The $130 Lexmark Interpret S405 meets the needs of a multitasking business environment with quick output from any of the print, fax, and scanning features. We also appreciate the simplicity of the wireless setup, but the autodocument feeder gets easily jammed and replacing the individual ink tanks can inflate the overall cost of ownership. And although we didn't experience the connectivity issues that overwhelm the user reviews for this printer, we can't ignore competing devices from Canon and Epson that offer a snag-free user experience for less. We've seen the Lexmark Interpret S405 for under $100 on Amazon.com, which is reasonable, but if you're inclined to spend more than that, we suggest the superior Canon MX410 instead.
Design and features
The autodocument feeder (ADF) gives the S405 a larger footprint than the printer's lower-end linemate, the Impact S305. The S405 measures 8 inches tall, 18.8 inches wide, and 13.31 inches deep, but only weighs 17.1 pounds, making it easily maneuverable around the office. Like the S405, this model gets a gray-and-black color treatment with a glossy black ADF, so it should have no problem fitting in with the rest of your office decor.
The control panel sits on the front face of the S405; it can either stay flush with the unit or come out at an angle for unobstructed visibility. Lexmark opted for a small two-line grayscale LCD display, with a cluster of shortcut buttons lining the top edge. There's also a standard directional pad for scrolling through menus and a pad for dialing numbers on the fax side.
As is typical for most multifunction printers in this price range, Lexmark includes a multimedia card reader as well as a PictBridge-compatible USB port on the lower right side for accessing snapshot photos without need for a computer. The reader supports SD, Memory Stick, xD, and MMC cards, effectively letting you leave the USB cable for your digital camera at home.
There's another USB port on the back for a direct connection to a host computer, but you can also use the built-in 802.11g/b wireless print server. Setting up the wireless connection is a simple matter of inserting the included setup CD and running through the connection wizard. We encountered no difficulties setting up an ad hoc wireless network using an initial USB connection, but we should note that many of the CNET user reviews are reporting frequently dropped router connections that require a computer reboot to fix.
The Impact S305 can handle up to 100 sheets of plain paper in the rear-loading, adjustable tray, and all prints shoot out of the front onto an extendable plastic arm. This method is standard for modern printers, but office jockeys used to robust features like autodocument feeding, double-sided printing, extralarge paper trays, and alternate page layouts might find Lexmark's Platinum Pro905 more tailored to their needs.
Some of the CNET user reviews for the S405 report frustrating problems with loading paper into the ADF, and we ran into similar issues with the fickle paper path that's used to load up to 35 sheets of paper into the machine: the tray is so sensitive that even a slightly misaligned stack of paper in the ADF will cause the spool to jam and cancel a job, which can also be damaging to the ink head and cartridges. Throughout our testing, we encountered numerous paper jams and see little reason to recommend using the ADF on the S405, unlike the Canon Pixma MX410, on which the ADF operated smoothly and gave us no trouble.
Part of the initial setup requires you to install the printhead and each of the four ink cartridges. While many other manufacturers like Canon only include a two-ink cartridge bay in their budget offerings, Lexmark gives you three individual cartridges (yellow, cyan, and magenta) plus a separate black cartridge for richer, more realistic snapshots.
The printer is also one of many to feature Lexmark's newest Vizix individual ink cartridges. Using the XL-capacity cartridges, which offer a better overall value, we calculate the price of one page of black ink at 5 cents per page and one page of color at 3 cents per page. Both costs are average for a printer at this price, but note that the S405 won't print if even one of the cartridges is depleted, so plan to spend more money in the long term on refills.