The Z32 Color Jetprinter, Lexmark's latest low-cost ink jet, offers excellent print quality at a low price. But beware: After factoring in the high cost of consumables, the Z32 is no bargain. While it is a good budget solution for occasional home printing, steer clear if you plan on printing a lot or often. The Z32 Color Jetprinter, Lexmark's latest low-cost ink jet, offers excellent print quality at a low price. But beware: After factoring in the high cost of consumables, the Z32 is no bargain. While it is a good budget solution for occasional home printing, steer clear if you plan on printing a lot or often.
Printing in Minutes
The Z32 offers the versatility of either USB or parallel port connections and is PC- and Mac-compatible. Installation is simple enough: Insert the driver CD and launch the setup program; you're ready to print in less than five minutes. The surprisingly light Z32 features a curved design with a medium footprint (17.6 by 8.3 by 6.7 inches) that should be fine for homes with little desk space. The Z32 comes with Instant Calendar software, a standard one-year warranty, and unlimited, seven-day-a-week telephone support (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. eastern time; Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. eastern time).
Great Text, Good Color
Once the Z32 is up and running, it generates very good and, at times, excellent output. On CNET Labs' tests, the Z32 performed best when printing text on coated paper, displaying crisp, clear lines at the default 600 by 600 dots per inch (dpi). Text on plain paper showed some haziness around serifs but still produced sharp results. Color graphics fared worse, showing banding and pixelation on both plain and coated paper.
Below the Surface
The Lexmark's low-yield consumables mar what might otherwise be an excellent deal. The Z32 will cost you an exorbitant 13.2 cents per black-and-white text page, one of the highest rates we've seen. You'd be better off printing at a local copy shop. Color costs were also high at 78 cents per color page.
If you have a need for speed, look elsewhere. The Z32 was rather slow, producing only 1.9 pages per minute (ppm) of black-and-white text. Although comparable in cost to the Epson Stylus Color 660, the Z32 was more than 20 percent slower than its predecessor, the Z31, when it came to performance.
If you think the Lexmark's $99 price is too good to be true, you're right. You should always be wary of the operating costs of low-price ink jets. Although the Z32's print quality was very good for its price range, spending a little more up front on a printer such as the HP DeskJet 812C will save you money in the long run.