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Product Review

Lexmark's X7675 Misses the Mark

During a several-week test, I leaned heavily on the printing prowess of the wireless Lexmark X7675. But its ability to scan, copy, and fax—not so much.

Sitting unobtrusively on a shelf near my desk, nary a wire in sight, the printer reliably churned out page after page of the notes, reports, charts, and articles so valuable to my everyday work. The software designed to help the machine with other tasks, however, let me down time and again.

The inconsistencies make it hard for me to recommend this inkjet printer, despite its notable strengths. Lexmark (LXK) sells it for $200, though (AMZN) was selling it for as little as $115 in late July. Lexmark says it designed the X7675 to appeal to young and middle-age professionals who work at home or in a small office, want to print wirelessly from their laptops, and value professional-looking documents.

Printing Is Quiet On many of those counts, the product succeeds. With the help of a common home-network router, the printer can establish a wireless connection with a PC. The setup software Lexmark includes on a CD that accompanies the printer makes establishing this connection relatively painless. (You can also print via a USB cable and eschew the wireless capability, but for some that may defeat the purpose of buying this machine.)

Lexmark's setup software successfully guided me through loading black and color ink cartridges, setting up a Wi-Fi connection to my laptop, and printing a test page, all without the need for a paper manual. There's a bit of technical knowledge required (you need to know the "SSID" name of your Wi-Fi network and its "WEP" password), but users who've set up a home computer network will have that data readily available.

Printing was quiet and acceptably fast for black-and-white pages—though this isn't a high-speed printer. Printing a full page of typed notes from a Microsoft (MSFT) Word document took 20 seconds.

Falling Down on Color Color printouts were another story. It took the printer nearly two minutes to churn out a high-quality digital photo with lots of color, of two bridesmaids wearing purple dresses at a wedding. To be fair, Lexmark doesn't market this as a printer for photo enthusiasts, but in my tests, printing even the occasional photo, as well as PowerPoint slides, required patience. Replacement ink cartridges cost about $29 each for color or black, or $49 for the two packaged together.

The print quality was satisfactory for pages meant to be looked at only by me, but as one might expect from an inkjet, documents aren't presentation-worthy. And when I used a highlighter pen on the pages I printed, the ink tended to smear.

The bigger disadvantage of this printer is in the software for scanning, copying, and faxing. Several attempts to manage copy and scanning jobs from the "Lexmark Productivity Studio" I installed on my PC yielded terrible results.

Software Would Freeze The software includes commands to scan, fax, copy, and e-mail documents, as well as options for photo printing, like settings to print greeting cards or a poster. Choosing many of these options repeatedly caused the software to freeze. The software's user interface could use some editing, too: Software in a consumer product shouldn't contain industry jargon like "Scan and Get Text (OCR)," which stands for "optical character recognition," a way to turn scanned text into a computer file.

Placing an item to be scanned on the printer's glass didn't go any better; the Lexmark's display screen said "requesting scan," and then the machine did nothing. A Lexmark support technician told me I needed to "register" my PC as a "client for scanning," then launch the bundled scanning software. Lexmark would do well to simplify the process for this common task.

Another process made unnecessarily cumbersome by the printer is copying. To make copies, I needed to press the printer's start button twice. That's O.K. for the occasional copy, but if you make a lot, you wouldn't want this to be your everyday machine.

The nice thing about this printer, ultimately, is the flexibility afforded by its wireless connection. Home workers can place it pretty much anywhere in Wi-Fi range—a good thing, because at 7 in. high, 19 in. wide, and more than a foot deep, this machine isn't slight. If you can live without heavy use of the X7675's scanning and copying functions, it's serviceable. But at double the price of many wired inkjet printers, Lexmark needs to do more to make this printer worth its freight.
Ricadela is a reporter for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek in Frankfurt.

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