Two Good Inexpensive Printers
Panasonic 1080i and Okidata 180
The Panasonic KX-Pl080i dot-matrix printer is not exactly new. However, a substantial number of Antic readers have sent in questions about using various programs with the 1080i. So we decided to obtain one of these Panasonic printers and see what made it so popular with Atari users.
Meanwhile, at the June 1987 Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, Antic was impressed by the brand-new Okidata 180 and asked to be put on the list for one of the first hatch of review units.
As it happened, these two 9-pin dot-matrix printers arrived at Antic about three days apart. So although we're not really trying to rate the Oki and the Panasonic "against each other," it simply became more efficient to cover both the 180 and 1080i in a single article.
The bottom line is that these printers are both good, inexpensive products with adequate graphics capabilities. If either model is on sale in your hometown while you're out shopping for a printer, you wouldn't go wrong buying it.
The Okidata 180 is compatible with the Epson FX-80. The Panasonic is supposed to be compatible with an Epson RX-80, which Antic doesn't own. However, we did find that most of the 1080i control codes ran under our Epson drivers.
To work with Atari 8-bit computers, both of these printers require a parallel interface such as ICD's P:R: Connection or the discontinued Atari 850. For an ST, they would simply plug into the parallel port.
Both machines delivered high-quality text printouts, but-at least on Antic's sample units-the Panasonic printouts were somewhat darker. Graphics printouts on the Panasonic were much darker, even with brand-new ribbons on both printers.
Each printer has several typefaces and pitches, but the Panasonic affords more combinations than the Okidata. For instance, you can print bold or double-width near letter-quality on the Panasonic. The near letter-quality font on the Panasonic is probably a more "classic" style than the Oki, but Okidata's near letter-quality printouts seemed "cleaner." Also, the Oki's condensed print is actually smaller than that of the Panasonic.
With a short Atari BASIC program, I created a text file of exactly 20,000 characters to test print speed for each printer. The Panasonic printed the document at 83 characters per second in pica (10 characters per inch) and 19 characters per second in near letter-quality. Printouts of 62-sector Micro-Illustrator pictures came out in two minutes flat.
The Okidata 180 also printed the 20,000-character document at 83 characters per second in pica. However, near letter-quality speed was 31 characters per second. Both printers require two passes for near letter-quality, but the Oki prints the first pass from left to right and the second pass from right to left. Both Panasonic passes are from left to right. Micro-Illustrator graphics took three seconds longer than on the Panasonic.
The Oki, in addition to regular draft mode, has a "highspeed draft" mode which sacrifices a little print quality for speed. Pica print speed in high-speed increased to 94 characters per second, while elite (12 characters per inch) printouts yielded 109 characters per second, spewing out the seven-page, single-spaced test document in just over three minutes.
The Panasonic is a fairly loud printer, whether it's printing text or graphics. The Oki is quiet when printing text, but when printing graphics it makes loud, distracting "wounded-animal" noises. On the other hand, unlike the Panasonic, the Oki 180 doesn't waste fanfold paper when you tear off a sheet after a printout.
With each printer connected to an Atari 8-bit computer, we printed pictures created on a 1040ST from the ST SCAN Image Scanner by Navarone Industries (reviewed in February 1988 Antic). These pictures were converted to RLE format, uploaded to the ANTIC ONLINE personal file-space on CompuServe, downloaded to an Atari 8-bit and, finally, converted from RLE to Micro-Illustrator format. The original ST printouts included some scanned or digitized images, as well as DEGAS-generated pictures and screen dumps.
The Panasonic, especially with a new ribbon, gives clean, dark printouts. The Old printouts are clean as well, but not nearly as dark. On both, white lines are more noticeable than one would like. Also, the Oki often stops after printing about 10 lines, catches its breath for a few seconds before continuing.
A more significant problem seems to be that both printers' ribbons have a very short life-causing unevenness, especially in the Oki printouts. Panasonic guarantees its ribbons-the $12.99 KXP110i (or the KXP110 which also works)-for 3 million characters in draft mode. Okidata ribbons cost $8.95 each.
The Panasonic manual runs 112 pages and the Okidata manual is 90 pages long. The Panasonic illustrations are a bit confusing, but the text does a good job of leading the reader by the hand. The overall look of the Okidata manual is uneven and somewhat drab. And as far as that Oki documentation is concerned, computers are divided into two categories-Commodore and Everything Else. In fact, about 30 pages are entirely Commodore-specific.
Either printer is worth having. They're both faster than any of the
Antic editorial department's present 9-pin dot-matrix printers and they're
at least as easy to use. However, the customer support at Panasonic is
thorough and helpful-a clear edge over Okidata, whose 800 number is virtually
Panasonic Industrial Company
Computer Products Division
2 Panasonic Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094
$269 (ribbons $12.99)
CIRCLE 180 ON READER SERVICE CARD
532 Fellowship Road
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054
$329 (ribbons $8.95)
CIRCLE 181 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Panasonic 1080i draft and near letter quality.
Okidata 180 draft and near letter quality.
Panasonic 1080i graphics.
Okidata 180 graphics.
Panasonic 1080i graphics.
Okidata 180 graphics.