Observations on the Encad NovaJet 500, Encad NovaJet 505, and Encad NovaJet Xsell inkjet printers.

The Encad NovaJet 500 series (Encad NovaJet 505, Encad NovaJet Xsell) are all modest improvements on the venerable Encad NovaJetPro 50. These 300 dpi printers are still current models though can barely keep pace with the newer, faster, higher quality printers from everyone else. Downside is only four colors rather than six plus the traditional dotty-grainy pattern that reveals the early generation of the software and Lexmark printheads. I don't know who makes the software, but it sure results in using lots of ink. The only advantage is that the massive ink usage obliterates the horizontal banding tracks that plague most other printers, especially those with piezo heads.

Positive features are that early Encad tend to hold up well and have simple mechanics. In other words you can practically service them yourself. I have always liked Encad inks, though there was a class action lawsuit over one of the inks for one of the models (for the 600 PROe??).

Normally we would not maintain reviews on what is essentially a printer from a bygone earlier era. But Encad 500 printers keep popping up for sale. Thus people should know what to expect. If this printer had the same ink-line system as my earlier NovaJet Pro 36", then you can expect a mess changing inks, and headaches keeping air out of the ink lines. Reportedly the newest generation of Encad printers have overcome most of these glitches, though some Encad printers of year 2001 had a skewing problem (the media would not feed evenly; it would skew to one side).

However if you can get a used HP 2000, 2500, or 2800 for the same price as an Encad NovaJet 500 series, then you might have a much better deal with the 600 dpi quality. Encad of course also makes 600 dpi, with the Encad NovaJet 600PROe, but we have reports that the printheads still had clogging problems in those models. Evidently it was not until the Encad 700 that they heads finally improved.

Downside of those models of HP printers is starwheel marks if you use backlit or some other kinds of media. The other glitch of the HP 2000 and 3000 series was non-continuous ink supply. If you printed a long banner or mural the printer would stop after about 10 feet to get more ink, and leave a defect across the print at that point. As you might expect, the HP 5000 got rid of all those problems completely. Thus also the newest Encad NovaJet models, the 850 and 880, have improvements over the NovaJet 500.Visit our page on the NovaJet 1000i.

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 is making misleading claims, then ask for the entertaining FLAAR report on "When the Sales Rep is moving in for the Sale." This factual report 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.

If you really want technical details on inkjet media, inks, and/or inkjet printhead technology, and especially if you wish to meet the movers and shakers in this industry, be sure to sign up for the next conference organized by IMI. Their contact is [email protected]. These seminars are outstanding; the senior review editor of FLAAR usually attends because he can get so much fresh information for the readers of the FLAAR Reports in PDF format and the FLAAR Information Network of web sites.


Most recently updated Aug. 16, 2002.
Previous updates: June 1, 2002, December 12, 2001.