The serious Lexmark T640 measures 13.6 by 16.6 by 19.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 38 pounds, with convenient side handgrips for easy moving. The Lexmark T640 comes with a 250-sheet paper drawer and a 100-sheet, flip-open multipurpose tray. A 250-sheet output tray rests on top, with USB, parallel, and Ethernet ports clustered within a back panel. Atop the front, silvery control panel are an easy-to-read backlit LCD matched by menu navigation buttons, as well as a numeric keypad. A unique feature that most rival lasers lack is the T640's front USB port, which lets you pop in a flash drive and print PDF files directly from it.
The T640 configuration should be plenty for a small office, but Lexmark offers an overwhelming array of expansion options. You can add a duplexer to make double-sided prints, a 1,850-sheet output stacker, an envelope feeder, and several input drawers. The 64MB of RAM can expand up to 576MB, and you can also add a hard disk or internal wireless 802.11g networking.
In contrast to some printers, such as the HP LaserJet 2420, which suffer from software bloat, the Lexmark T640 offers an uncomplicated setup. We plugged in the Ethernet cable, and within seconds, the T640 spewed out a page with network settings and an IP address. Once we started the installation from the included CD, the software quickly located the printer on the network and installed drivers on our host computer--a three-minute process.
The Lexmark T640's drivers are simple and well-designed and follow the standard tab layout. The dialog box even displays icons of a piece of paper and a printer that morph to reflect changes made to the paper size, input tray, or number of copies. The more advanced driver settings include options to calibrate brightness and contrast and to enable grayscale correction.
Offices with privacy concerns, such as law firms or medical centers, will appreciate the ability to hold a print job until the sender walks up to the printer and types in a PIN. Just select Print And Hold on the Other Options tab to make a confidential job wait in the queue. And when it comes time to bill a client, Account Tracking lets you key in your account number and print out a report.
The Lexmark T640 prints quickly enough for a workgroup, thanks in part to its 400MHz processor. In CNET Labs' tests, the Lexmark T640 cranked out text at an average of 26.4 pages per minute (ppm) and graphics at 22.97ppm. That speed puts the T640 on a par with the zippy Xerox Phaser 4500B and Dell W5300n.
Print quality is the T640's only weak link. In our tests, the dark, not too bold text looked adequate for basic office printing, but fonts below five points appeared rough up close. And the quality of graphics prints was fair, with uneven blending, grainy photographic elements, and black replacing dark gray shades. We ran our tests at the default level of 600x600dpi. Informal tests at this printer's maximum native resolution of 1,200x1,200dpi made a barely noticeable improvement in graphics quality.
By Lexmark's estimates, printing costs should be low. The 21,000-page toner cartridge costs $380, or $50 less if you return a used cartridge to Lexmark first. This works out to 1.8 cents per page or a low 1.6 cents per page after the cartridge trade-in.