The $200 Lexmark x7550 is a misfortunate victim of the all-in-one Achilles heel: In combining several features into one unit, the whole ends up sacrificing functionality on each of the individual parts. The printer quality is trumped by even the most entry-level inkjets, the fax machine is mediocre because of a lower than average paper feed count, and the copier mercilessly destroys documents if they're not positioned correctly within fractions of a centimeter. The only redemptive feature is its built-in wireless capability that eliminates the need for a separate print server (although this is far from revolutionary). In this case, the wireless feature is vanilla icing on an otherwise spoiled cake. As a whole, we'd rather sacrifice the space and make room for three solid machines instead of one altogether inferior unit.
Out of the box, the x7550 has a low-profile shape and a faux-metal plastic finish. All-in-ones usually have a large footprint, but this one is minimal, measuring in at 7.95 inches by 17.9 inches by 13.8 inches. We like the idea of not having to bulldoze our desk space to accommodate the size, and the paper tray guide, feeder, and the display console all fold flush against the body, making the unit very easy to relocate. The flipout display on the front of the all-in-one sets it apart from other printer combos. The 2.4-inch color LCD sits next to a four-way navigational pad and a row of action buttons. You can use the screen for minor photo editing and general task management and maintenance. There's no doubt that the screen increases productivity and certainly helps when you're printing directly from a PictBridge camera or an external card, but we wish it had more settings beyond position and tilt.
For initial testing purposes, we connected the x7550 to our test bed using the standard USB cable included in the box and were ready to print after installing the driver. The CD also contains Lexmark's proprietary software for facilitating the various applications, including scanning, faxing, and photo printing. Inexperienced users will enjoy the program guides, but established printerati will probably use software they already have, such as Photoshop, for importing their scanning targets.
Input and output trays fold out of the unit to corral loose paper. The x7550 gives top-loading access to the paper rollers, should you need to pop it open and free up paper jams. The inbound paper guide moves horizontally to accommodate different widths of paper, but it can only hold 100 sheets, which is relatively low for a multifunction, especially considering other all-in-ones in the $200 price bracket can hold more paper, such as the Canon Pixma MX700, which has two paper feed trays holding a maximum of 260 sheets. High-volume users will inevitably find themselves constantly replenishing paper, which can be a tricky process, especially if the drought happens in midprint.
The Lexmark x7550 uses a four-inkjet system comprised of an individual port for black and another single port for the color cartridge (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow). Along with the standard output cartridges that they include with the printer, Lexmark also sells high-yield ink that, when paired with Lexmark's photo specific glossy paper, will reportedly last up to 100 years with no visible loss in quality. We'll be sure to report back in 2108.
All of the classic features found in all-in-ones are included in the x7550, including duplex copying, color photo printing, and fax capability. This model is one of three recently released standalone devices to include a built-in 802.11g wireless print station. After establishing a wired connection to our Mac desktop using Lexmark's software, we were able to unplug the x7550 for seamless, cord-free transmission. We also successfully paired the x7550 to an Apple Time Capsule with similar ease. Several computers can connect, queue and print jobs from the printer at the same time. Best of all, your documents are protected by the computer's network security, helping to prevent intruders from accessing sensitive information.
Unfortunately, Lexmark performed at a level below standard in all of our tests, most notably in photo and text quality. For a midpriced all-in-one, we expected the x7550 to deliver acceptable quality photos for the amateur enthusiast and to rapidly print out text with solid black and white lines, but we were disappointed on both counts.
We put the x7550 through our speed tests first. At 5.41 black and white pages per minute, we were thoroughly unimpressed by the sluggish output time, most of which was taken by almost 6 full seconds of start-up time, even after several tests had already been conducted. Comparatively, it didn't even come close to the Canon Pixma MX700, which blasted out 7.41 pages per minute or even its previous incarnation, the Lexmark x4550, which put out an average 7.66 pages per minute.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
We already had a sour taste in our mouths after the speed tests, but the quality tests were even more disappointing, to put it lightly. On the best quality settings and using Lexmark's standard black ink cartridge, the x7550 produced text that looked clean on the surface, but under 8x magnification, we saw plenty of random ink spray, indicative of the nozzle's inability to handle the ink's pressure. We weren't surprised, since the x4550's results weren't stellar either, but we were hoping to get at least slightly better photos. No such luck. Our 4-inch-by-6-inch test prints were exceedingly oversaturated and warm, most noticeably in portraits and close-up skin shots. The skin tones came out muddied with far too much cyan, casting a dark shadow over 70 percent of the test sheet. Not only were our test subjects inaccurate in color and skin tone, but we also noticed a poor color output in layered shots and severe banding in light hues.
Most of all, we were frustrated with the copying functionality, or lack thereof. On their Web site, Lexmark brags that the x7550 can handle up to 99 copies using the paper feeder on top of the unit, but it took us several tries to coerce the thing into accepting the master copy. The feeder's paper guide is a bit wide and too shallow for a single 8 inch by 10 inch sheet of paper, so it has to be fed in at a perfectly straight angle or it'll jam up the printer. Of course, freeing a jam inevitably destroys the original, which is fine for testing purposes, but what happens when you only have one master for copy purposes? We'd have a hard time suggesting you subject your valued documents to this snaggle-toothed beast.
Service and Support
Lexmark stands by their products with a 12 month defect-free warranty program, but may require a proof of purchase for replacement, so be sure to keep your original receipt. In addition, Lexmark also offers an extended 1 year warranty that includes on site repair, exchange, installation, and renewal for $799.
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