Wireless and USB printer with scan, copy, and photo print. (March 7th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Lexmark
Price: $129.99 US
- Attractive features and price point. USB and wireless network connectivity; Print quality and capabilities exceed expectations.
- Incomplete wireless setup and installation instructions. Poor tech support for Macs. Unstable wireless connectivity.
I am happy to find that wireless printers have finally caught up with other wireless devices, and at attractive price points. The Lexmark thermal inkjet printers boast many attractive features that make it difficult to choose the best model for you. The Lexmark X4550 offers 802.11b/g wireless printing with copy and scan functions. Most small businesses may need to send and receive faxes, so the X6570 or X9350 might be their printers of choice. These printers include USB or wireless connectivity. Part 1 of this review covers the connectivity and printing capabilities of this all-In-one printer solution.
Printer Set UpThe Lexmark X4550 offers a quick setup card for Windows, but Macintosh users receive only the Getting Started Manual, which covers just that. Further instructions for using the Lexmark X4550 are in the Help utility after software installation. You should be prepared to reference the Help utility frequently until you become familiar with the X4550.
You should also follow the installation and setup instructions to the letter. Lexmark doesn't leave any room for error, and they don't make it as simple or elegant as Mac users expect. Errors often mean restoring the printer to factory defaults and starting over with the setup and installation.
The true convenience of wireless printing and scanning is that multiple computers can use the same printer without all the messy cables. Initial printer setup takes place on one computer; then you install the software on all the computers that will use the printer/scanner. I experienced significant wireless setup and connectivity problems during the review period with two review units. My first unit inexplicably stopped feeding paper before the first ink cartridges ran out.
Patience And Determination RequiredThe first problem appeared during setup, because of my Apple-based wireless network WPA plain English password. The Lexmark X550 requires a password in hexadecimal format to setup the X4550 wireless connectivity. Unfortunately, Lexmark does not provide this information anywhere in the manual or on their web site or to their support personnel. I spent three hours in online chat with Lexmark Tech Support, before I finally found the information I needed on Apple's support site. The procedure to acquire the hex password takes only a few moments, and I completed the wireless setup and installation without further difficulty, but it was a frustrating experience locating the information I needed.
After installation, I experienced more wireless connectivity problems with the first review unit. Shortly after installation, there was a power outage in my office. After power was restored, the two Macs in appeared immediately on the wireless network, but they could no longer print to the Lexmark X4550 though nothing had changed in the network Setup. We have had several similar problems, when our Macs could not communicate with the Lexmark wireless printer for unknown reasons. In half these cases, we returned the printer to factory settings and setup up the printer again to finally get the printer back in working order. The other half of these cases required a-reinstall of the Lexmark software on the computers.
Even after I received a replacement printer, the setup required two hours of trial-and-error to set up the wireless connectivity. I also had to delete and reinstall the Lexmark software on every computer in the office to communicate with and print to the replacement Lexmark X4550. In a larger office, with more computers, the reinstallation of the software could be a nightmare and consume lots of time, if frequent problems occur.
Despite its features, the Lexmark X4550 wireless capabilities fall short of their potential and are of the plug-and-pray variety. The printer is considerably more useful when connected with USB. I don't know why the Lexmark X4550 wireless connectivity has been such a nightmare, but it has been a frustrating review period.
Printing Capabilities And Quality Exceed ExpectationsConnectivity problems aside, when the Lexmark X4550 successfully communicates over the network, it works very well. In my small office, both Macs have sent jobs to the printer at the same time, and the jobs printed without incident. Color and quality is very good. It prints up color to 4800x1200 dpi resolution and I have absolutely no complaints about the quality of prints from the Lexmark X4550. Bear in mind, however, that I am a casual small business user, and there are considerably better printers available, at similar price.
The printing capabilities of the Lexmark X4550 are also more robust than expected. It offers approximately 36 paper sizes in the Page Setup dialog, including envelopes, postcards, and photo paper. The Print dialog box includes a preview feature. Any casual user is likely to be very happy with the capabilities and quality of this printer.
One Useful TipAfter successful setup and installation, the X4550 prints a network setting sheet. I recommend that all users keep this sheet for future setup purposes. What worked once on a network will work again on that same network.
Good USB Connectivity - Not So Good WirelessAs I've suggested, the Lexmark X4550 should be able to communicate better wirelessly with the computers using it. I can't help but wonder, since Apple can convert the plain English password, why can't Lexmark? Or, in today's Internet age why can't they at least provide an online database with more information based on router brands. The Apple Base Station is a logical choice for Apple customers, but Lexmark tech support was not prepared for the problem I encountered. I wonder how prepared they are for other router brands? After I found the hex password for our Apple network, I gave Lexmark tech support the procedure; so future Mac users should not experience similar fruitless discussions with Lexmark tech support.
I discuss the digital media card support, copy and scan features in the Lexmark X4550 Review Part 2.