Review: Lexmark X4550 Printer - Part 2

The Lexmark X4550 fares better as a copier and photo printer. (March 7th, 2008)

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Product Manufacturer: Lexmark

Price: $129.99 US

The Good

  • Attractive features and price point. Good digital media card support. Easy to print and copy. Comes with OCR software.

The Bad

  • Minimal control over network scans. Network scans initiated only at the unit. No screen on unit to preview photos on media cards.

The Lexmark X4450 offers a kitchen sink of features, in addition to wireless and USB printing. It is also a scanner and copier, and it handles digital media quite well. In Part I of this review, I covered the print aspects of the X4450, and now I give you the low down on the scan, copy, and photo printing aspects.

Good Digital Media Card Support

The Lexmark X4550 is also a photo media center and supports a wide variety of media. You can print proof sheets, photos, lighten or darken photos, apply automatic photo effects and image enhancements, select bordered or borderless layouts, and adjust the print quality with the digital media card in its port. Effects available include changing a photo to sepia, antique gray, antique brown, black and white, plus reduce red eye, or fix color with the touch of a button. You can also view and save photos on a computer over an USB or wireless network.

Many of these capabilities come in handy in quick shoot and print situations, such as classrooms. Print quality is more than satisfactory, and an optional photo cartridge gives you good color. Most users should find the X4550's built-in digital media card support useful.

Lexmark screen

Close Look at the Digital Media Ports

Accessing media cards over a network is satisfactory, but slow. The process is subject to the same connectivity problems discussed Part 1. I tested an SD card with only 53 photos on it and the photo previews took about 5 minutes to display in the Lexmark Network Card Reader software. Imagine if the one GB card were full; I think it is a bit slower than other printers. Saving these same photos to a networked drive, was surprisingly fast, given previous network problems with this unit.

The Lexmark X4550 is also PictBridge compatible. PictBridge is an industry standard specification for printing directly from a digital camera without the intermediary use of a computer. Unfortunately, I was unable to review this capability since I have no PictBridge certified camera.

Respectable Scan Capabilities

When connected by USB, the scan functions work well and provide results as good as any medium-priced flatbed scanner I have used. You have full control over size, resolution, color, and other features equal to today's standard flatbed scanners. It is capable of 48-bit color scanner depth and 16-bit grayscale, which is very respectable.

I used the X4550, while connected via USB, to scan historic images for a large map project. Results were more than satisfactory. Optical Character Recognition software is also bundled with the X4550, and the printer's design lets you scan thick documents, such as books. The X4550's USB scanning capabilities and quality are useful for many projects.

The Lexmark X4450 can scan photos and documents over the network, but scanning is clumsy and for most uses, worthless. You may choose either grayscale or color scan, but have little control over any aspect of the scan, except resolution and original size. These last two settings are temporary selections and the printer returns to the default settings after two minutes.

Scans cannot be initiated from the user's computer at all! You must go to the printer, place the document on the glass, then select the computer where you want the scan sent. Next, you wait for the applications list to download from the target computer, select the application to open the scan, change the temporary quality and size settings, and initiate the scan by pressing either the Start Color or Start Black buttons. You must follow this sequence for every scan, and it only works when the printer communicates with the computer, which is unreliable with wireless connectivity.

Lexmark controls

Close Look at Front Control Panel

When network scanning is successful, it is a quick and dirty scan. Network scans are useless for anything but placeholder images, in my opinion. Network scans are automatically made at 100% scale at roughly 300 dpi and our samples varied from 300.061 to 300.426 for the same document without disturbing it on the glass. Though you can temporarily scan at resolutions from 75-600 dpi, and may select the original size of the source document, you have no further control over the network scans. If the scanned document is a printed document, the printed screen appears in the final network scan as a moiré pattern. If you scan same document over USB, you can choose the type of document and minimize or eliminate the moiré artifact, thereby making the scan infinitely more useful. If you need quality, versatile scans over a network, you should avoid the Lexmark X4550.

It is a copier too

One of the most useful features of the Lexmark X4550 is its color and black and white copy capability. This feature does not require any connectivity at all; just plug in the printer and press a button to begin copying. The Lexmark X4550 produces reductions and enlargements from 25-400% and features borderless copies in popular photo sizes. You may temporarily change the quality and lightness or darkness of copies, if the automatic settings are not satisfactory. It can make up to 99 copies at one time. Therefore, if you need a printer and copier, this solution should work fine.

A Brief Word About Ink

The good news is that X4550 ink is no more expensive than ink for other brands of printers, about $26 per cartridge. Lexmark brand dye-based inks are fade-resistant and create sharp, vibrant prints. Lexmark also offers a cartridge return program and remanufactured cartridges are about $22 on the Lexmark web sited.

My Final Say

I can't honestly recommend the Lexmark X4550 except for those users need a wireless printer today. The USB connectivity is great, but the wireless capabilities are unstable and unfulfilling, especially where scanning is concerned. Print quality is acceptable for most home and small office users, but professional users will want a more reliable wireless unit.

Please also read the Lexmark X4550 Review Part 1, in which I cover the print functions and connectivity in more detail.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Mike Swope


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