Lexmark P6250 review: Lexmark P6250

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy to use and beginner-friendly; compact; stylish; good print quality; useful and uncomplicated software; inexpensive; Windows and Mac compatible.

The Bad Glacial print speeds; mediocre scans; no standalone fax; must swap cartridges for volume text printing.

The Bottom Line Lexmark simplifies this easy-on-the-eyes multifunction so that it won't confuse you, but can you trade ease of use for quality?

6.9 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Service and support 7.0

Intro

The Lexmark P6250 aims to take photo printing to new heights of user-friendliness. As it turns out, this low-cost all-in-one printer, copier, and scanner does just that. The intuitive design makes it a snap to print straight from digital-media cards or a PictBridge camera, and its software drivers provide printing and photo-manipulation options. More sophisticated users will appreciate the option to make advanced adjustments to photos and scans. On the downside, the P6250 produces mixed output quality, and it's one of the most sluggish printers we've seen. Also, to conserve color ink, you'll have to switch ink cartridges each time you change between printing text and photos--a hassle if you plan to make this your solo printer. Still, the user experience with the Lexmark P6250 ranks among the best we can remember, especially if you're printing only one type of document most of the time; we just wish we could say the same for its speed and output quality. Unless you're too intimidated by the busy control panels of other multifunctions, you should pass up the P6250 for an all-in-one with better quality, such as the Epson Stylus CX6600 , or a faster do-it-all device such as the Dell 942 . We're used to hulking all-in-ones that look like personal photocopiers, such as the Epson CX6600 , but the trim 10.6-pound Lexmark P6250 has the low-slung shape of a flatbed scanner and a footprint that measures a modest 7 by 17.14 by 13.15 inches (HWD). This short, tidy, white-and-blue machine echoes Mac design elements and spares space on your desk for the rest of your hardware and knickknacks.

The 100-page plastic paper-input tray sticks up behind the scan bed of the P6250. To accommodate different sizes of paper, you slide the edges of the paper guide to fit. A sensor automatically and accurately adjusts the print quality to the kind of paper inserted. Like most inexpensive inkjet printers, this device lacks a slot to feed single sheets or envelopes and a straight paper-path option to prevent unusual media such as card stock from bending.

The Lexmark P6250's standalone copy, scan, and photo-printing functions are available without a computer. To scan, copy, or fax, just place items on the 8.5-by-11.7-inch glass bed. To print photos, you can insert a digital media card or a PictBridge-compatible camera cord into a front-panel slot. This machine accepts an assortment of media cards: CompactFlash Type I and II, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo with adapter, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, SmartMedia, Microdrive and xD. With a USB cable, you can also hook up the machine to your Mac or PC to back up digital camera images on the hard drive or explore Lexmark's imaging software.

The P6250's bright, full-color LCD reports the printer's status with a 3D display of ink-tank levels. If you open the hood of the machine like a car, the LCD immediately runs a video showing how to change the ink cartridges. This will quickly become a familiar activity because you'll have to swap cartridges when you shift printing jobs; an ink-tank storage well next to the print engine keeps the extra cartridge on deck. The P6250 comes with two ink tanks: one with color for graphics and one containing color and black ink for photos.

A series of buttons on the front panel lets you flip between Copy, Scan, and Photo Card modes, with quick keys for rotating, resizing, and adjusting the number of copies to print. There is also a cluster of buttons for navigating the Direct Print menu. In keeping with the promise to make photo printing easy, the P6250's Print menu is intuitively organized, with clear descriptions of each step. But perhaps the most useful option is the Print Preview button, which displays on the LCD how your photo will print before you waste any paper or ink. This long-awaited feature is new to the all-in-one category.

Amateur photo nuts will appreciate the ease of printing straight from a digital memory card or through the PictBridge port on the Lexmark P6250. You just insert the card or plug in your camera, then use the machine's color screen and buttons to scroll through and select photos; launch the menu; and specify paper size, print quality, brightness, and cropping. If you choose to adjust brightness or cropping, the LCD launches a helpful slider bar that zooms in and out on thumbnail versions of the images.

Another feature new to this generation of multifunctions, which includes the HP Photosmart 2710, is software intelligent enough to automatically fit multiple photos onto a large piece of paper. If you tell the P6250 to print your 4x6 photos on an 8.5x11 sheet, the printer will arrange three photos on one page; this spares you from extra tweaking and from wasting expensive paper.

Like many all-in-ones, the P6250 can't fax directly because it lacks a phone jack. But you can fax through software on your PC. If you need an all-in-one with standalone faxing, try the Lexmark X7170 .

Lexmark Imaging Studio is the main software interface for the P6250. It consists of icons for printing, sharing, or browsing photos; printing an album page; scanning and editing text and images; and copying. The P6250 comes with a thorough beginners' image-editing program called Lexmark Photo Editor. Photo Editor lets beginners choose from a series of Quick Fixes such as rotating, cropping, red-eye removal, and even One-Click Photo Fix, which automatically adjusts basics such as brightness, contrast, and sharpness. Beyond the basics, the software can also adjust color depth, color-balance levels, and advanced brightness and contrast options, including whitepoint, blackpoint, and gamma. It can even despeckle an image. Most of these options show before-and-after panes so that you can keep track of what you're doing. The Photo Editor also offers a set of rudimentary drawing tools including a paintbrush, an eraser, and a color picker. In short, it's not Adobe Photoshop , but it's worlds better than Microsoft Paint and won't expire like the Jasc Paint Shop Pro application included with the Dell 942 .

To scan, copy, or fax, the Lexmark Imaging Studio application launches the beginner-friendly All-In-One Center, which asks what you're scanning and what software you want to use (such as a fax application, an e-mail program, an image editor, or Microsoft Word). When you're scanning, a drop-down menu suggests which dot-per-inch settings are good for your project. More experienced users can opt to see advanced scan options such as bumping the resolution up to 19,200dpi, deskewing or sharpening images, or reducing background noise.

Because the P6250 is designed mainly for photo printing, it comes with two ink cartridges: one with cyan, magenta, and yellow ink for $21.99 and a photo cartridge with photo cyan, magenta, and black for $24.99. If you plan to print gobs of text, it's worthwhile to buy a separate black cartridge for $19.99--or $24.99 for a high-yield cartridge--to lower the cost per page instead of wasting all the colors by printing text with the photo cartridge.

Quality
The Lexmark P6250's performance was uneven in CNET Labs' tests. It did a good job on our print-quality tests, but it produced merely fair scan quality and dragged its heels printing and scanning. Text printed at the default setting looked dark and sharp upon first glance, but closer inspection revealed fuzziness along the edges of letters, especially with italics and diagonal strokes.

Graphics printed on inkjet paper looked smooth, with dithering and slight horizontal banding visible only up close. The shaded elements progressed evenly and smoothly from dark to light, and color matching was very good.

Color photographs came out slightly warm and orange when printed at the Best setting on glossy photo paper--tolerable for casual printing if you don't mind extra warmth. The printer has an especially hard time smoothly rendering flesh tones. The average consumer should be satisfied with the P6250's photo output, but exacting users may prefer a pure photo printer such as the Epson R800 .

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