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The Lexmark X3550 is a budget-priced all-in-one inkjet printer for home users who want an inexpensive multifunction on hand for occasional tasks. The $80 unit prints, scans, copies, and e-faxes, and it does so without sending you to the poorhouse when it comes time to replace the ink cartridges. Out of the box, it's a USB-only printer, but you can add on a $50 wireless card for printing wirelessly over your home network. Its feature set and performance fit the price: fairly standard but not terribly impressive. If printing photos isn't high up on your priority list and you don't need a high-volume machine, this multifunction will meet your various printing, scanning, and copying needs. If you're looking for a multifunction with better print quality, check out the Canon Pixma MP180.
The Lexmark X3550 features the company's standard white-and-light-gray body, with silver accents. The printer sits 17.8 inches wide, 7 inches tall, and 12.8 inches deep. The paper input support sticks up from the rear edge of the printer, and the output tray extends from the front. The input area is protected by a translucent plastic guard that deflects small objects such as paper clips and pens.
The control panel is simple and well-organized. The centerpiece is the two-line, backlit text LCD. Mode buttons allow you to switch between copy, scan, and photo card tasks, while a menu key and menu navigation buttons allow you to peruse the various menus. A settings key, a lighter/darker key, and two start buttons (color and black) round out the panel. Additionally, the X3550 offers two built-in memory card readers, as well as a PictBridge-enabled USB port for PC-free photo printing.
The X3550 employs a two-tank ink system, which is standard for printers in this price range. Lexmark offers three tiers of pricing for ink: regular capacity; regular capacity with return cartridge program; and high capacity. The black tank costs $24 (215 pages), $20, and $25 (550 pages), respectively, while the tricolor tank costs $26 (185 pages), $22, and $30 (500 pages), respectively. Using the cost of the high-capacity tanks for the best value, we calculate that a black-only page will cost about 4.5 cents and a full-color page will cost about 10.5 cents--both numbers are reasonable. If you want six-color photo prints, Lexmark offers an optional tricolor photo cartridge (to replace the black tank) for $25.
While the X3550 comes standard as a USB-only multifunction, you can add an optional wireless network card for wireless printing across your home's Wi-Fi network. The module simply snaps into place on the rear of the printer.
The X3550's features are standard for an entry-level all-in-one printer. When copying, you can make between 1 and 99 copies; resize between 25 and 400 percent, either using preset or custom values; make borderless copies of photos; and make image-repeat or N-up copies. When scanning a photo or document, you can scan it to Lexmark's Imaging Studio, save it as a file on your PC, or scan it to a number of programs, in which you can edit the document. Lexmark's installation CD includes an optical character recognition program that converts the image to editable text, as well. Though the X3550 isn't fax-ready, the CD also includes Lexmark's Fax Solutions utility, which lets you send and receive e-faxes, as long as your PC is equipped with a modem.
You can print photos in standalone mode using the memory card readers or PictBridge port, or using your PC. Because the X3550 lacks a graphical LCD, you can't preview or edit on the printer itself. Nor can you use the control panel to select individual photos to be printed. You can, however, print a proof sheet (all, last 20, or within a date range) and fill out the sheet and scan it in to print select images. Your other option is to use Lexmark's Imaging Studio software on your PC to select photos, edit them, and print. We found the Imaging Studio to be helpful with basic tasks such as editing and printing, but as we've mentioned before, we don't like its greeting card tool, which is unnecessarily restrictive.
The Lexmark X3550 performed as well as we expected for a very inexpensive color multifunction. It printed text at a rate of 4.34 pages per minute (ppm), at least a full page slower than the rest of the competition (its competitors were slightly more expensive). It fared better with 4x6 photo prints, producing them at a rate of 0.77ppm. And it was fairly speedy with scans, as well, producing grayscale scans at a rate of 4.45ppm and color scans at a rate of 5.36ppm.
|Color scan speed||Grayscale scan speed||4x6 photo speed||Text speed|
The X3550's quality was also as expected: not spectacular, but decent and serviceable for the occasional home user. Black text prints were nicely dark and looked good at arm's length, but close inspection showed us lots of imperfections and jagged edges on characters. The color graphics print revealed smooth color gradients, though overall, the color was a bit faded. Blocks of color showed graininess and horizontal striations. The 4x6 print fared the worst of all: colors were dull, graininess and horizontal striations marred the entire print, and the image lacked sharpness.
Happily, the X3550 did a better job with scans. The color scan was sharp and detailed, though colors looked overly dark and somber. The grayscale scan was also sharp, though we saw compression in the dark end of the grayscale, which resulted in lost details in shadow areas. Overall, the X3550 did a decent job and is fine for home users who make occasional prints for reference.
|Color scan||Grayscale scan||Photo||Graphics||Text|
Service and support
Lexmark offers a standard one-year warranty for the X3550. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT. You can also chat online with tech support during the same hours, or send an e-mail to tech support at any time. Lexmark's Web site offers a knowledge base of FAQs and how-tos, as well as product manuals and drivers.