P6250 Home Photo Center
Lexmark has a new range of all-in-one printer scanner copiers. We looked at the top model: the P6250. It would appear that the company has a new approach to building inkjet printers: it’s started making good ones.
Lexmark doesn’t have a distinguished history when it comes to inkjet printers. It has traditionally sat at the bottom of the food-chain, selling on price rather than quality or features. Lexmark has sold a lot of inkjet printers in the last ten years, but I suspect most of them have been under the £50 price bracket. This is the image that many people have of Lexmark – but that’s all about to change.
First let’s address what used to be wrong with Lexmark inkjets. The fact that they were cheap wasn’t a big problem – at least it warned you what to expect. The image-quality wasn’t too bad; sometimes it was good, but never great. The real problem was the design of the printers and the quality of the ink they used. Both these issues have been dealt with – and I mean solved. Totally.
The ink is a new formula; it has been tested by the industry standard methods at Wilhelm Imaging Research and will stay colourfast for up to 65 years if printed on Lexmark paper. Using third-party ink in printers affects the longevity of the prints. While quality printer manufacturers use inks designed to work with the recommended paper, third-party inks are simple dye-based coloured water. The old Lexmark inks weren’t much better than the third-party inks, but the new Lexmark inks are rated by Wilhelm Research as lasting up to 65 years under glass. If you keep the print in an album, it will likely last up to 200 years. This is all due to very clever hybrid dye/pigment inks. So now you can use a Lexmark printer with confidence that the prints will likely outlive you.
The design of the Lexmark range has necessarily been a bit austere – but then what do you expect for a £29 printer? The Home Photo Centre is a bit more snazzy-looking than previous models – but more than that, it’s more intelligently designed. Lexmark has spent a huge amount of money on usability testing. In its Lexington Kentucky HQ, Lexmark has a usability lab. It looks like a small home office. In fact, it’s surrounded by two-way mirrors to let the Lexmark boffins view hapless users trying to figure out how to use the printers. They watch which buttons they press, how they cope without a manual, look for what frustrates them and what delights them. Gradually the printer is shaped and tweaked until any fool can use them, which is great.
The Photo All-in-one P6250 incorporates all the design, the science and the usability Lexmark can muster. This is a giant leap forward for the company, and gives users a reason to re-evaluate the brand; it’s packed with useful features that even novices can use. There are three ways to print: from your computer, from a scanned image or from a photo card. As this is a photo printer, it is likely that you’ll want to print on glossy paper from time to time. Lexmark has included both automatic paper sensing, and automatic print-head alignment. Simply tell the printer you want to print a photo, load photo-paper, and you’ll get excellent results.
Printing from a photo card (most are supported) or directly from cameras that support the PictBridge standard is a cinch, thanks to clear instructions on the LCD screen. You can resize, rotate and set quality settings without even booting up your Mac. This is designed to be appealing to the millions that have switched to digital cameras, but are still a little unsure of computers. Even for people that know their way around a Mac, sometimes it’s nice to be able to side-step it.
The last Lexmark all-in-one we looked at fell down on the scanning side of things. Once again, that’s all fixed now and scans are both easy and intuitive – and the quality is up to scratch. Whether scanning for immediate printing, like a copier, or for archiving or emailing, the scanner works. It isn’t about to replace high-end scanners, but for 99 per cent of household scanning, it’s perfect.
This is a quantum leap for Lexmark: everything this machines does, it does well. If it’s ultimate photo-printing quality you want, it’s still behind the leaders, but only by a whisker. HP and Epson should be worried by the new Lexmark quality; other manufacturers should panic because Lexmark just overtook them. There are some things that the P6250 doesn’t do, like fax and wireless printing, but you’ll only find those features in much pricier models. At £149, there are cheaper all-in-ones around, but few are so easy to use.