Affordable Wireless Printing: Lexmark X6570 All-In-One

The notion of the wireless office is starting to take hold, with many small businesses replacing wired Ethernet LANs high-speed with Wi-Fi networks. Products like the Lexmark X6570, a Wi-Fi-enabled All-In-One (AIO) printer, make the wireless office a very compelling proposition.

The 6570 does just about everything except manufacture and sell your products for you. It’s an inkjet printer that does a very creditable job of printing photos. It’s also a copier, a flat-bed scanner and a fax machine. And because it includes a built-in Wi-Fi print server, all of these functions are available to any computer on the network, wirelessly.

Best of all, it costs only $150.

Lexmark claims the 6570 is good for printing up to 3,000 pages per month. That works out to 100 pages a day. We don’t recommend it for an office with that heavy a requirement, and certainly not if copying – which requires raising and lowering the scanner lid or using the sheet feeder – is a big part of the duty cycle. The unit just doesn’t seem physically sturdy enough to stand up to that kind of constant rough handling.

But the 6570 would be great for a small office with relatively light printing and copying requirements, and it includes some surprisingly sophisticated features for such an inexpensive, multi-function product.

Sophisticated Features, Basic Budget
For example, the 6570 uses a two-cartridge ink system. It works as a standard four-color printer (one cartridge for black, one for yellow, cyan, magenta) for every-day text and graphics jobs and basic-quality photos. But you can also swap in a photo cartridge for the black ink cartridge, which turns the 6570 into a six-color printer for richer, more accurate photographic color.

The 6570 has two memory-card slots on the front panel that support virtually every digital camera card format. Plus, there’s a PictBridge USB port that allows you to plug in a PictBridge-compliant camera and print directly from its card using the camera as the controller.

This unit performs automatic two-sided printing, and it has a 25-page sheet feeder for copying, scanning and faxing. A paper sensor automatically detects what kind of paper you have loaded in the printer paper feeder.

The 6570 even comes with OCR (optical character recognition) software for converting scanned and faxed documents to computer text, and a useful application called Lexmark Productivity Studio with a console from which you can manage printing, scanning, copying, sending electronic documents as faxes, scanning and sending documents as e-mail attachments, scanning documents and converting them to PDF files and scanning and converting text documents using the OCR functionality.

The Productivity Studio has one curious and annoying deficiency, however. It will show image files as thumbnails or as file names, but not as thumbnails with identifying file names.

Impressive Performer
The AIO’s performance specs are also fairly impressive. Lexmark claims rated print speeds are “up to” 28 pages per minute (ppm) with black-only printing and 24 ppm with color printing. But this is for printing in draft mode – which is only acceptable quality for internal documents, and maybe not even then. It’s also based on a fairly minimal coverage of the page. In our real-world testing with pages filled with text, it was more like 14 ppm in draft mode and six ppm in normal mode.

Our out-of-the-box experience with the 6570 was very good. Set-up, a potential nightmare given the 6570’s wireless nature and multiple functions, was in fact simple, although you can’t actually set up the unit on a network without first connecting it by USB cable to a network computer.

After you launch the installation procedure on a host PC using the included CD, the 6570’s integrated Wi-Fi system scans the airwaves for networks, finds yours (assuming it’s set up correctly and working), asks if it’s the one you want to use, and connects to it once you confirm that it is. After it connects successfully, the light behind the Wi-Fi logo on the printer’s front panel changes from orange to green. At this point you can disconnect the USB cable and go wireless.

It was that simple for us, but we were connecting to a recently set up network with no security in place. If the network in your office uses either of WPA(Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption or MAC address filtering (where you block all devices from connecting to the network except the ones you specify) – and you should certainly be using at least WPA – this will introduce some additional complexity, but not a lot.

At this point, you could connect to the 6570 from anywhere on the network through the computer you used to set up the printer – just as you can connect to most wired printers using Windows printer sharing. But that would mean you wouldn’t be taking advantage of the product’s print server functionality, which allows you to connect directly to the printer from anywhere on the network.

The Network Advantage
A direct network connection to the printer is good for two reasons. It means you can print on the 6570 – and send and receive faxes and scan to your computer’s hard drive – even when the computer initially used for set-up is turned off. And print, fax and scan jobs no longer go through that host computer, which speeds the whole process and eliminates performance impacts on the host.

To take advantage of the print server feature, you simply have to repeat the set-up procedure, or parts of it, using the provided CD for each of the other computers on the network.

Lexmark X6570
Small Biz Workhorse: The economical, versatile and wireless Lexmark X6570 makes a good choice for offices with a light-to-moderate print load.

We see little or no need for fax in our office, but we understand that many people still rely on it. Fax set-up, which we dreaded because we’ve deliberately had as little as possible to do with fax in recent years, was also surprisingly easy.

We chose a simple configuration – connecting directly from one of the RJ-11 phone jacks on the back of the 6570 to an unused wall jack. But even if you choose more complex configurations, such as setting it up to work with a computer or a phone answering device, it’s relatively painless. We were impressed when we initially plugged the phone cord into the wrong jack on the back of the printer, and the 6570 immediately displayed a message on its LCD telling us of our error.

After filling out necessary and mostly self-explanatory fields in the set-up wizard – fax number, name, how many rings before answering, how the phone line uses distinctive ringing (if it does – our phone does) and so on – both send and receive functions worked perfectly. This was not our experience the last time we set up fax on an all-in-one printer.

We were also surprised at the quality of fax output in ultra-fine mode. We still don’t like fax, but it’s a lot more civilized than in the days of creepy-feeling thermal paper with blurry printing.

Print Quality
Basic print and scan functions didn’t exactly knock our eyes out, but they were good enough. Scan quality is acceptable for copying or scanning documents for OCR. Scan resolution is a very basic 600 x 1200 dots per inch (up to 19,200 dpi in enhanced mode.)

The OCR functionality – fairly standard now – produces accurate conversions to computer text most of the time. Image quality when scanning photographs is less impressive, but still acceptable.

Document print-quality in normal mode is about what you’d expect from a $150 AIO – not top notch, in fact, probably not quite presentation quality if you’re an image-conscious company. If you look closely, even with the naked eye, you can faintly see ink splatter around characters on the page.

Still, the quality is fine for documents intended for internal distribution and may even be acceptable for presentation to clients for some types of documents and in some kinds of businesses where image isn’t everything.

Photo printing using the three-color cartridge is acceptable. Photo printing using the photo cartridge in place of the default black-ink cartridge comes close to commercial quality when using Lexmark’s Perfectfinish glossy photo paper.

Bottom Line
If you’re looking for top quality output, the Lexmark 6570 is probably not the right product for you. But if you’re looking for an economical and versatile AOI to use in a small office with a moderate print and copy requirements, it has a lot going for it – especially the convenience of wireless network access.

Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print and online publications since the 1980s.

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