The Lexmark X342n is a networkable mono laser multifunction printer aimed at home and very small offices. It combines print, fax, copy, and scan functions into a reasonably compact unit for an affordable price. Two flavors are available: the X340n comes with a 2,500-page toner cartridge for a mere $349, and the X342n comes with a high-yield 6,000-page toner cartridge for $50 more (we reviewed the X342n). For roughly the same price, however, the Dell 1815dn offers slightly faster performance on every task except photocopying. The Dell 1815dn produced higher-quality text than the Lexmark, too, though the X342n bested the Dell at graphics and scans. Additionally, the Dell 1815dn has a built-in duplexer, a USB port for scanning to or printing from a flash drive, and support for Mac and Unix machines, in addition to Windows-based PCs. Overall, the Lexmark X342n is a serviceable multifunction printer at a manageable price, but in the end, you'll get more bang for your buck from the Dell 1815dn.
The Lexmark X342n's design screams "work." The gray unit stands 15.5 inches tall and has a footprint of about 14.5 inches wide by 13.5 inches deep, though the unit is wider on top than at the bottom. It weighs a reasonable 36 pounds, but we found it a bit difficult to move, as the handholds on the sides aren't deep enough to get a good grip. The scanner lid, with attached automatic document feeder, feels well-constructed, though light. The hinges of the lid lift out a bit to accommodate thicker materials but not enough to sit flat on really thick books. Unfortunately, neither the X340n nor the X342n have duplexing capability--not even as an add-on option. They are, however, network ready, with a built-in 10/100 Ethernet port.
The control panel for the Lexmark X342n features a multitude of buttons, including ones to switch between functions, common options for each function, preset numbers for faxing and the standard numeric keypad, menu navigation buttons (up, down, select, back, and menu), and start and stop buttons. The two-line LCD is backlit for easy reading in dim light. Despite the wealth of buttons, the X342n's options are more limited than the Dell 1815dn's. A whirl through the menu shows a flaw that we found very frustrating: drilling down through the menu is simple enough, but when you make a change to a setting, you're automatically booted out of the menu, instead of returning to the previous level. If you want to make multiple changes at once, say, when you're setting up the printer for the first time, you'll have to hit the menu button for each change you want to make. If you drill down without making changes, though, there is a dedicated back button to help you back out of the menus.
The automatic document feeder atop the printer can handle 50 pages, while the standard paper drawer holds 250 sheets. The drawer slides out without any stops, so be careful not to pull too enthusiastically lest you drop the whole tray. You can purchase an optional 550-sheet input drawer for $200, bringing the printer's maximum input capacity to 800 sheets. The output tray is contained within the body of the printer and holds up to 150 pages; while the design is efficient, you can't expand the output capacity. The backward slant of the output tray makes it unlikely that your printed pages will spill out, and a small piece of plastic flips out to further ensure that longer pages don't go flying. A slot in the front serves as a manual, single-sheet feeder; the paper guides are adjustable but don't snap to standard page sizes. A rear panel in the back flips open to serve as an alternate output for thicker media, such as card stock.