HP DeskJet 990cse review: HP DeskJet 990cse

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MSRP: $364.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

5 stars 1 user review

The Good Very good graphics quality; fast and quiet; automatic duplexing.

The Bad Expensive.

The Bottom Line A fast machine that prints both text and graphics very well.

7.0 Overall

The Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 990Cse's $399 street price is on the high side for an ink jet printer these days. On the other hand, it comes with a lot of features not found on other models, and it delivers very good image quality. The Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 990Cse's $399 street price is on the high side for an ink jet printer these days. On the other hand, it comes with a lot of features not found on other models, and it delivers very good image quality.

Excellent Graphics on Any Paper
The DeskJet 990Cse excelled in print quality, especially with graphics. On CNET Labs' tests, its plain-paper images ranked No. 1 among the printers we've evaluated. On coated paper, the graphics also looked great--colorful and detailed without undue artificial brightness. However, text printed on plain paper at 600 dots per inch (dpi) looked faint and feathery, rating just fair, though the same text on coated paper earned a good rating for crisp, dark, and clean lines. The DeskJet 990Cse's top resolution is 2,400 by 1,200 dpi, but you can use it only for printing photos with HP's PhotoREt III print technology (a software-enhanced interpolation).

You can feel even better about the pages you're printing because they'll come out fairly quickly and cheaply. The DeskJet 990Cse printed simple 600-dpi text at 4.2 pages per minute (ppm), making it one of the ten fastest printers we've tested. And at 4.1 cents per page of 600-dpi text and 26 cents per color page, the DeskJet 990Cse also ranks among the top 10 percent of the printers we've tested for economy.

Bells and Whistles Aplenty
The DeskJet 990Cse offers many unusual and useful features. For instance, it's one of the few ink jets in its class to have Cancel and Pause buttons on its front panel; most make you intervene through the software driver. It's also one of only a handful of printers that has an IrDA-compliant infrared port for interfacing with PDAs, digital cameras, and laptops. Another noteworthy feature is the built-in, automatic paper-type sensor, which accurately discerns and sets parameters for glossy paper, plain paper, transparency stock, and so on. Most notably, the printer's Automatic Two-Sided Printing Module lets you print in duplex without having to baby-sit the pages as they come through; however, the process adds about 30 seconds of print time per sheet. Add an HP JetDirect External Print Server (which costs extra), and you can even network the printer.

The DeskJet 990Cse's driver software also offers plenty of choices. You can select print quality (draft, normal, best); paper type and size; n-up printing of up to four reduced-size pages on a single sheet; and poster printing. You can tell the printer to produce text and images in a format that will fax or photocopy clearly; you can also adjust color tone, saturation, and brightness via sliding scales.

Without a Hitch
Setting up the DeskJet 990Cse was easy and uneventful. The printer is both Windows (3.1, 95, 98, NT 4.0, 2000, ME) and Mac (OS 8.5 or above) compatible, and it connects via parallel or USB. In addition to the Quick Start poster, an included CD-ROM contains an electronic user's guide. Installing the ink cartridges is quick, simple, and foolproof. Lift the printer's cover, and a yellow arrow points to one of five print cartridge status icons to warn you of problems. During actual printing, the machine runs smoothly and quietly.

Free technical support for the DeskJet 990Cse is available by phone during its one-year warranty period, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. MT and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. MT (long-distance charges may apply). Toll-free, automated support is available via phone, and the company's Web site provides software updates, printing tips, and manuals.

The $399 HP DeskJet 990Cse isn't cheap, but it offers plenty for the money, including great print quality, competitive speed, and a plethora of high-end features, such as an infrared port, automatic duplex-printing, and networkability.

The HP 990Cse pumped out a very respectable 4.2 pages per minute, but it was no match for the Epson 980, which sped ahead of the pack.

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