The HP PageWide XL 4500 is the quintessential enterprise wide-format printer. It’s absurdly large, weighing in at almost half a ton, and is even built with removable pieces just so it can fit through doorways. It can print banners the length of two football fields at draft speeds, reaching 4,284 square feet per hour – that’s 1.19 square feet every second. It holds two rolls at a time by default, though it’s expandable to four rolls, and it can scan wide-format documents, making it a true multifunction machine.
Big and fast though it is, the XL 4500 is far better suited to corporate print jobs than it is a design house or a dedicated print shop, for a few reasons. First, its output resolution is rather unimpressive, clocking in at 1200 x 1200 dpi – half the droplet density of our number one pick. More importantly, it doesn’t support borderless printing or have a manual sheet bypass.
In all fairness, borderless printing is a luxury passed over by many high-end print shops because it can have poor results. The control that a cutting machine or combination printer-cutter gives you can far exceed the straight edges of a roll of bond paper, and borderless jobs are limited to ones that match the width of your loaded rolls. What’s more, most architectural or engineering applications for large-format printers don’t require borderless printing; it’s more often used in advertising. For prints a major corporation might have – internal posters or brochures, for instance – it’s simply not a must-have feature, and HP’s PageWide printers are intended for the enterprise market.
The lack of a manual sheet bypass is likewise a nod to the XL 4500’s intended audience, since enterprise companies are less likely to need specialty prints done using irregular paper types. Officially, the PageWide supports standard media: bond paper, recycled paper, and matte and satin stock. It can also manage polypropylene and other tear-resistant substrates, though you’ll have to limit yourself to materials no thicker than 0.4 mm – just 15.7 mil. Without the manual bypass, all media types have to be loaded onto rolls no wider than 40 inches.
If you’re looking for a large-format printing solution for a print shop or art house, HP’s PageWide probably isn’t for you; it’s simply too clunky and restricted in its applications to make sense. If, on the other hand, your company needs a device that can churn out jobs with speed and longevity in mind, it’s a mammoth of a machine that could well fit your requirements. With support for four rolls and a 500GB hard drive to spool up job after job, it just keeps on printing.
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