The first model of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Apollo line of printers, the P-1200, has a truly amazing price: $79.

Output speed and quality, no surprise, is middling at best. But for personal computer users with modest printing needs and willing to accept lower-quality color, the P-1200 will do the job at a fraction of the cost of more capable inkjets.

So what do you give up? The biggest sacrifice is color quality, because the unit uses just one ink cartridge, not the two found in more expensive models. In a test print of the Yahoo home page, for instance, the big red letters at the top came out faded, as if the paper had been left in the sun for a month. A family photo came out with color you'd expect to find in bad newspaper printing.

Still, I was favorably impressed with the P-1200. I wouldn't want to rely on its somewhat blurry output for important documents. But I routinely print pages that don't need to be pristine, such as e-mail messages with directions to a friend's house. It does fine for that.

Mike Langberg, San Jose Mercury

Scanning the Simple Way

The world's easiest to use sheet-fed scanner gets easier -- and faster -- in this version designed to connect into the new Universal Serial Bus ports on Windows 98 PCs. With Strobe Pro, you bypass the struggles that can come with plugging peripheral devices into parallel or printer ports.

The size of a small roll of aluminum foil, Strobe Pro fits easily between the keyboard and monitor and sucks documents into its scanner at the rate of a page every four seconds. Auto activation features trigger the scanner and then run the software as soon as you stick something into the slot.

The included software, called PaperPort, is a world-class document management program that lets you keep track of everything you scan into the PC with a series of functions similar to the Windows 98 file-management module.

Jim Coates, Chicago Tribune