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Lexmark T420d - printer - monochrome - laser review: Lexmark T420d - printer - monochrome - laser

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The Good Comes with clear, easy-to-follow setup documentation; has both parallel and USB 2.0 ports; offers a wide range of drivers for just about every major OS; prints relatively quickly.

The Bad Marginal output quality with graphics and small fonts; problematic telephone support; not much memory.

The Bottom Line Despite this laser's speed and high duty cycle, its meager memory and poor output make it hard to recommend.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Support 6

The Lexmark T420d is a surprisingly lukewarm laser printer, especially coming from a world leader in printing. A low-end printer that Lexmark has positioned to handle high-end tasks, this printer falls short. It's more expensive than other lasers in the market, its print quality is just fair, and it offers merely average paper capacity and memory. Also, in spite of its wide driver compatibility and peppy print speed, the Lexmark T420d's print quality disappoints. Unless your need for speed surpasses your desire for quality, skip the T420d. The Dell P1500 churns out better quality for less money. The Lexmark T420d hardly stands out among the crowd of personal laser printers we've seen recently. It's your typical beige box, slightly larger than other laser printers, with only a slight curve in the front to soften its appearance.

As with most personal, monochrome laser printers, setting up the T420d is quick and easy. Simply place the unit next to your PC, install the toner/drum cartridge, load the paper tray, connect your cables, and install the appropriate drivers from the included CD. The T420d provides a standard parallel port and a USB 2.0 port for local PC connections, but you can also easily share the printer across a home or small-business network through a PC. The T420d does not include an Ethernet port for direct network connections in the standard product, however. A multilingual setup guide walks you through the entire process, and a quick reference guide covers the essentials of paper tray/feeder setup.

Standard ports.

Lots of paper trays.

The input paper tray holds as many as 250 sheets, and you can install an optional 500-sheet tray, as well. However, the shallow output tray holds a puny 150 sheets, which means that you'll need to remove your finished print jobs promptly, especially if you're sharing the unit among network users. A 100-sheet multipurpose feeder folds out from the front panel; it lets you load envelopes, transparencies, and other specialized print media. Overall, the printer's construction is as sturdy as that of any general-purpose laser printer in the market--and it may be even more so since the paper tray fits well into the printer's body--there's no tray sticking out to bump or dislodge.

Not many user controls.
As you might expect from a bare-bones laser printer, the Lexmark T420d doesn't offer a lot of features. Its minimal user controls include Continue and Cancel buttons, along with a series of LEDs to indicate printer status and common error conditions. This simplicity eliminates the learning curve and potential confusion often associated with more complex LCD menus.

The T420d ships with a multilingual, printed setup guide and a quick-reference card, along with a CD containing printer drivers and software. You'll find drivers on the CD for a wide range of operating systems including Windows 9x, Me, XP, 2000, NT 4.0; Mac 8.6, 9.x, X; and numerous versions of Linux, Unix, Novell, and Citrix. This kind of software versatility allows you to install the T420d on just about any Mac or PC platform. Also on the CD, MarkVision software displays printer status, monitoring, and management on your PC's screen. For compatibility with the latest printing programs, the T420d supports both PCL6 and PostScript 3 printer language emulation.

The base configuration T420d includes 16MB of RAM, which isn't enough to cache serious print jobs from multiple users. You can upgrade to 272MB for the most complex print jobs. You'll pay about $150 for 16MB of extra RAM.

Average-priced replacement cartridges.
Like many laser printers, the Lexmark T420d uses a single, black toner cartridge/drum assembly. Changing the cartridge, which you insert through a front panel, takes less than 30 seconds. Combining the toner and the drum in the same unit means that you'll change the drum each time you change the toner--a good system, since the dual cartridge cuts down on maintenance and ensures that printing remains as fresh and crisp as possible. According to Lexmark, the $128 standard cartridge produces up to 5,000 pages, which is about 3 cents per page, while the $222 high-yield cartridge delivers up to 10,000 pages, representing a better value at about 2 cents per page. These prices are about average when compared to those from competitors; for example, the Dell P1500's 6,000-page cartridge costs $148. The Brother HL-5040, on the other hand, offers a 6,500-page cartridge for around $90, which works out to about 1.3 cents per page.

Unfortunately, in CNET Labs' tests, the T420d didn't produce the level of print quality we've come to expect from a Lexmark printer. Text pages churned out at a respectable 16 pages per minute (ppm), but the blacks looked a bit blotchy, and small fonts experienced broken text. Mixed text/graphics printed at a rate of 13ppm, easily outpacing other laser printers, such as the Brother HL-5040. However, in these printouts, the ink appeared too light overall and exhibited noticeable banding. Ultimately, the T420d is good for quick-and-dirty printing, but users who need a top-quality laser for speedy, crisp printing should look elsewhere. A laser printer such as the Minolta PagePro 1250E will do the trick.

Laser printer speed (personal and workgroup)
Pages per minute (Longer bars indicate faster speeds)

Lexmark T420d
Brother HL-5040
Dell Personal Laser Printer P1500
Minolta PagePro 1250E
Inkjet printer quality
•Poor   ••Fair   •••Good   ••••Excellent
 Printer  Text  Graphics
 Brother HL-5040 ••• ••
 Dell Personal Laser Printer P1500 ••• ••
 Lexmark T420d •• ••
 Minolta PagePro 1250E •••• •••
The Lexmark T420d is protected by the typical one-year limited LexExpress warranty, which includes free telephone support. Throughout the warranty period, if your printer is defective or if tech support cannot resolve your problem, Lexmark will express ship a replacement printer to you, and you ship back the defective printer in the replacement printer's carton. Lexmark pays the shipping charges, but you'll need to locate a UPS drop-off point for returns. You can opt to extend the LexExpress coverage for an additional year ($139) or two ($249). Or you can upgrade your warranty coverage to LexOnSite Exchange--one year for $209 or two years for $379--or LexOnSite Repair, where you get one year for $174 or two years for $309.

Phone support (via toll call) is available only weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET--but that's only if you can actually get someone on the phone. During our test call, the simple phone tree gave way to an interminable wait. Our Saturday call to support kept us on hold for 20 minutes before we finally gave up. A second attempt on Monday met with the same unacceptable delay. Fortunately, Lexmark also offers 24/7 online support, where you'll find electronic manuals, a searchable knowledge base, updated drivers and software, and a link to e-mail support.

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