Review: Lexmark Z53

For a very, very long time Epson and Hewlett Packard were the only (July 25th, 2002)

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Product Manufacturer: Lexmark

Price: $100

The Good

  • Excellent print quality; good speed, price.

The Bad

  • Large footprint, large envelope support

For a very, very long time Epson and Hewlett Packard were the only reasonable choices for Mac users looking for a SOHO printer. Lexmark is taking a run at the position of best SOHO printer with their Z53 inkjet printer. Is the larger Lexmark worth buying over the traditional Epson or HP?

Larger than life The first thing you notice about the Z53 is its size. It is considerably bigger than similar Epson or HP models even with the paper tray retracted. You better have a fair bit of desk space available. Another slight annoyance is the placement of the USB port and power cord. They lie behind a large door on the back that is difficult to open, sacrificing the parallel port would have made for a smaller easy-to-open door.

Easy to use, inside and out One of the great features of the Z53 is that it is so easy to use, inside and out. As soon as you open the lid the ink tanks slide into position for changing instead of making you hold down buttons. It only has two buttons: on-off and paper-feed, both are easy to identify and fairly large. The software for Mac OS X seems to be better than that for OS 9, although it can't use some features of the printer such as duplexing (note that this is software duplexing and not hardware duplexing). We would like to see more polished drives but its tight integration with the Mac OS X 10.1 Print Center does make up for that. We found that aligning the print heads and other maintenance tasks are much easier to do than on other printers.

Sheet-Shooter One odd characteristic of this printer is its rather violent paper feeding. It actually sounds like its about to mutilate your document beyond recognition. We also noticed that the paper, regardless of how straight it was put in, is shoved onto an angle when drawn into the printer. This does not seem to make any difference, though we wonder why it wouldn't already be straight. Another unexplained oddity is a notch it makes on the paper about one inch from the left of the page. After a bit of fiddling with it the problem disappeared for a while and then came back. This probably has something to do with the violent sheet-feeder, though we aren't sure if it wasn't a simple defect on our printer (note: this would normally be covered under Lexmark's 1 year warranty).

Speedy Printing The Z53 is definitely a speedy printer. It printed one page in 12 seconds under Mac OS X 10.1.1, the same page took about the same time in OS 9.2.1 with background printing enabled. Background printing is just as fast as foreground printing in OS 9 aside from the time it takes to spool. The Z53 also worked as a Desktop printer as well as in the chooser.

Roundup Though this printer offers excellent print quality and speed, it is marred by weak Mac OS X drivers and a rather large footprint. The Z53 feels more suited to the less demanding role of home office printer than a small office printer. Things like accepting large envelopes will surely disappoint such users. But we wouldn't hesitate to suggest this printer to anyone using it for home use all the way to a home office.

by Matthew Stoton


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