DuPont now offers Fusion GO ink for Encad Novajet 600 PROe.

Today a host of new options in inks is being offered. Kodak bought Encad and hence wanted to have its own Kodak ink in Encad printers. For years Encad owners had grown to accept the Encad GO, which was actually made by DuPont. So now DuPont offers the same GO ink under its own brand as DuPont Fusion ink.

Thousands of elderly Encad NovaJet 600 PROe, NovaJet 630, NovaJet 700, are still readily available on the used printer market. Hence it is crucial to have an independent source of frank discussion about whether it is worthwhile to buy a legacy printer of this generation.

Encad has slowly improved their models so the Encad NovaJet 600PROe and Encad 630 eliminated many of the problems of the older NovaJetPro 36 and Pro 50. Air-in-the-ink-lines and a messy procedure to change inks were the primary design weaknesses of those earlier NovaJetPro models of circa 1997. The 600 series date from about 1999. Unfortunately the Lexmark printheads are a continued weak point of the overall Encad system.

The 600 and 630 are earlier models so they have the heavy inkjet dot pattern inherent in the printhead and its software. Epson was the first company to recognize that the dithering pattern of dot placement is as important as the printhead. Thus Epson makes outstanding printheads and a really great dithering pattern (its all software). Encad does not manufacture its own printer heads, they buy them from Lexmark. And evidently Encad did not put (or have) much money with which to develop dithering pattern software. The HP DesignJet 2xxx and 3xxx also had visible dots in light areas but not as bad as Encad produces. Error correction mode on the HP 2800 that we have produces some outstanding images. I did the same image on an Encad 700 and got a heavy dot pattern, so heavy it actually made the colors dirty gray.

Encad printers are well designed in the sense of being simple. They don't have all the sensors and self-improving onboard test systems that an HP printer offers. Yet in the long run the Encad printers hold up fairly well, probably because they have so few moving parts.

Most of Encad's products are a bit past their prime, especially the Encad Chroma 23, Encad 500, 505, and Nova Xsell. Other companies such as Hewlett-Packard have phased out their 600 dpi models and moved to 1200 dpi as well as to more sophisticated dithering patterns. But Lexmark has not improved their printheads much, so the Encad NovaJet 600 PROe and 630 remained stuck with 600 dpi and with uninspiring printheads. Clogging is a continual problem with this generation of printhead.Visit our page on the NovaJet 1000i.

I was on an inspection tour of sign shops in Mumbai India (Feb. 2001). Most of the sign shops had Encad printers. All complained about the printheads clogging, and then failing. This is what gives thermal printheads such a bad name overall. Epson uses these reports to convince buyers that piezo printheads are inherently superior. But we have learned from users that even piezo printheads fail (Roland's version of the Epson printheads suffer head strikes). Also, Epson printheads constantly get clogged. The difference is that Encad-Lexmark heads get clogged and then after a few cleanings they are dead. With the Epson heads you can do a forced purge, where the system forces a large amount of ink through the heads and that pushes out the dust, ink particles, and general stuff that tends to clog such heads.

A main advantage of Encad's earlier printers was that you could use aftermarket inks. Just pour them into the ink holder (after carefully cleaning out the other ink, a chore that could take up to 6 hours). The newer Encad systems attempt to put a blocking chip that seeks to force you to use only Encad inks. Of course most of the better aftermarket ink companies have a workaround. DuPont Fusion GO replacement inks work just fine.

Conclusion: if the Encad 600 dpi printers are super low price, consider them on that basis alone. But HP 600 dpi printers have dropped considerably in price too. The advent of the six-color 1200 dpi HP 5000ps hand 5500 has resulted in the price drop on the four-color 600 dpi HP 2000, 2500, and 2800, as well as the 54" HP 3000, 3500, and 3800. I have seen 54" HP printers with 600 dpi being sold for less price than the older Encad NovaJetPro with only 50" width and a mere 300 dpi.

If you want print quality, then compare the same image on a ColorSpan, on an HP 5000, and on the Encad 850. If you are buying only on price, compare the Encads with early HPs.

Don't buy the HP DesignJet 450, 6xx, or 7xx printers; they are only for drawings; they are not for sign shops. HP no longer offers spare parts for the 6xx DesignJet printers either. Realize that Epson and Roland printers are too slow. When you run them at their less-slow modes you get banding defects. Ink costs for an Epson may eat your bottom line.

For additional information and for help making your decision, ask for the "FLAAR report on inkjet printers for signs, posters, banners" (specify whether for indoor signs or outdoor signs in the rain and sun). You can also ask for the report on "Media and Inks for Sign Printing with Large Format Inkjet."

If this will be your first printer, then we have a special report that holds your hand and leads you through all the basic questions that will assist a first-time buyer of a large format printer. Purchase the FLAAR report on "RIP + Help." This explains what RIP software is, why this is useful, and includes tips, warnings, information, and help for a wide range of matters for a newbie. Here you will really appreciate that FLAAR is based at a university; Professor Hellmuth has plenty of experience writing in a manner that explains what you need, and why.

If you suspect advertising hype, then order the entertaining FLAAR report on "When the Sales Rep is moving in for the Sale." This factual Survival Guide explains bait-and-switch, misleading product comparisons, and some of the tricks when you are in the sales room. Why wait until you find out the foibles and glitches in your new printer when it's too late, already paid for, and already in your home or business?

No, we can't save you from printer problems that we don't know about, and yes, even the worst printer has some redeeming usefulness. Thus you need to make the final decision yourself. But at least we can provide plenty of helpful tips.

The FLAAR reports also indicate which relabeled Encad printers from Oce, Kodak, Ilford, or Gerber are identical to the Encad models.

All reports By Dr. Nicholas Hellmuth.

Encad, NovaJetPROe, Octachrome, 850 and comparable model names are registered trademarks or otherwise property of Encad. V8 is used both by Encad and by Roland.


Most recently updated Jan 6, 2003.
Previous updates: June 1, 2002, March 7, 2001.