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Do I need an HP DesignJet or an HP PageWide XL?

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If you’re the office manager for an AEC firm, and you’ve been tasked with searching for a large format printer, you’ve probably noticed the huge discrepancy in price between devices. One model may cost just over $1,000, and another can carry a price tag of $40,000 and over.

So what’s going on behind the scenes that causes one printer to cost as much as a bicycle, and another the price of a luxury car, especially when they do the same thing?

It’s a good question, and we’re glad you’re asking it. As the largest independent copier dealer in Virginia with over 30 years of experience, we know the needs of offices vary, and with it, the type of large format printer you need as well.

To keep things simple, instead of comparing each large format printer model on the market today, let’s take a look at one of the top large format printer brand’s two main large format product lines: the HP DesignJet, and the HP PageWide XL.

HP DESIGNJET VS. HP PAGEWIDE XL: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

Let’s first acknowledge the elephant in the room — the DesignJet, which has base models priced at just over $1,000, and the PageWide XL, which starts at a price of about $25,000, provide the same functionality: the ability to print architectural drawings in color.

Other than sharing a manufacturer, however, that is where their similarities begin and end.

The first and most obvious difference between the DesignJet and PageWide XL is their size: the DesignJet is a much smaller machine, and with it comes a smaller price tag, reduced paper carrying capacity, and a lower rate of production.

For comparison, the DesignJet can hold a maximum of two 300-foot 2-inch core rolls, while the PageWide XL can hold a maximum of six 650-foot 3-inch core rolls, meaning the PageWide XL can print over six times the amount of square-footage before requiring human interaction.

The PageWide XL, in addition to its larger paper capacity, can also produce prints ten times faster than the DesignJet, with a top print speed of 30 D-Sized (24x36”) prints per minute, versus the DesignJet’s 3 D-Sized prints per minute. The PageWide XL achieves this remarkable speed by fixing the print heads in place, moving the paper underneath them, and spraying the ink in a single pass. The DesignJet series moves both the paper and the print heads in order to print across the entire width of the media. This method limits the speed of printing but also lowers the overall cost of the hardware.

There’s also the matter of ink — the PageWide XL uses pigment-based ink, while the DesignJet primarily uses dye-based ink.

Dye-based ink, however, and is not weather resistant. Because it sinks into the paper, the lines produced by dye ink can tend to slightly soak into regular bond paper producing less sharp lines than pigment ink. The difference in clarity between dye and pigment ink is hardly noticeable to the human eye, however, so when it comes to the discrepancy between dye and pigment ink, the true differentiator is weather resistance.

This difference in ink type is actually a significant reason for the DesignJet’s reduced price: the printer heads that are used for dye ink are much less expensive to produce than the printer heads for pigment-based ink. So, while dye ink isn’t weather-resistant like pigment ink, the technology used to apply it is much cheaper.

Additionally, the DesignJet stores ink in quantities of 120 milliliters (about the size of a school lunch milk carton) for each color, while the Pagewide XL holds a liter (half a gallon) of ink per color. Like any consumable, buying in bulk will save you money, and printer ink is no different — so while the 120 milliliter refill for the Designjet will cost less than the liter refill for the Pagewide XL, overall, the cost of ink for the Pagewide XL is much cheaper by volume, and boasts a cheaper cost per page.

Speaking of color, it’s time to make things a bit more complicated.

The HP Designjet isn’t just the Designjet. It’s actually comprised of two model series: the T series, and the Z series. And while we’re making things more complicated, let’s back-track a little bit: the Designjet Z series, just like the Pagewide XL, uses pigment based ink, and the Designjet T series uses dye based ink.

So, how do you know which is better for you: the Designjet T Series, Z Series, or the Pagewide XL?

HP DESIGNJET VS. HP PAGEWIDE XL: WHAT ARE THE USE CASES?

While each of these printers is more than capable of printing on large-format media, they each specialize in different use cases.

Overall, the Designjet, no matter if it is the Z or T series, is made for offices and organizations that are unwilling or unable to pay the relatively high up-front cost of the Pagewide XL. The Pagewide XL, however, if used to its full potential, will have a lower lifetime cost than the Designjet.

The lower lifetime cost of the Pagewide XL is due to the volume it can produce, and its overall lower costs for consumables like ink and paper. Plus, since the Pagewide XL can print for about eight times as long as the Designjet without human interaction, you gain back a lot of labor costs over the lifetime of the machine’s use.

This makes the Pagewide XL the perfect machine for a high-volume setting, which we classify as printing anything more that 2,000 square feet per month. If you plan on printing less than 2,000 square feet per month, the Designjet is probably the better option.

The Designjet T series is made for AEC firms that need to print drawings, plans, and other media for their projects — the Z series, on the other hand, is made with artists in mind, which is why it uses pigment-based ink, and boasts 8 different colors, making it a great tool for artists that are tired of paying print shops to produce their work. The Z-Series also produces the highest quality image out of any of the printers mentioned throughout this blog.

Like the Designjet, the Pagewide XL offers different models for different scenarios, but unlike the Designjet, the Pagewide offers a true black and white option. The lowest amount of colors a Designjet can support are four: CMYK.

The Pagewide XL is the perfect machine for AEC firms that need to print multiple drawings and plans per day, while the Designjet T Series is perfect for smaller AEC firms that may only need to print one drawing a day, or even a few a week. And for artists that need to print at the highest quality possible on large format media, the Designjet Z series is the answer.

If you have any questions about how a large format printer fits into your office’s needs, reach out to us here.

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