Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, Lexmark introduced a new printer product line that promised something other companies didn’t dare. Did it have wireless printing? Did it have the ability to connect to the Internet? Was it programmable? Was there a color touch screen on the front panel? Was it able to print on a variety of media? Was it able to sheet feed, make copies, PDFs, and send faxes?
The answer to all of the above is “Yes”! So what is so daring? Feature set, price point, and the most daring of all, a guaranteed low cost for ink! Lexmark might not be as well known as other manufacturers, but after our testing we feel it should be deserving of a serious look. After all, buying a printer is tough enough with all of the capable offerings and competition, but the real trick is paying for ink to actually do all that printing!
We started by testing the Prestige Pro805 printer, an all-in-one unit which boasted wireless printing, sheet fed scanner with duplex option, a large 4.3-inch color touch screen on the front panel, built in e-mail connectivity, and fax capability via e-mail, and connection to the Lexmark Smart Solutions interactive website. The Platinum Pro905 adds a second paper tray, and a real fax via a phone jack. Both have a very generous 5-year warranty and lifetime phone support, easily the best in the industry.
We started testing the Prestige Pro805, which has recently been replaced by the Pinnacle Pro901 with more features (a standard phone fax line) at a lower price point of $199.99. The Platinum Pro905 is priced at $399.99. This pricing makes them directly competitive with printers from Canon and Epson, but the real bargain is the guarantee of an XL Black Ink cartridge for $4.99. According to Lexmark that works out to an average of 510 pages for 5 bucks. Naturally when it comes to printing, your mileage will certainly vary, but we printed and emptied ink cartridges and discovered for an average printed page with 12 point black text we hovered around the stated number. Printing in draft mode should extend ink use even more. They offer a free cartridge recycling program with a prepaid envelope sent you for free, helping the environment, and frustrating third-party ink refill ink folks.
For this review I’ll base my comments on the Platinum Pro905, and since the print head specs, resolution, and software feature set are almost identical to the Pro805, with the primary difference is the addition of a second paper tray, and a standard fax line in the Platinum Pro905.
The Platinum Pro905 was exemplary in most functions. The touch screen worked well requiring a firm and precise touch. The built-in memory card slots read every form factor we had, and image files opened just fine with the expected exception of RAW digital photo files. The auto-scan and copy functions resulted in sharp, detailed, artifact free prints. The default settings resulted in some seriously large files, so we recommend setting the print options to the desired size and format before scanning and printing. The sheet feeder worked well and didn’t jam with a variety of different weights, stiffness, and media types and the supplied dual paper trays really are indispensable.
We did have some issues printing and scanning with the wireless function. On our Mac Book Pro running Snow Leopard remote scanning was very cool, but as other reviewers have noted it wasn’t always reliable. A few times a USB stick or a direct USB computer connection came to the rescue. Lexmark’s software update feature and website are great at alerting you to firmware or driver updates, and after we updated the firmware the printer worked better, and remote scanning improved. The ability to scan and send to a computer somewhere in the office or home is more useful then it might seem, especially with the sheet feeder in use. And when it worked it was really helpful, so hopefully the problems we had will be solved in a future software release.
Print quality was excellent in all type documents, and there were no errors using different versions of word processors, spreadsheets, and FileMaker Pro databases. Printing photos from memory cards shot in the JPEG format also printed well, especially when printing from the printer itself. Printing from a computer using a photo editing application like Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 and 3 worked well. I had some problems in the beginning and discovered that the Lexmark color profiles didn’t install, so a second reinstall solved the problem and the profiles worked well. I printed with both a professional ICC based workflow letting either Photoshop or Lightroom manage the profiles and printing. Then I tried the Printer Managed workflow and the prints were very similar. I think for most users, who will print photos occasionally either workflow will work. I’d like to see more downloadable profiles on the site, so that there can be updated profiles as paper changes and new media becomes available.
Keeping in mind that this isn’t a dedicated photo printer, the prints were very good for a four-color dye printer. The driver also offered some welcome features such as allowing for automatic sharpening, or the ability to turn off the sharpening completely, a welcome feature for anyone sharpening when image editing. I suspect that more users won’t be buying the printer as a photo printer, but as an all-in-one home office or small office printer with the ability to print photos when needed, so this might not be a major concern for most consumers. For standard use and business needs the Pro905 worked great. I’m also happy to see a 5-year warranty. Printers are complicated bits of engineering, with lots of moving parts so having free phone tech support coupled with an extended warranty should ease a lot of minds. We tested both with the Mac OS in Leopard and Snow Leopard systems, and with Windows 7. We had no problem setting up the OSX installs, with the software reflecting a real understanding of the Mac GUI. We did have a small problem with our Windows install since we were running the 64 bit version of Windows 7, and this caused some issues with the initial driver since we received a very early production unit. This was corrected with later software and firmware updates and since then has worked reliably.
Lexmark might not be the first name you think of when searching for a printer but it should be on the list. The Platinum Pro905 is a solid, well-built, well-designed all in one printer, with a strong feature set. The web based Smart Solutions allows one to customize the printer, from having the AP newsfeed on the printer screen, to organizing the primary menu choices. And the price guarantee for black ink is the best deal in the industry. The cost of ink should be a primary factor when purchasing a printer since long after the excitement of the feature set will be the cost to keep printing, and with the Lexmark Platinum Pro905 printer, amazing as it might seem, the quality is high and the cost is low! Add in the standard 5 year warranty and the Lexmark Platinum Pro905 comes highly recommended.
Harris Fogel, Posted 11/10/2010
For more information on the Lexmark Platinum Pro905 printer visit: www.lexmark.com