Some printers (eg, the HP Envy 100) try to hide the fact that they're printers behind layers of glossy plastic or designs that are somehow meant to be more living room than office cubicle. Lexmark's Genesis gets around the problem of looking like a printer by not looking much like a printer at all. Instead, the company's latest AIO resembles a trouser press.
No, honestly, it does. Look at the picture gallery above and try to tell us you wouldn't try to get your slacks flattened in something that looks exactly like that. Although admittedly we've never seen a trouser press with a paper tray out the back and an LCD touchscreen display. That might just be because we haven't been delving closely enough into the exciting world of trouser-press technology.
Moving away from our pants for a second, the practical upshot of the Genesis' admittedly unusual design is that it takes up less desk space than many comparable AIO units, opting instead to occupy more vertical space. If you're in a cramped SOHO environment, this could suit you very well indeed.
The Genesis is a touch-screen enabled AIO, covering all the bases of printing, faxing, scanning and photocopying. Lexmark rates its performance with printing as "up to" 33 draft black pages per minute and "up to" 30 colour pages. It's ensured with Lexmark's Smart Solutions technology inbuilt, which gives access to a range of touchscreen enabled print solutions. It's capable of double-sided printing. On the side sits a media card reader. And for further connectivity it's capable of USB or 802.11n connection, although curiously not Ethernet.
It's also the first AIO we've hit that does what can truly be described as photocopying. Sure, plenty of other AIO units will scan then copy, but the Genesis' take on copying (and scanning) is a little different. Rather than a mechanical scan head that slides over the scanned work, the Genesis uses a 10-megapixel CMOS sensor, taking quite literally photographs of anything placed on the scanner plate. This isn't just technology for the sake of it. Lexmark's claim is that the Genesis can scan in under three seconds, making it exceptionally fast.
Setting up the Genesis involves more than the usual amount of sticky blue tape to remove from the printer, as well as following the onscreen prompts for cartridge installation and network connection if desired. The installer CD only comes into play when connecting a PC up to the Genesis, although we were rather dismayed to discover that it wants 239MB for its install duties. For what is still a printer, that feels excessive to us.
We hit a minor quirk with the Smart Solutions side of things when testing on an iMac running OS X 10.6.5, as the Smart Solutions webpage detects it as an 'unsupported' operating system. OX X 10.6 is fine, but the latest iteration isn't officially supported, at least at the time of writing. That didn't stop the Solution Center from launching, but it did warn us it wouldn't work. You can name your Genesis printer from the Smart Solutions web page as well. Annoyingly, not all smart solutions apps offered on the web portal will run on the Genesis. We were disappointed to discover this included the Business Card scanner application, which would seem like an obvious match for the Genesis' SOHO ambitions.
From a straight printing perspective, the Genesis underperformed relative to Lexmark's claims for it, but we're somewhat used to over-inflated inkjet printer speed quotes. The Genesis took 17 seconds to fire out a single draft black page with a total of 15 pages per minute, well under half Lexmark's quoted speeds. Quality in draft was fair but not great. Switching to normal print quality did improve the clarity of printed text, but at a serious speed cost. Single pages weren't much slower than single draft pages at 23 seconds, but in a minute all the Genesis could manage was four print pages, which is well below acceptable for a printer with business aspirations.
Scan speed was much better. And here the Genesis particularly shines. Opening and closing the scanner tray initiates a quick preview scan, so you can simply sort out orientation or spacing issues. A small bar at the top of the vertical scan plate allows you to attach smaller documents if you don't trust gravity to hold them straight. From the simple touchscreen, you can scan directly to an installed computer, pre-defined email address or removable media drive. It's significantly quieter than a mechanical scanner, and notably a bit faster, although there are still network issues to consider if you're scanning to a PC. Scan quality was good and Lexmark's installed scanning application can also be used to invoke a scan from the desktop.
The touchscreen on the Genesis has a very simple and easy-to-follow layout, but we often found that it was unresponsive to an initial touch and had to be jabbed again to actually do what we wanted it to do.
In the interests of science, we also tested how well the Genesis worked as a trouser press. Aside from offering to scan our slacks, it performed poorly.
At AU$449.00, we can't help feel that the Genesis is still a little too costly for the total feature set. The inbuilt camera-based scanning/copying/faxing is undeniably the key selling feature and it works very well. The included applications are passable, but they're quickly becoming a standard part of most vendor's repertoire. Where the Genesis lets itself down is in the basics of printing, where it's just that bit too slow to recommend. If you do a lot of copying and scanning and only rarely need printing it might be acceptable. But in that case you'd probably be better off with a dedicated scanner anyway.