An inkjet multifunction printer sounds like an expensive piece of equipment, but these days, you can bring one home for a measly $100. The Lexmark X5470 is one such printer, combining printer, scanner, fax, and copier into one useful device. It lacks built-in networking, which means it's better suited for a single-user home office, but the included user guide walks you through networking the printer via a print server. While the printer was quick at most tasks (except copying), the trade-off was poor print quality. You can get far better print quality from similarly priced all-in-ones, such as the Canon Pixma MP460 (which costs about $30 more) or from the Canon Pixma MP180, though neither Pixma offers fax capability.
The Lexmark X5470's glossy white, gray, and silver body is boxy and perhaps a bit large for a home multifunction, but it's light and easy to maneuver. The scanner lid has a built-in automatic document feeder that can hold up to 10 pages for batching scanning or copying. The flatbed scanner can hold pages up to A4 in size, but you can scan legal-size documents using the ADF.
The X5470's paper handling options are basic: an input support juts out from the back and can hold up to 100 sheets of regular paper. The output tray sticks out of the front of the base and can be extended to corral long sheets of paper. For printing photos without a PC, the X5470 offers a PictBridge port and memory card slots that accept most common memory cards, though some will require an adapter.
The control panel is mounted on a silver shelf on the front of the printer. Four buttons let you toggle between copy, scan, fax, and photo-printing modes. Resize and Lighter/Darker buttons allow you to quickly make simple adjustments. A menu button calls up the menu of the currently selected task in the two-line text LCD (backlit). To navigate the menus, you have two directional keys and Select, Back, and Cancel buttons. An alphanumeric keypad, a Pause/Redial button, and a Phone Book button let you send faxes. And rounding out the control panel are two start buttons--one for color and the other for black-only. We like that the Pixma MP460 and the Brother MFC-440cn both offer color LCDs for previewing photos. The Brother MFC-440cn also comes with a larger ADF and built-in networking, though it costs $50 more.
The X5470 employs a two ink-tank system: one color (CMY) and one black. For six-color photo printing, you can swap out the black tank for an optional three-color photo ink tank. Regular capacity black tanks cost $20 to replace, while the tricolor tanks cost $22. The high-capacity versions cost $25 and $30, respectively. If you opt for the photo color tank, it will set you back $25.
The Lexmark X5470 offers a range of features that make it useful for a home office user. When faxing, you can use either the ADF or the flatbed scanner. The flatbed is recommended for single-page faxes, or any small or thin original that shouldn't pass through the ADF, such as magazine clippings or postcards. The Phone Book button on the control panel lets you access preprogrammed numbers. If you like, you can program in up to 89 individual speed-dial entries and up to 10 speed-dial groups (each group can contain up to 30 numbers). To send a broadcast fax, you can pick one of your 10 presaved groups, or use the phone book to select up to 30 individual numbers or groups. You can also choose to delay your fax by setting the time you want it sent, forward the fax to another number, and block junk faxes if you have caller ID set up.
When copying, you can also use either the ADF or the flatbed scanner. When resizing, you have a wide range of options, from preset values to custom resizing (from 25 to 400 percent). You can also print 2x2, 3x3, and 4x4 poster prints, which will print just a portion of the original on each sheet. You can then piece the prints together to form a large poster version of your original document. On the flip side, you can do an image-repeat copy, with 4, 9, or 16 copies of the same image on a single sheet. If you're copying a multipage document and want to save paper, you can make an N-up copy, which will print multiple pages on a single sheet, up to 8. Finally, you can change the standard settings, such as copy quality, paper size, paper type, and so on.
If you choose to initiate scans directly from the X5470, you have a few options. You can scan to a file, to an e-mail, or to your PC's clipboard. When scanning to a file, you can save the document as a JPEG, a bitmap, a TIFF, or a PDF, among other file types. You have more options if you initiate a scan through Lexmark's Imaging Studio utility. Here, you can change settings such as resolution and color depth, specify a particular area to be scanned, use the optical character recognition feature to scan a text document as an editable file, and scan into particular programs. Both Pixmas offer a similar set of features, minus the fax capability, of course.
Finally, using the built-in PictBridge port and media card slots, you can transfer photos between different locations or just print photos, without touching your PC. The PictBridge USB port also accepts USB-based flash thumbdrives, so you can transfer photos from either a memory card or a flash drive to your PC or transfer from a memory card to a flash drive. Using the Photo Card menu, you can print a proof sheet of all the photos on a card, just the 20 most recent photos, or a subset of photos designated by date. The last two options are especially helpful because you can't preview photos on the screen as you can on the Brother MFC-440cn and the Canon Pixma MP460 printers. Once you've printed proof sheets, simply bubble in the photos you want to print and scan the sheet using the scanner. Only the photos you chose will be printed. If you want to print photos without first printing a proof sheet, you also have the option to print all the photos, just the last 20, or the images shot within a particular date range. Other options include photo effects such as red-eye reduction, automatic image enhancement, and color effects (sepia, antique gray, and so on); paper size; paper type; paper quality; and layout (one-up, two-up, and so forth).