If you regularly print
CD/DVDs on a tray-based inkjet printer, you know the whole process
is a little wonky - - which literally means crooked, off-center
and askew. At best, these printers require patience and a couple
of resets to print a disc. But as the only low cost print game
in town, they were a necessary evil -- until recently. DYMO,
a leader in label printing, has implemented a radial print technology
in a dedicated CD/DVD printer that sprays ink onto a spinning
disc. The DiscPainter printer occupies a small footprint, is
easy to set up and use, and produces acceptable prints on a variety
of optical media. But it may not meet everybody's expectations.
The Hardware. The unit is small, lightweight,
well-built, and oddly shaped printer measuring 4.3 by 5.7 by
10.6 inches. The package includes the Discus CD/DVD labeling
application, Mac and PC drivers, a power cord/brick, standard
USB cable, three-color ink cartridge, QuickStart guide, and several
CD blanks. Mac Leopard (10.5.1) drivers recently became available
at the company's web site, and will soon ship as part of the
bundled installer CD.
Installation and Use.
Set up of the printer was straightforward. First remove the multiple
safety styrofoam inserts and protective tape. Then insert the
three-color ink cartridge into a slot on the top side of the
printer. Power is supplied using a power brick and cord. There
is no on/off switch. Then install the appropriate print driver,
Discus labeling application, templates, and confirm the printer
is recognized in your printer/fax pane in the System Preferences.
Once set up, the printer is delight to
use. Launch Discus, which installs design templates and the instruction
manual in your Applications folder. You can choose one of the
supplied, but uninspired templates, or create one using your
own graphics and text. Three progressively better print settings
correspond with the type of blank CD/DVD you are using. The printer
provides a default/draft mode that prints at 600 dpi in about
one minute, but produces the least attractive output. The best
quality mode (1200 dpi & 9-ink density) produces good results
in about three minutes on glossy CD/DVD blanks. These settings
are controlled in the print dialog tab of Discus. Best quality
glossy discs come out slightly tacky, but dry quickly. Matte
finishes were nice, but a step below in appearance to glossy
blanks at best quality print settings. The printer is whisper
quiet while printing.
The print process is a breeze, especially
if your background is the tray-based mechanisms on low cost CD/DVD
printers. Just slide the front cover open in the DiscPainter,
place the blank in the tray, and close the cover. The printer
moves the disc to the print area where ink is sprayed onto the
blank as it rotates in place. There is no tray to align, or get
stuck and the blanks stay in place as ink is applied. The $39.00
three-color ink cartridge should produce between 80 and 100 discs
using the best quality setting with the highest ink density setting.
Things To Consider.
Despite this improved approach to printing CD/DVDs, the DiscPainter
labors in a couple of areas. Most notable is the Discus label
printing application, which lacks the polish and sophistication
of competing software, such as Disc Cover from Belight Software.
Its interface is clunky and counterintuitive, and the supplied
templates are lacking. No clip art library is included, and text
treatment is awkward. Fortunately, I could create CD/DVD graphics
in Disc Cover, and export them for use in Discus. I also created
a custom print template in Disc Cover and printed directly from
the Disc Cover.
However, I was slightly disappointed
with the print quality of the CD/DVDs. Even at best quality settings/ink
density on glossy blanks the printed CDs exhibited some banding
and dithering despite high resolution original graphics. A similar
print from an older Epson R200 provide more even color. In part
this may be attributable to the three-color ink cartridge used
by the DYMO. The Epson utilizes a six cartridge system, but the
cartridges are more expensive -- in fact, nearly three times
the cost of the DYMO cartridge. I contacted DYMO with these concerns,
and was assured that not all photos and graphics presented these
issues and that company was focusing on continually improving
the quality of the printer.
Finally, the DiscPainter is a one trick
pony. It is limited to printing CD/DVDs. At $279.95, it isn't
the least expensive alternative, but is certainly the easiest
to set up and use. If you value your time and wish to avoid the
frustration of tray based CD/DVD inkjet printers, then the DiscPainter
is worth a look.
Copyright ©2008 David
A. Saraceno is a motion graphics
artist located in Spokane, Washington. He has written for DV
Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national
legal technology magazines. David also moderates several forums