Lexmark Z33 Color Jetprinter

For less than $100, the Z33 offers reasonable performance and bright color images

WHAT'S HOT: Priced at $89, the Lexmark Z33 is one of the least-expensive ink jets on the market. For such a low price, you don't expect blazing performance, but the Z33 holds its own among low-cost and midrange models, printing text documents at 3.8 pages per minute and graphics images at 0.5 pages per minute. Its black text doesn't deliver the solid punch of some black inks, but letters look clean and evenly weighted.

Even better than its text output are its graphics, which are characterized by bright, realistic colors and subtle shading and textures. The Z33 creates attractive images from low-resolution JPEG images, and at its highest resolution on coated ink-jet paper (which costs about 10 cents a sheet), it turns out spectacular photos and graphics.

WHAT'S NOT: This model's ink costs run an extremely steep 6.8 cents per page for black text and 19.5 cents per graphics page. Inexpensive consumables from competing manufacturers cost 2 to 4 cents per page for text, and 10 to 12 cents per page for graphics. Because the Z33 combines its trio of color inks (cyan, magenta, and yellow) in a single cartridge, you have to replace the whole thing as soon as you exhaust any one of the inks. The printer has a USB port but no parallel port, so older PCs probably won't be compatible. The output tray is made of very light plastic that looks as though it could break easily.

The Z33 doesn't include a printed manual, and the online documentation is more like a list of FAQs than a coherent guide. Furthermore, we found the Z33's software sometimes confusing: The part of the driver that controls print settings is straightforward enough, and there are lots of tips for special printing jobs, but ordinary tasks such as finding and running the print-head alignment routine or reading the ink status indicators proved tricky.

Lexmark uses irrelevant and perplexing icons to indicate important features. For example, an atom symbol points users to the Advanced Printers dialog, while a stoplight serves to indicate "Click here to open Printer Status window." If you like AOL's audible comments, you're sure to love Lexmark's voice notification ("You've got paper jams!"); we found it annoying.

WHAT ELSE: The Z33's paper tray folds down to cover the printer when it's not in use, keeping dust away from the innards; in turtle mode, the model stands a mere 5 inches high. The Z33 driver has a very limited set of features, but it offers one interface innovation: You can simultaneously review all the settings you've selected because little flags sticking out from each tab display a concise summary.

UPSHOT: Despite a few usability quirks, the Z33 is a good printer with a low initial purchase price, but its ink costs may catch up with you later.


Lexmark Z33 Color Jetprinter

Rated 8 ppm monochrome/5 ppm color, 1200-by-1200-dpi maximum resolution, 100 sheets input, 50 output.




By Dan Littman