The EX engine, as used in the HP LaserJet 4, was a landmark product that helped HP continue its dominance of the laser printer business. At the time it was introduced many companies were offering enhanced SX-based machines that promised either better print quality or faster page processing than the LaserJet III. These companies included LaserMaster, QMS, and Xante, and their products typically sold for for $3,000 or more. All of them used special controller electronics to boost the standard 300/400 dpi of the SX engine to a pseudo 600 dpi or higher.
The EX offers true 600 dpi, which is noticeably better than the SX's 300/400 dpi. The LaserJet 4 had a street price of only $1,400 for a PCL printer and $1,900 for a PostScript version. The LaserJet 4 also featured an Intel i960 RISC processor, which is much faster than the 68000 used in the HP III. Suddenly the game of making a better-than-HP laser printer game was over... HP had won the battle. To stay in business, the other companies had to move into market other areas, like high-speed, large format, or large format color printing.
The EX is the third generation of medium-sized general purpose laser printers in the series that began with the 8 ppm CX engines used in the orignal LaserJet. The CX was replaced by the SX, and the SX was replaced by the EX. The HP Printers in this class are those without an extra letter in the model name (i.e., LaserJet, LaserJet II, LaserJet III, LaserJet 4, LaserJet 5). Apple also used each generation from Canon, beginning with the LaserWriter (CX), LaserWriter II (SX), and LaserWriter 630 (EX).
The EX engine offers improved paper handling over its predecessors. The standard printer has a MP (Multi-Purpose) tray and a 250-sheet cassette. The MP tray can be opened out and used for occasionally printed items, such as check stock, letterhead, odd-sized pieces of paper, or envelopes. The standard paper source is an integral 250 sheet cassette. A letter-sized or A4-cassette is standard, and an optional universal cassette is available, which can be adjusted to fit Letter, A4, Executive, and Legal paper sizes. All EX-based printers are designed to work with an optional 500-sheet cassette feeder, and power envelope feeders, which can hold about 75 envelopes.
The EX-II printers, such as the HP LaserJet 4 Plus and the LaserJet 5, can also have a duplex option installed for automatic two-sided printing.
All of the above optional EX accessories are priced much lower than those created for the earlier SX, TX, and RX engines.
Connectivity is another area where the LaserJet 4, LaserJet 4 Plus, and LaserJet 5 shine. All EX-based LaserJets have both serial and bi-directional parallel interfaces, plus an MIO slot. The MIO slot is usually used for network cards, but there are many other third-party sharing devices and other interfaces that allow OEMs to use the printer for special dedicated applications.
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