The Lexmark Z2420 inkjet photo printer is a refresher to last year's Z1420, and after all our tests are said and done, we're not sure what prompted the update--the Z2420 appears to be of the same build, print speed, and output quality as its predecessor. Sure, the printer is relatively quick and can do 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi for less than $100, but you can pay the competition a little more and get substantially better photo and graphics quality.
Design and features
The shape of the Z2420 is much more contoured than last year's model, with rounded edges instead of straight lines. Built-in Wi-Fi networking and its lightweight size (4.9 inches by 18.0 inches by 9 inches) make it easy to move around the home office without getting weighed down or tangled up in cords. The paper feeder on top of the printer holds 100 pages of standard paper, but we found some serious fault in its mechanical design: the paper sits slightly angled down and to the right in the tray, so when the printer spools the media to begin printing, the awkward position creates some nasty printer jams. Even worse, the software driver wouldn't let us cancel the document, and we had to restart our computer and power cycle the printer to start from scratch. Finally, Lexmark went with a dark, battleship gray instead of continuing with the Z1420's glossy white, so if you're looking for a printer to match your fifth-gen Apple iPod, buy the older Z1420--the internal hardware is so similar you won't notice the difference.
The Z2420 houses two cartridge bays; one for tricolor (cyan, magenta, and yellow) and another for standard black. According to Lexmark, the included cartridges should yield around 175 pages, but ours didn't even make it through our testing, which is unusual for a photo inkjet. They also offer XL cartridges capable of printing 500 color pages for $35, or $0.07 per page.
One of the most appealing features is the 802.11 b/g wireless print server built right into the back, so it's easy to add the printer to your network and print cable-free from a number of different computers. We followed the onscreen instructions provided by the driver software and found it easiest to establish a USB connection first, then add the wireless networking. From there, we installed the driver onto other desktops connected to the same network and were able to print without getting tangled up in long Ethernet cords.
The Lexmark Z2420 produced unusual speed test results, scoring the fastest out of four competitors (even faster than the HP Officejet Pro K5400, a printer twice as expensive as the Lexmark) but fell dead last in photo and presentation speed. We assume Lexmark put a high concentration of research into improving text speed, but let the rest of the functions fall below the average for sub-$100 photo inkjets.