You've heard the anecdote about how, if automotive technology had progressed as quickly as PC design over the past decade or two, we'd be driving cars that cost $50 and got 2,000 miles per gallon and so on. But that's nothing. If cars had kept up with inkjet printers lately, Fords and Toyotas would cruise on autopilot at suborbital altitude, reach London or Paris in five minutes, and replace toasters as free gifts when opening bank accounts.
The Lexmark X5470 is a case in point. We've seen plenty of multi-function peripherals that cost less and take less desk space than a separate printer, scanner and copier, but it's often a step up the budget ladder to get one that also serves as a fax machine. The X4570 is a four-in-one, not a three-in-one.
It's usually been another budget booster to get an automatic document feeder (ADF), so copying or faxing multi-page documents doesn't oblige you to lift the scanner lid and place and remove pages one at a time. The Lexmark has one a small 10-sheet feeder, true, but that should be enough to handle many or most of a small office's documents.
The all-in-one also lets you plug in, fetch and print images from a digital camera or flash-memory card even without a PC, while swapping its black ink cartridge for an optional second tricolor cartridge for six-color borderless photo printing.
The Lexmark X5470 lists for $100, with some retailers selling it for $80. Free checking, anyone?
Within Its Limitations
Of course, the Lexmark doesn't pretend to compete with peripherals costing two to five times as much. Neither wired nor wireless networking, for instance, is built in just a USB connector for a single PC, next to the two fax phone jacks (line and extension) around the back. Is there a USB cable in the box? Did you just fall off the turnip truck?
While the box describes the X5470 as an All-in-One With Fax and Photo Features, you won't find a photo-printer-style color LCD for previewing or editing images; instead, a two-line text LCD and front-panel buttons let you navigate through menus and options for copy, scan and fax functions. There are, however, two flash card slots (for CompactFlash, SecureDigital, MultiMedia Card, xD and Memory Stick formats) plus a front-mounted USB port for connecting a flash drive or PictBridge-compatible camera.
And the X5470 handles photos capably. Insert a card, and it'll offer to print a proof sheet of thumbnail images, which you mark with pen or pencil to indicate which to print, in what size, on what paper borderless 5- by 7-inch, a bordered 8 by 10, or four 3.5- by 4-inch images on one letter-size sheet, for instance and then place on the scanner glass to place your order.
You can even ask for automatic red-eye reduction or brightness and contrast enhancement, though for other tweaks such as exposure, sharpness and cropping you'll use Lexmark's far-from-Photoshop-but-handy-enough image-editing software.
As a scanner, the 48-bit, 600 by 1,200 dpi color flatbed accommodates letter-, A4- and smaller-sized media, with front-panel button and menu options of scanning to an e-mail attachment; optical character recognition (OCR) text via supplied ABBYY FineReader 6.0 Sprint software; or a JPEG or Adobe Acrobat PDF file, as well as to the Windows clipboard or to one of the word processing, image-editing, presentation or other picture-capable programs it detects on your system. We found that OCR import into Microsoft Word was nearly perfect, but were disappointed with the quality of PDF documents generated from scans.
All Office Essentials
Like photo printing, the copier and fax functions work even if your PC is absent or turned off, though they're at their best when configured via Lexmark's software control panels. The 33.6Kbps black or color fax offers caller ID, auto redial, forward and broadcast faxing and up to 89 individual plus 10 group speed-dial numbers (not that you'll want to scroll through so many via the front-panel buttons).
Copying options range from the usual darker/lighter adjustment and choice of one to 99 copies to print quality, 25- to 400-percent zoom or automatic resizing to a given paper or photo size and options to print two, three, four, eight or 16 copies of an original or, using either the automatic document feeder or one-at-a-time scanning, the same number of different originals on one page.
Speaking of the automatic feeder, it worked smoothly, pulling pages face down into its lower and ejecting them face-up from its upper slot. Our only complaint was that it doesn't align originals as precisely as you can do manually some multi-page copying jobs arrived with a narrow shade or line down one edge.
The Lexmark's primary paper-feeding path, a straight shot from the 100-sheet (or 10-envelope or 25-pieces-of-photo-paper) upright tray at the rear to a face-up output tray in front, didn't jam once during our tests. One sign of economy is the lack of a second input tray: If you want to switch from ordinary paper to photo paper or envelopes, you must swap them yourself.
