Printers You Can Tote

These portable models are light and fast, if pricey

They're incredibly convenient: inkjet printers you can slip under your arm or into your bag and take on the road. Use them to customize last-minute presentations in your hotel room. Take them to parties to print out digital snapshots. Me? I like them because they take up a lot less space on my overcrowded desk.

I've been toting around two new portable printers for the past couple of weeks: Canon's just-released i70 and Hewlett-Packard's Deskjet 450, which came out last fall. Both weigh under 4.5 pounds, including batteries. These days, that's about the weight of a hefty notebook computer. At less than 2 in. thick, the Canon is more bag-friendly: It can nestle alongside my IBM ThinkPad. The 3.2-in.-thick HP really demands a bag of its own.

For size and convenience, you pay the price of a high-end home desktop printer. HP's 450CBi sells for $325 to $350; the batteryless 450Ci version costs $50 less. Canon's i70 is $275 to $300, but its optional battery kit will set you back $100 more. (The HP battery simply snaps in the back, while Canon's design requires a screw-on housing.)

I put both printers through their paces. When it comes to speed, the Canon wins hands down. It printed a 10-page Word document, black text on plain paper, in just over 90 seconds in the standard mode. That's 50% faster than the HP and faster even than my two-year-old HP desktop behemoth. A two-page color Acrobat file with multiple photos took slightly more than two minutes on both printers. For printing snapshots, the Canon could turn out a 4-in.-by-6-in. glossy in 60 to 90 seconds, 2 1/2 to 3 times as fast as the HP.

The HP's edge is photos. It has a slot for printing directly from Compact Flash memory cards used by many cameras. The Canon can print directly from some Canon digital cameras, but not from cards. The HP also has a nifty feature: You can substitute a photo ink cartridge for the black one. It works in tandem with the conventional color cartridge to produce six colors, resulting in more natural-looking photos. It's especially good at reproducing skin tones.

If you need high-quality, on-the-spot snapshots as, say, a Hollywood casting director might, the HP is a good bet. But for an all-around, light-duty office printer that happens to be portable, pick the Canon. It's better and quicker than even the one on your desk.

By Larry Armstrong

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