Memjet arrives: why isn't all printing this fast?

Memjet is finally here. A full A4 photo that prints about as fast as a till receipt might get us printing again.

Memjet is finally here. A full A4 photo that prints about as fast as a till receipt might get us printing again.

It's hard to get excited about printers any more, but when we saw the Memjet at CES this year it stood out because it's not just fast - it's fast enough to make you think they cheated by sliding one they printed earlier into the tray. The edge of the image emerges and then instead of the printhead chuntering its way across the sheet little by little, the whole page follows it at once - it takes about a second. That's because the 70,000-odd nozzles spray the ink across the whole page at once rather than in multiple passes. And despite doing that across a 8.5" by 11" page all at once, they do it accurately and precisely; the handful of prints we put through the first Memjet printer in Europe yesterday looked vivid and crisp. (The resolution is 1,600 by 1,600 dpi and although it prints faster than a mono laser it has the quality of an inkjet, because it's using ink.)

Since the demo at CES and the announcement that Memjet would be working with Lenovo and launching in Asia first, we hadn't heard much from Memjet. We haven't heard anything about launching a model of the printer that you can buy for home or office use, but Memjet told us prices would be $5-600 and the UK launch would be towards the end of this year. The printer we saw yesterday was hooked up to the kiosk printing system that Jessops has in its stores, although it will have the Memjets in a few select stores that offer premium printing to start with (it's also introducing wide format photo printers that can print extra-large images on a roll into the stores and we'll see those first).

Jessops is hoping that offering photo books with silver halide or glossy photo paper; printing onto canvas or acrylic; being able to print snaps directly from your phone or from Facebook; iPhone, IPad, Android and Windows Phone apps for laying out your photo book or - our favourite - a folded set of prints in the size and shape of an iPhone that you can carry in your handbag, might get us printing out the hundreds of photos we take. Certainly not having to stand there twiddling your thumbs for ten minutes to get A4 photo prints will help - and it's nice to see that Memjet turns out to be a real product and not vaporware.

Mary Branscombe