In 1973’s Live and Let Die, James Bond brews his visiting boss a cup of coffee. M looks suspiciously at 007’s whirring, whooshing espresso machine and asks, “Is that all it does?”
Before long, we’ll be saying the same thing about printers that merely print, as multifunction printer/scanner/copier peripherals push into even the bargain sector of the color inkjet market. The Lexmark X75 PrinTrio is now available for around $100, while that unit’s original $149 price slot is now held by an new arrival — Lexmark’s X5150 All-in-One.
Compared to the PrinTrio, the X5150 offers higher resolution — printing at up to 4,800 by 1,200 dpi, with advertised speeds of up to 19 pages per minute in black and 14 ppm in color, and flatbed scanning at 600 by 2,400 dpi with 48-bit color (software-interpolated resolution up to 19,200 dpi).
Its walk-up (works when your PC’s turned off) copier offers black and color copying with 25- to 400-percent zoom and fit-to-page — or fit multiple mini-copies to a page — modes. While it has no fax hardware of its own, the Lexmark can scan a page for transmission via your PC’s fax modem, as well as scanning to an e-mail attachment or its own image-editing and touch-up software.
Unfortunately, while the idea of a $149 multifunction was brand-new when Lexmark introduced the X75, the X5150 joins a growing number of competitors, like the pint-sized HP PSC 1210 we tested last month. And while it’s a solid competitor, the new Lexmark isn’t a slam dunk: It’s a tad easier to use and has a superior software driver, but demands more desk space and longer waits for decent printouts.
For Light-To-Medium Duty on a Medium-To-High Budget
Like other more home- than home-office-oriented all-in-ones, the X5150 is designed for moderate use — though it’s worth noting its print duty cycle of 3,000 pages per month is triple the PSC 1210’s — with copier features designed for occasional convenience rather than daily high volumes. It’s also a conventional, four-color inkjet design, with no six-color or borderless photo printing or slots for a digital camera’s memory cards.
Its modest 100-sheet, vertical-loading input tray leads to a ditto 50-sheet, face-up output shelf. As with previous Lexmark inkjets we’ve tested, we found the straight paper path virtually jam-proof, but considerably less skew-proof than horizontal paper drawers.
As with almost all inkjets we’ve tested, you’ll need to spend plenty on ink cartridges if you come anywhere close to the unit’s duty cycle: The X5150 uses the same Lexmark 82 black and 83 tricolor ink cartridges as the X85 multifunction and Z55/Z65 printers, the black model offering an estimated 600 pages for $30 and the color part an estimated 450 pages for $35.
One Page at a Time
The Lexmark takes a bit over 18 by 20 inches of desk space with the catch tray extended, making it almost twice as bulky as the PSC 1210 (both machines’ flatbed scanners are sized for letter- rather than legal-sized documents). Setup is simple, once you can figure out the cryptic diagram in the instruction poster and find the lever that unlocks the scanner — it’s next to the plastic strut that props up the scanning unit when you open the case, an arrangement that feels only slightly less flimsy than its X75 predecessor.
The ink cartridges snap into place easily, as does the AC adapter, and the X5150 takes care of printing a test page and aligning its printheads automatically, rather than putting you through a pick-the-parallel-lines quiz on screen. With no parallel or network ports, the Lexmark’s sole interface is a USB port (cable not included).
Top-mounted control buttons and a two-line LCD guide you through black and color copying, image reduction or enlargement, and options such as number of copies and lighter or darker contrast; the LCD just says “Copying” during copy jobs instead of letting you tell at a glance that it’s making, say, the fifth of eight copies as HP’s does, but it helpfully counts down the 25 seconds it takes for the scan lamp to warm up.
Neither it nor any rival in this price range has an automatic document feeder for multipage jobs, but the X5150 is a capable convenience copier. Five crisp copies of a laser-printed black page appeared in 2 minutes and 45 seconds, while five somewhat banded or striped but fine-for-personal-use copies of a color wall-calendar page took 7 minutes and 45 seconds.
You can get even finer control than the buttons and LCD menu offer, and finer results, by using Lexmark’s driver and “all-in-one center” utility software. The former has all the helpful output options that HP’s bare-bones PSC 1210 driver mysteriously lacks, such as last-page-first (collated) and banner, booklet, poster, or N-up (handout) printing.
The latter offers an almost goof-proof guide through scanning and copying options ranging from reduction or enlargement to scanning resolutions and color depth. Lexmark also provides a capable, entry-level image editor with not only the usual crop, rotate, brightness, contrast, and red-eye touch-up options but brush, line, eyedropper, text, and flood-fill tools and as many as 99 levels of undo and redo, while ABBYY FineReader 5.0 Sprint software does a remarkably accurate job of optical character recognition even on page layouts with mixed graphics and headline, body, and sidebar text.
Sharp or Quick — Take Your Pick
The X5150 offers good print speed and quality, but generally trailed the PSC 1210 in our tests. The driver offers four print modes — quick (300 by 600 dpi), normal (600 by 600), better (1,200 by 1,200), and best (4,800 by 1,200). Quick mode printed our five-page Microsoft Word document in just 44 seconds, but was so faint and shaky as to be doubtful even for in-house draft use.
Normal mode took just over a minute, with results on plain copier paper that we’d consider fine for drafts. To get crisp, dark text on plain paper, we had to opt for better mode (2 minutes and 29 seconds for our five-pager, 73 seconds for our one-page business letter with color company logo; best mode made the last look great even on cheap paper, but took over three and a half minutes).
Using plain paper, pages with lots of color graphics felt a bit soggy and showed noticeable banding in normal mode — which took 4 minutes and 40 seconds for our six-page Adobe Acrobat document — with some banding even in better mode (10 minutes and 15 seconds). Results weren’t much better when we tried affordable inkjet paper (the kind that comes in 500-sheet reams); the X5150 boasts an automatic media sensor, but it didn’t seem to kick in until we upgraded to thicker, coated inkjet paper (the kind that comes in 100-sheet boxes).
On the good paper, our five-page Word document looked office-worthy if not quite laser-sharp in normal mode (2 minutes and 16 seconds); the tiny improvement of best mode wasn’t worth the extra time (8 minutes and 25 seconds). The combination of quality paper and best mode finally cured the banding and produced a gorgeous six-page Acrobat file, but took a whopping 32 minutes.
Photo images were poor on plain paper; using the coated stock, our 8 by 10-inch, 2-megapixel digital camera shot showed some banding in normal mode on coated stock (2 minutes and 51 seconds) but looked fine, if a trifle dark — the same words we’d use to describe the Lexmark’s prints of scanned drugstore photos — in better mode (6 minutes and 40 seconds). Best mode on glossy photo paper produced a handsome 8 by 10 in a leisurely 12 and a half minutes.
If you print mostly in better mode on quality paper, you’ll be well satisfied with the X5150’s output, and you’ll enjoy its convenience and flexibility; it’s a clear step up from the cheap X75 PrinTrio of six months ago. Still, even in this bargain segment, you might want to shop around — while Lexmark earns points as the market pioneer, we think rivals have matched or bettered its hardware, if not its software.
Adapted from HardwareCentral.com.