Lexmark bounces back with affordable All-in-One aimed directly at digital camera users
The P6250 All-in-One printer/scanner/copier is Lexmark's very first direct print solution that will work without being connected to a host computer. It will print directly from all the main digital camera memory card variants, including xD, without an adapter and you can print directly, using a USB cable, from cameras that support PictBridge and the majority of current cameras now do. A big and clear 2.5" LCD preview and status screen is standard and you get six-colour photo printing, 1200x2400 scanning and colour copying – all for a few pennies under £150.
But that's not all – I've reviewed quite a few Lexmark ink-jet printers over the last couple of years and I'm being diplomatic in saying that Lexmark has focussed rather more on bottom-line price and plain-paper printing features rather than photo-print features, speed and quality. That's all changed with the P6250 and the P915, the £99.99 printer-only sibling of the P6250 which will be available by the end of this month.
If you don't need the scanner, save £50 with the new P915
Our feature check-list for All-in-Ones (below) reveals all. The P6250 has the specification of a serious photo printer that can hold its own in the study at home or in a small office.
Consumer All-in-One feature check-list:
Max print resolution
Ink cartridge type
Print head integrated into disposable cartridge
Pigment black, hybrid dye and pigment colour inks?
Single colour cartridges
Standard black only
Yes (photo black, cyan, magenta inks)
Borderless photo printing
Contact Image Sensor (CIS)
Automatic document feeder (ADF)
Film scanning support
High-speed USB 2.0 connection
Stand alone direct printing
Yes, from memory cards and via PictBridge (front USB port)
Memory cards supported:
CF Type II and Microdrive
Sony Memory Stick
Sony Memory Stick Pro
Memory Stick Duo
Extreme Digital (xD)
PC Card (PCMCIA) slot
LCD status panel
In colour preview screen
Colour preview screen
Bluetooth wireless support
Network print option?
Wireless network print option?
On page 2 of this article you can tour the P6250 in pictures. But in the mean time, the crunch question is - does the P6250's impressive price and specification translate into a product that's good to use?
Good build quality and ease of use at last
Some recent Lexmark ink-jet solutions have been very lightly built and, frankly, unrefined. So I'm delighted to report that the P6250, resplendent in its new designer-look off-white and blue finish, is both solidly built, nicely designed and refined in operation.
Special praise goes to Lexmark's inclusion of a large colour LCD preview and status screen, which is put to good use providing handy animated help prompts, previewing, selecting and even editing photos and helping you choose the right print options. The copier section also has document reduction and enlargement functions.
Lexmark has also developed some excellent Mac and PC software that incorporates some powerful features, like automatic red-eye removal, delivered in a genuinely easy to use on-screen environment.
And what about photo print quality?
Lexmark has done the right thing and provided a 'true' five colour ink, plus photo black, ink set. According to Lexmark their new inks combine the wide colour gamut of dye-based inks and the longevity of pigment inks. We aim to investigate these claims more thoroughly in the final version of this review, but it sounds promising.
Once again the good news is that, so far, the photo print quality from our sample P6250 has impressed us. We took an image from an Olympus C-60Z and printed it directly from a memory card onto an A4 sheet of Lexmark's own premium quality glossy photo paper, using borderless printing mode.
The print had to be cropped a fair bit, but you can choose the area to be printed, both zooming and panning, using the printer's preview screen. Printing time was just over seven minutes from the moment the paper was moved into position by the printer. That's not fast - the fastest Canons can cover the same page in under two minutes and between four and six minutes is the norm for other printers, but the P6250's performance is a huge leap forward compared to other Lexmarks I've tested. Lexmark claims a 6x4 photo can be printed in under 40 seconds.
The scanned print samples reproduced below are from the P6250 and a much more expensive Epson Stylus Photo 2100, the latter printing on Epson Premium Semi-gloss paper. You can compare both against the original camera image at the top.
Olympus C-60Z camera original image Lexmark P6250 direct print onto Lexmark premium glossy photo paper Epson Stylus Photo 2100 print onto Epson premium semi-gloss photo paper
Without doubt, the P6250 has matched the colour of the original better. The Epson's colour has less yellow and more magenta than the Lexmark and its colours are less saturated. We're not suggesting the P6250 is a superior photo printer compared with the Epson 2100, but its colour is certainly more accurate using standard settings. Where the Epson scores over the Lexmark is in fine detail. The Epson also shows less grain, though it's by no means a problem with the Lexmark.
We've only had our sample P6250 a couple of days, but so far we're very impressed. A full lab-test of the P6250 will follow shortly. In the mean time, please proceed to page 2 for a pictorial tour of the P6250 and don't forget the detailed specifications on page 3.
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