The Consumables Budget
Setup is equally simple, once you get the usual 382 pieces of packaging tape off: Lifting the scanner provides access to the two ink cartridge carriers. Drop the cartridges into place, click the carriers shut, lower the scanner, press a button to print an alignment sheet and you're good to go. The X5470 takes about 12- by 18-inches of desk space; printing is moderately but not unbearably noisy, but after an hour or two you'll be glad to find the setup-menu option that silences the harsh beep whenever you press a button.
|The Lexmark X5470 All-in-One: Four office products for less than three digits.|
Like practically all inkjet printers, the Lexmark will empty your wallet if you come anywhere near its rated duty cycle of 3,000 pages per month. The original ink cartridges lasted for barely 90 pages before the software driver started throwing "Your ink is beginning to get low" and "Click here to buy cartridges from Lexmark's online store" messages on screen, though we were able to reach the 170-page mark before they truly ran dry.
Replacement black and color cartridges rated for about 200 pages cost $20 and $22, respectively, though smarter shoppers will stick with the "high yield" cartridges capable of delivering an estimated 475 pages.
The latter are priced at $25 for a black and $30 for a tricolor cartridge, which comes out to roughly 5.3 cents per black-and-white and a penny more per color page enough to add up pretty quickly, but not as outrageous as the operating cost of some inkjets we've seen. The optional photo cartridge ($25) replaces the usual black ink to provide six-color printing; Lexmark says it should last through about 135 4- by 6-inch prints.
You Get a Bit More Than You Pay For
Another condition shared with practically all inkjets is that the X5470's advertised speeds up to 25 pages per minute for black and 18 ppm for color work are well, good for a hearty chuckle. Using plain copier paper, the unit's Quick Print or draft mode churned out a 6-page PDF document in just over one minute and 20 pages of monochrome text in just under two. But text was gray and wobbly, while photos looked like they'd spent a year fading in the sun and solid-color graphics areas showed more banding than a Venetian blind.
The Lexmark's paper sensor identifies both copier and coated inkjet stock as plain paper, assigning normal-quality mode as the default for both. Somewhat unusually for a low-end inkjet, there was no difference in speed between normal printing on cheap and on coated paper 25 seconds for a one-page business letter with spot-color company logo; 2 minutes and 46 seconds for the 20-page Word document; and 24 minutes for a colorful, 55-page PDF file.
We used copier stock and default settings for our scanning and copying tests: Five copies of a black-and-white page took 2 minutes and 32 seconds, with five color copies of a magazine cover arriving in 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Using the ADF, one copy of a five-page word processing document took four minutes. None were really good enough to send to a client, but all were more than adequate for in-house filing.
As we'd expected, using coated paper definitely improved print quality to a level we found ourselves rating a step or two below most modern inkjets', but frankly better than we'd feared given the Lexmark's low price. Text was a little thin, but colors were crisp with moderate banding. We wouldn't hesitate to send the letter, though perhaps not the PDF, to a client, as long as the latter wasn't a magnifying-glass maker. (The slowest and highest-quality Photo mode all but eliminated banding, but slowed our one-page letter to 39 seconds and six PDF pages to five minutes.)
As for using Photo mode for photos: An 8- by 10-inch print on inkjet paper took 92 seconds and looked fair. The same print on glossy photo paper took 5 minutes and 7 seconds with four-color and 5 minutes and 40 seconds with six-color printing.
The differences between the two like those between four- and six-color borderless 4- by 6-inch prints (2.5 and 3 minutes, respectively) were hard to detect without close scrutiny. They didn't dazzle or pop, but looked more than good enough for at-home display.
So what do you get when you get printing, scanning, copying, faxing, an ADF, and camera/card image import for under $100? A family-room or at-home hub that's priced low enough to be an impulse buy, with operating costs that are more costly but perhaps not too painful for most people's light-duty needs ... and print quality that takes us up to but not over the fence between an occasional home office and a true, one- or two-entrepreneur business office.
That said, however, there are an awful lot of good $250-to-$400 printers out there. And teaming one of them with a $100 fax machine that's also a fine few-pages-per-day copier and scanner sounds pretty good to us.
Adapted from hardwarecentral.com.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|