture on your ST screen is hold down the [ALTERNATE] key while you press [HELPJ
QUIET, NOT SPEEDY
Make sure you watch the image coming out, because you won't hear this printer working at all! Since the Okimate 20 uses "thermal transfer" instead of "impact" technology for placing images on paper, there are no screeching printheads swinging back and forth. Just a smooth, quiet pass of the 24-pin printhead for each color desired. By the way, the Oki 20 can also produce nice-looking text in multi-color or black. However, this printer is not the fastest or cheapest way to print text.
We timed the Okimate 20's graphics screen dumps and found that 6 to 10 minutes were needed to print a picture completely. We also timed text dumps at 22 characters per second-the Okimate 20 required one minute and 50 seconds to print eight paragraphs of four 72-character lines each
The cost per page of Okimate 20 color printouts does add up-to about 75 cents per page, because of the special ribbons and paper required.
For best results, a very smooth paper is needed. Your Okidata cartridge pack supplies a sample sheaf of the coated stock recommended. Since the paper might not be available locally Okidata also includes an order sheet for getting more paper. A pack of 250 sheets sells for $6.50, or about 3 cents per sheet. Antic got adequate reproduction from the smooth paper designed for ink-jet printers, but we were less than happy with pictures printed on regular pin-feed computer paper. Incidentally, the Okimate 20 prints quite well on clear acetate plastic, suitable for projection transparencies.
The special color ribbon cassette needed for the Okimate 20 costs $5.49 and provides enough ribbon for 8-10 pictures. The ribbons cannot be used twice. The separate, completely black ribbon is good for approximately 75 pages of text. It can't be reused either, and costs $4.99 from Okidata. (If you want to use slippery thermal paper. which has its own disadvantages, the Okimate 20 will print in black without any ribbon.)
From the above prices, we calculated that each Okimate 20 color page will cost very close to 75 cents. Compare this to the cost per page for a typical Epson dot-matrix printer, which runs slightly less than five cents.
However, if what you want is artistic color printouts that accurately reproduce ST screen images, the Okimate 20 is what you've been looking for.
(Color Thermal Printer)
532 Fellowship Road
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054
CIRCLE 224 ON READER SERVICE CARD