Vutek UltaVu 2360 SC six color digital press.

Midrange solvent inkjet printers get better with each generation. The Vutek UltraVu 2360 SC has now achieved 360 dpi with six colors in an 80 inch printer.

This width is halfway between a grand format and simply an oversized large format printer (which go to 72" with the ColorSpan DisplayMaker 12). The newer Gretag Arizona offers 110 inches, the new Vutek 80 inches.

FLAAR is preparing to establish a larger printer evaluation center at a state university. We will gradually move our coverage to include more about solvent ink, UV curable ink, and thermal transfer printers. Only when a printer is accessible for systematic testing can we really provide documentation. Until that time we can depend solely on eyeball analysis at trade shows, end-user appraisals, and scrutiny of the advertising claims.

This printer is advertised as for posters, fleet graphics, transit bus wraps and shelters, tradeshow graphics, banners, point-of-purchase, airport advertising and telephone kiosks. Yet nowhere are billboards or building wrap mentioned. That is the realm of true grand format printers, the strength of the other larger Vutek models. This new model seems aimed downscale at whole other markets.

For fleet graphics, transit bus wraps, and banners that are far way, then 360 dpi is okay. But not for bus shelters. The backlit aspect highlights the defects of the banding and grainy dot pattern.

Same with airport advertising, since most are backlit. Telephone kiosks would be worse, since you are eyeball to eyeball, and you don't need an 80 inch printer to do those.

You don't need solvent inks for all airport advertising and definitely not for trade show graphics. Many banners and especially POP, hardly need solvent ink either.

Conclusion: Vutek is the more innovative of the solvent ink companies. Gretag, however, has staked out the midrange solvent ink market with their Arizona and Bellise. Gretag is now invading the grand format world with its new 110 inch printer. Vutek in turn is moving into Gretag's territory.

Competition is good for everyone, but I would think twice about using a 360 dpi solvent ink printer on the majority of items for which this printer is advertised. A ColorSpan would be vastly superior quality. The Vutek ad states..."the printer of choice for high quality."

Yes, high quality for low-dpi solvent ink printers. Anything in that realm is high quality when it's not streaky, banded, splotchy, and dotty. However it will take another generation of printers for Vutek to reach that quality. Arizona is very close. Within 2 years they will all be even closer.

We would want to utilize this printer ourselves, to see what kind of quality can be tweaked from it. Perhaps we might surprise ourselves. But from the specs alone, 360 dpi, and piezo printheads with solvent inks, that combo spells low quality. You already have the Arizona at one end of the spectrum and ColorSpan at the other end. ColorSpan is currently using the older HP printheads. Imagine the speed and quality of the ColorSpan when they incorporate HP's new wide-path thermal printheads, 12-printheads wide, three x CMYK. There is speed and quality together.

Vutek is to be commended for having vision. They recognize the key markets. Coming from the world of 75 dpi airbrush printers, then 360 dpi looks great. But when you are coming from the 4000 dpi world of Cymbolic Sciences LightJet, then the only inkjet printers which are acceptable as photo-realistic are ColorSpan or the new HP 5000ps. 360 dpi is not acceptable for a label as "quality." Epson and Roland are also photo-realistic, but are much too slow to be serious contenders in the outdoor sign market.

Speed is a different factor. High speed mode is usually unrealistic and none of the claimed advertised markets for this printer could accept a high speed mode print. The claimed markets would barely be covered by the slowest mode. Of course that alone is a considerable speed compared with normal-sized inkjets.

Eventually this printer will find a niche. Vutek has a respectable name. But the advertising claims have yet to be documented that POP or airport advertising would be as attractive from any solvent ink printer. It will come, but in two years' worth of subsequent generations of printers. And surely it will be Vutek leading the way.

Nicholas Hellmuth's thematic reports on large format printers for outdoor signage now available
discussion of large format printers for outdoor signs, banners, billboards, building wrap: lists of all the main solvent ink and oil-based ink printers along with thermal transfer printers which can be used outdoors with no lamination.
Reviews of large format printers most appropriate for signs, posters, banners including POP, primarily for indoor signage: HP, Encad, and more
large format printers appropriate for use in printing vehicle graphics, bus wrap and comparable outdoor use.
Media and inks for signs, posters, banners (for all printers, piezo as well as thermal inkjets, media for indoor as well as outdoor without lamination)
quick-start help, list of the best RIPs; hints for what accessories you need; list of where you can get books and training on digital imaging.
You can ask for one thematic report and two trade show reports at no cost
We do NOT cover: software headaches, obsolete equipment, color matching or problems caused by prior mistakes.

Our job is to save you from buying the wrong equipment by alerting you to advertising hype and help you avoid as many of the common pitfalls as possible. We even have a pithy report on "what to watch out for first-time buyers" when you suspect someone is making up claims in the hopes of luring you into buying their printer. Includes frank assessment of exaggerated longevity claims and gives lots of helpful tips and insight.

Some of the ads are so misleading that even pros are lured to buy an inadequate printer. So no matter what your experience level, you will find these reports informative.

To receive your report just fill out the easy Inquiry form. Yes, a live human being actually reads your e-mail, and will answer within 3 to 5 days. If you don't get your reports, please send a reminder. There is no cost.
All reports are appropriate for beginners, intermediate, hobby as well as graphics professional level.

Most recently updated August 02, 2001.