Lexmark's Smart and Economical Printer

By  |  Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 10:11 am

I think we’ve got the razor-blade method of marketing printers figured out: Sell the printer for a couple of bucks, then gouge and exploit us on cartridges. I hate it.

Lexmark makes its money the old-fashioned way. It sells printers at higher-than-competitor’s printers, but then sells the ink cartridges at reasonable prices.

I tried the Lexmark Prestige Pro805 multifunction printer for over a month (I won’t review something unless I have decent hands-on time, despite howling from the PR people).

Amazon discounts the Lexmark Prestige Pro805 for $200, which is about what others discount it for. The Pro85 uses four single-ink cartridges. When purchasing directly from Lexmark, you’ll pay $5 for black and $10 for color. Shipping is free and Lexmark’s recycling program gives you two free cartridges for every five you buy and return empty in a year.

Lexmark claims you can get 510 standard pages from one black cartridge. What’s standard? you might ask (nope, I don’t know). Is anyone willing to put this to the test (besides HP, Epson, and Brother, who as far as I know, haven’t)? Okay, so we’re going to have to take Lexmark’s word for it.

If you register the printer, the warranty period is extended to five years. I have no clue how to judge the value, except to say only a few of the inkjet printers I’ve used have lasted that long — so I guess that’s saying something. You also get toll-free access to tech support for the life of the printer.

Lexmark's all-in-one is economical and smart.

Lexmark’s Specs

The Pro805 is a color inkjet printer with a flatbed scanner, a copier function, and an automatic document feeder that holds up to 50 sheets of paper. (That came in handy for when I had to copy scads of docs for my parents.) If you need fax capabilities, try the cheaper Prevail Pro705 (it doesn’t have an LCD display).

The paper tray holds 150 sheets. The printing speed is 10 pages per minute for black and 6 ppm for color; the Pro85 does two-sided printing and prints at 2400- by 1200 dots per inch in black and 4800-by-1200 dpi in color.

The Pro850 has both USB and memory card ports — you can print directly from either. The other way around works, too: Scan and save as a photo, document, or PDF directly to a flash drive or to your PC.

There are three ways to connect the printer to your PC: wireless, USB, or networked through an Ethernet connection.

Hands on the Lexmark

I gauge the value of a product using two criteria: Would I shell out the bucks for one? What would I say if you wrote and asked for a recommendation?

No matter how cheap the ink cartridges are, the 850Pro needed to be easy to install and use, and it had to perform well. The Lexmark Pro850 got high marks in all areas and had only a few annoyances.

Likes and Dislikes

I was enamored with the interactive installation tutorial. Briefly, I watched on-screen animations that told me what to do, step-by-step. Even as an experienced user, I didn’t feel like I was being talked down to; it just made the process go smoothly.

The LCD touch screen is logically designed for navigating through the scan, copy, and other functions. It’s also useful for previewing a document (you see exactly what will print) to make sure it looks okay before actually printing.

I also like Lexmark’s SmartSolutions site, which lets me add tools to the printer. For instance, I wanted to scan directly into EverNote, a free organizer. Or instead of navigating to a certain function, I wanted (and got) a shortcut that gives me icons for specific functions–to, say, make a black-and-white copy, or on legal-size paper.

I’m getting weary of seeing my energy bill go up while watching an endless stream of LCDs needlessly lighting up my office. So I like the Pro850’s economy mode that dims the LCD screen and sets the printer to a power saving level after 10 minutes. Even though I recycle paper that’s been printed on one side, I really like the two-sided printing feature to save paper.

Nothing’s perfect, but the Lexmark’s annoyances are small.

  1. I’d hoped the installation routine would immediately recognize my wireless connection. It took too much fooling around, so I used the USB cable to complete the install. Once done, the printer spotted and used the wireless signal.
  2. My overhead lighting makes the stationary LCD difficult to see, so I’d like to be able to adjust the height of the screen (instead of tilting my head).
  3. The paper exit tray, a small lip that catches and holds paper as it exits the printer, is too small (see arrow in screen capture below). You get paper jams if you print more than roughly 10 pages.

The LCD panel is great; the paper exit tray, not so much.

[This post is excerpted from Steve’s TechBite newsletter. If you liked it,¬†head here to sign up–it’s delivered on Wednesdays to your inbox, and it’s free.]



11 Comments For This Post

  1. sfmitch Says:

    I have limited experience with Lexmark printers and I don’t want any more.

    The 2 lexmark consumer printers that I have been involved with have been horrible.

    The first setup fine on a PC but took hours and hours and hours to set up on a Mac (it said Macs were compatible). The second set up fine (all PCs) but refuses to print every few weeks (I think it is the software on the PC), a maddening experience.

    My limited exposure with Lexmark = bag of hurt.

  2. Rignerd Says:

    I think a standard page is 5% coverage.

    Lexmark is like any other company, they make a driver/software suite that works with a standard install. When you install it into your system it’s a crap shoot whether it will work or not. I can’t think of any printer company that I haven’t seen a driver install cause a problem some where for some reason.

  3. Mark Neville Says:

    I believe there is an ISO standard on how to measure page yields now, though I don’t know the details.

    As far as the lip on the output goes, the center part flips up and pulls out to adjust for the paper size. If it is set too short or too long, you may have problems with jams. I think you will find that letter and legal sizes are marked when you pull the stop out far enough.

  4. Gerri Says:

    It will be a long, long time before I purchase another Lexmark printer. I bought one and compatibility problems with the drivers. It died after about 14 months of light use.

    Another, given to me by a friend, didn’t make it past the first ink cartridge replacement. I dutifully laid out $80+ for genuine cartridges only to find out the ‘modern’ drivers I had downloaded couldn’t initialize the chips in the cartridges. I would have had to regress from XP to Win2000 (or worse) just to use a driver that could get it running.

  5. Larry Says:

    The actual ISO for page coverage is 7% and if you get 510 pages out of your Lexmark 100 cartridges your lucky. I have a ink refill store and I’ve refilled a few of these cartridges so far without any problems….yet.
    The interesting thing about these new $5/$10 cartridges is that they have a RF(Radio Frequency) chip on them which is very interesting.
    I am wondering if it cheaper to make or for Lexmark to keep more control on aftermarket supplies.
    The last thing that I’ve been noticing with Lexmark cartridges, is that they make 2 different versions of their cartridges, the “Return Program” cartridges and Non-Return Program cartridges. You can tell the difference between the two on either the box, which is marked Return Program cartridge or on the cartridge, it will have the cartridge number on the top flat part of the cartridge with the letter “A” after it. Supposively, these cartridges do not become disabled after they have read empty by your printer, and for my sake and my customers, be refillable.
    Just my 2 cents on Lexmark’s printers.

  6. Brian Satterlee Says:

    I love my Lexmark printer/scanner/fax machine. It makes beautiful prints and is easy to set up and use. I am currently having a problem as my Mac and Lexmark are fighting and I haven't had the time yet to figure out why. Oh well, still love it.

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  8. Inkjet Printer Says:

    My Lexmark 2650 is working just fine with the X86 driver. Support for 64bit is atrocious. but i hate the cartridge prics that used in this printer.

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  10. stanley Says:

    I will have to try this printer, i have never worked with a lexmark before…You can follow me on my blog and see my findings

  11. Kathy Blackmore Says:

    I was looking around for a cheap printer and came to a similar conclusion that nowadays vendors tend to charge low prices for printers then fleece us through our noses via the expensive printer cartridges. That is why any one who knows their way around would visit a cartridge shop to get cheap printer cartridges instead of paying high prices for originals.