You're in Control
Most all-in-ones we've seen offer separate buttons to start color and black copying, but the X6650's control panel uses a single Start button plus a button that toggles between color and monochrome, so we occasionally forgot to switch modes between one job and the next. (Print jobs arrive in color or black-and-white depending on a check box in the software driver, not the button.)
Otherwise, the front-panel controls are straightforward and helpful, with separate buttons to launch copy, scan, fax or photo functions and OK and arrow buttons to navigate and select from LCD menu options. A slick Photo Proof Sheet option prints a page of thumbnails from which you can pick images for one-, two-, or three-copy printing in a variety of print layouts and sizes.
While Lexmark offers regular black and tricolor cartridges priced at $21 and $23, respectively, most people will want to opt for the high-capacity cartridges. At $26 for black and $31 for color, their estimated lives of 500 pages apiece translate to a could-be-worse, could-be-better 5.2 cents per black and 11.4 cents per color page. The X6650's rated monthly duty cycle is 3,000 pages.
Not All Bad
By now you know to ignore the advertised speeds of any inkjet printer (up to 25 pages per minute for black and 18 ppm for color in this case). In our real-world stopwatch tests, the Lexmark landed in the lower middle of the affordable-all-in-one range: Using normal print-quality mode on plain paper, our one-page business letter with spot-color logo printed in 22 seconds, with the five-page ISO/IEC 24712 test document, which mixes text, graphs and photos, taking 3 minutes and 47 seconds.
A 20-page monochrome Microsoft Word document arrived in just under 3 minutes, with our 55-page Adobe Acrobat PDF file taking 38 minutes and 20 seconds. Text print quality was pretty good, with reasonably sharp if not mistakable-for-laser text as small as four points; color graphics were vivid with little banding in light solid-color areas, but showed more banding as colors darkened -- solid black was positively stripey.
Draft-mode printouts were predictably faster -- 11 seconds for the letter and 50 seconds for the ISO five-pager -- but of poor quality. Switching to best-quality mode on coated inkjet paper produced much better results, with strong solid colors and great-looking gradients, but it tested our patience with the one-page letter taking 43 seconds, the ISO paper took six and a half minutes, and the first six pages of the PDF took 7 minutes and 27 seconds.
Not having the photo ink cartridge, we had to settle for four- rather than six-color prints and the slightly grainy, dull-skin-tones photos that usually result. Nevertheless, images in best-quality mode on glossy photo paper looked pretty good, with 8- by 10-inch prints averaging 4 minutes and 40 seconds, while borderless 4- by 6-inch snapshots appeared in two minutes apiece.
Do You Copy?
While print-job results were acceptable, we were disappointed with the X6650's performance as a copier. At the default, walk-up settings (no PC needed), five black-and-white copies of a single page took two and a half minutes. Five monochrome copies of a three-page document using the ADF took three minutes, while five color copies of a magazine cover arrived in 7 minutes and 45 seconds. The ADF twice pulled two pages at a time instead of one, but otherwise worked smoothly.
Copy quality, however, was unsatisfactory even for in-house use, with faint, washed-out text and pale, heavily banded colors. Using the printer's front-panel controls to specify higher-quality, slower printing and darker copies helped, but didn't dazzle.
All in all, we find ourselves damning the X6650 with faint praise: It isn't the worst choice you can make among multifunction inkjets; it would get a thumbs-down review if it cost more but isn't bad for $130 -- although actually, the $100 Lexmark X5470 we tested in the spring of '07 impressed us more. As is, this is an instance where our best advice is to reach deeper into your wallet and climb the next rung of the ladder.
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