Encad's V8 eight color printer, the Encad NovaJet 850, compared with Roland's V8 HiFi Pro.

Its legacy Lexmark printheads, stuck at 600 dpi, keeps Encad out of the high end. Nonetheless, Encad managed to win the inkjet shoot-out in its category, with an Ilford version of its model 850 beating even Hewlett-Packard's DesignJet 5000. This was reportedly a result of using multiple black inkset along with six colors (2 blacks and regular 6 colors together).

Another clever feature of the NovaJet 850 of course is that you can use dual sets of CMYK, just as on the Roland HiFi PPro 8-color piezo printer. The Roland is too slow if you attempt to use all eight colors. Some people put four dye-based CMYK and four pigmented CMYK and run their Roland or Encad in that manner. This way you don't have to do a messy switching of inks, though at least the Encad has a dual-set of ink lines (for at least six of the inks).

ICC Profiles when you change Ink.

Encad itself offers GA, GO, GS plus and other inks. DuPont now offers the original GO inks under the brand name DuPont Fusion. So if you switch to DuPont Fusion, that is the identical ink which was inside the old Encad GO boxes. This means you don’t get your ICC profiles or color management messed up by switching to whatever totally new and different ink Kodak has put in the GO box today.

Comparison among printers with eight inks.

In terms of quality there is no comparison between the output of Roland's 8 color printer and Encad's. The Roland is noticeably superior when you use all eight colors at full photo-quality. But it takes up to 2 hours to do a single 36"or 42" print at full width with the Roland. If you need to produce 100 copies of a print you can't afford to have that take several weeks. Your clients will desert you in droves and jump to the competition (who probably have a ColorSpan or HP 5000 for speed).

So far we have heard no particular complaints about design defects of the Encad 850. I do notice, however, that both Oce and Ilford (and now probably also Kodak) tweaked better performance out of this printer than Encad itself. This is because Oce and Ilford use better RIPs and a clever ink recipe. Ilford allows use of three blacks with five colors. ColorSpan is tops: they have quad blacks with seven colors simultaneously on the Mach 12.

Realize that if you intend to gain some speed by using dual CMYK that you will not achive the color gamut of the full 8 color palette. It is either one or the other, speed (dual 4-color) or wider gamut (full 8-color). You do not get both.

It's nice that Encad is surviving, though it faltered the last eight months by failing to deliver any new printer model. The Kodak 5260 was finally admitted to have been a failure of the previous management. And the new direct to substrate printer was brought to SGIA tradeshow but at the last minute was not taken out of the shipping crate. All dozen crated examples were never shown publicly.

Encad developed the first commercially successful color inkjet printers in the early 1990's, so are the source of the entire industry. Unfortunately Encad can't escape its limitations, namely being restricted by the low dpi of the Lexmark heads it uses for lack of owning its own printhead technology.

Since both HP and Canon both own their own printhead patents and factories, both can develop superior thermal printhead technology. As soon as Canon gets its wide format marketing strategy organized, Canon may do to Encad what Canon copiers already did to Xerox. The only thing saving Encad at the moment is the fact that Canon can't yet get pigmented inks through its BubbleJet printheads. But today (winter 2003), Canon also offers pigmented ink with a phenomenal printhead .

Comments on the Encad NovaJet 850 printer.

If you are doing basic signs, if you don't mind the slightly grainy dithering pattern that is the legacy of the Lexmark printheads and Encad software, then the 850 is an okay printer. Just be sure you check out the Ilford or Oce version, as they may have better inks and better RIP.

If you prefer better dpi and less grainy dithering pattern, then the HP DesignJet 5500 would be a good selection. Piezo printheads are, for this current generation and into next year, still too slow. Even the Epson 10000, advertised as "30% faster" is better known as "30% less slow." Only if you chose a dual 6-ink piezo printer (such as the Mimaki JV4) can you get output which is less slow.

For additional information and for help making your decision , you can order the "FLAAR report on signs, posters, banners." You can also ask for the previews of any FLAAR series. Previews are free and self-downloadable.

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.

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

Finally, a FLAAR report specifically on the Encad NovaJet 850

Nicholas Hellmuth just finished a site-visit case study of a print shop with two Encad 850's and one Encad 880. We report the comments of the printer operator with our usual blunt, pithy, and direct manner. If you are considering going for an Encad NovaJet 850 or 880, you might wish to get this report first.

We also offer FLAAR Reports on ColorSpan, HP, and Epson printers. All our reports are pictured on www.wide-format-printers.NET .

Encad, NovaJet, Octachrome, 850 and comparable model names are registered trademarks or otherwise property of Encad. Visit our page on the NovaJet 1000i.