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With a huge number of color inkjet multifunction printers jockeying for space on the shelves of office superstores, it can be easy to forget the humble, single-function printer. While it seems like an archaic relic, the single-function printer--though uncommon these days--is a good fit for users who want to keep things simple and truly have no need to scan, copy, or fax. The Lexmark Z1300 is one of these rarities, and even more uncommonly, it comes with a puny $25 price tag--making it the least expensive printer on the market, according to our research. Even HP's rock-bottom inkjet--the Deskjet D2430--costs $40. Given the low price, we began the review with low expectations, but the Z1300 surprised us by keeping up with the pricier competition. Unfortunately, its print quality leaves something to be desired, but $25 doesn't buy you everything. If all you need is a basic inkjet for convenience and you don't require great print quality, the Lexmark Z1300 is the perfect bargain for you. On the other hand, if you do value print quality--printing more than the occasional map and Word doc--you'll need to spend more. For better-looking prints at a still-reasonable price, consider the $50 Canon Pixma iP1800.
The Lexmark Z1300's simple design reflects its basic functionality. The glossy white body measures 4.8 inches tall, 16.9 inches wide, and 8.4 inches deep, and weighs a featherlight 5 pounds. The paper-handling system is typical for a basic inkjet printer: the 100-sheet input support juts up from the rear and the output tray pulls out from the front. The input area is fronted by a translucent gray shield that deflects small objects such as pens and paper clips. The only other feature on the body of the Z1300 is the power button.
The Z1300 employs a two-tank system, which is standard for low-cost inkjet printers: one black cartridge and one tricolor (CMY) cartridge. For six-color photo printing, you can swap out the black tank for a tricolor photo tank. Lexmark offers three tiers of ink tank pricing: regular capacity, return program (using regular-capacity cartridges), and high capacity. The regular black normally costs $22 (about 175 pages), but under the return program, you can get it for $18 if you send your empty ink tanks back to Lexmark. The high-capacity tank costs $25 (about 500 pages). The equivalent color cartridges cost $23 (150 pages), $19, and $30 (475 pages), respectively. Using the high-yield cartridges for best value, we estimate that a black-only print will cost about 5 cents per page, while a four-color page will cost about 11.3 cents per page. These numbers are in line with print costs from other low-end inkjet printers. The optional photo cartridge costs $25.
Due to the Z1300's basic nature, there isn't much of a feature set to talk about other than the bundled software. The Lexmark Solution Center (included on the installation CD) is a one-stop shop for assistance with your printer. You can find how-tos and a troubleshooter, as well as maintenance instructions here. The information is well-organized and easy to find.
The only other bundled program is the Lexmark Imaging Studio, which we discussed in our review of the Lexmark Z1420. As we mentioned in that review, Imaging Studio makes easy work of basic tasks such as printing photos (either singly or in multiphoto layouts), creating slide shows, or printing large posters. But it falls way short with creative tasks such as printing greeting cards: your options are limited and the offered layouts don't do much to feature your photos.
For a $25 printer, the Lexmark Z1300 gave a surprisingly good performance in CNET Labs' speed tests, besting or tying the sub-$100 competition. (Because no vendor makes an equally inexpensive inkjet printer, we have to compare the Z1300 to some slightly more expensive models.) It printed black text at a rate of 6.82 pages per minute (ppm), a hair faster than Lexmark's more expensive Z1420 (6.68ppm) and a full page faster than the Canon Pixma iP1800's 5.82ppm. When producing 4x6 photos, it tied both the Lexmark Z1420 and the Canon iP1800 with a score of 0.72ppm.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Photo speed||Text speed|
Unfortunately, as with the Z1420, fast print speeds come at the cost of print quality with the Z1300. Black text prints, though nicely dark, were beset by obvious jaggedness. The color graphics print had a slightly faded look to it and color blocks showed graininess and faint horizontal striations. Barcode-style patterns were muddled, too. For our tests, we printed color 4x6 photos with the standard black and tricolor cartridges, as Lexmark did not include photo ink tanks with the test unit. The colors were dull, details were hazy, and again, the entire print was marred by graininess and faint horizontal lines. That said, nobody buys a $25 printer to print photos for framing or to create displays for a classroom science project. A $25 printer is a convenience item for occasional reference prints, and as such, the Z1300 does its job.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
Lexmark offers a standard one-year warranty for the Z1300. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT. You can also chat online with tech support during the same hours, or send an e-mail to tech support at any time. Lexmark's Web site offers a knowledge base of FAQs and how-tos, as well as product manuals and drivers.