If you're a fan of uncomplicated technology, you're sure to appreciate the single-function Lexmark Z845. This $50 printer does nothing more than print. Whether printing text, graphics, or photos, the print speeds and the quality are about what you'd expect from such a low-cost unit: good but not great. Also, you should expect to exceed the cost of the printer in ink refills by your second trip to Staples. But with a limited number of printers in this price range--the only other vendor that still makes such basic printers in this price class is HP--the Lexmark Z845 is one of the few options. And it's a good choice if you don't want to overspend for just the occasional print. For better-quality prints in this price range, check out the $50 Canon Pixma iP1700. If you need additional features such as scanning and copying, be prepared to spend at least $90 to $100 for a low-end multifunction inkjet, such as the HP OfficeJet 4315 or the Canon Pixma MP180.
The Lexmark Z845 is boxy and on the large side for a simple, single-function inkjet printer. It measures 8.5 inches deep, 5.25 inches tall, and 18 inches wide, excluding the input and output trays. The white-and-gray plastic body should easily blend into any standard home office environment. Paper handling is limited to one paper support on the back for input (up to 100 sheets of plain paper) and a tray that pulls out from the front for output, with an extension arm for legal-length sheets. There's no control panel to speak of--just a power button and a paper-feed button.
The Lexmark Z845 is a single-function printer, which means there isn't much to speak of when it comes to features. The most notable features, in fact, are the bundled software utilities. Lexmark's Fast Pics utility helps you print photos, making the process dead-simple and painless. The utility goes first to your My Pictures folder and lets you check which photos you want printed, choose the paper size, and pick how many copies. You can even perform some minor touchups on your images, including cropping and red-eye reduction. The only drawback is that if you're printing a batch of photos, you have to pick the same number of copies for each. The ability to change the number of prints of each photo seems like a basic feature, and we don't understand why it's missing here.
The Lexmark Solution Center is a cohesive utility that guides you from the basics of setting up the printer to printing tips to projects. It also shows you how to swap out empty ink cartridges and troubleshoot problems, and it provides contact information should you need to get in touch with customer support.
The Lexmark Z845 uses a four-color, two-tank ink system. It ships with the standard-yield black ($18, approximately 175 pages) and tricolor ($19, approximately 150 pages) cartridges, but when it comes to replacing the ink, the high-yield versions are more economical. The 500-page black cartridge costs $25 and the 475-page high-yield color cartridge costs $30. With the high-yield cartridges, your per-page costs work out to about 5 cents for a black page and 6.3 cents for a page of color. These costs are par for the course for inexpensive printers (low initial cost, higher cost of maintenance). For example, the per-page cost for the Canon Pixma iP1700 works out to about 6 cents for a black document and 8 cents for a color document. You can save an additional $4 per cartridge off the price of the standard cartridges by agreeing to Lexmark's Return Cartridge program. You'll get the up-front discount by pledging to return the spent cartridges to Lexmark for recycling or remanufacturing. You can save yet again by signing up to get one free cartridge for every five used ones you return in a 12-month period. For better photo printing, you can replace the black tank with a tricolor photo ink tank ($25) for six-color printing.
Unsurprisingly, $50 doesn't buy you the world's faster printer, but it held its own against comparably priced competitors and even against slightly more expensive all-in-ones. It printed black text at 6.85ppm, just edging out its competition. It took about 2 minutes (or 0.48ppm) to print a 4x6 photo, which, impressively, is on a par with the more expensive photo printers and all-in-ones we've tested, though it was soundly trounced by the quick-printing Canon Pixma iP1700.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Photo speed||Text speed|