With every generation of its market leading iPod personal music player, Apple's snipped a couple of millimetres off the size of the unit in just about every direction. Now, the physical laws relating to the conservation of energy state that all that extra mass has to have gone somewhere, and we reckon we've worked out where -- into Lexmark's X5470, a four-in-one printer, fax, scanner and copier that looks more than a touch like an iPod -- if iPods were capable of going on Super-Size-Me style eating binges of white plastic.
The physical design of a printer is usually your last concern when making a purchasing decision, simply because for the most part people don't spend time looking at printers. There's also not that much you can do with a unit that has to accept paper of certain sizes and incorporate certain functions, and these two factors have allowed printer companies to get away with units that were frighteningly ugly in the past. As such, while we're unlikely to take the X5470 home to meet mother, it's still a printer we wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen out in public with. Everyone knows that it's all to do with a printer's personality, anyway.
The X5470 is a four-in-one multifunction centre of the type that's quickly becoming the norm in the printer market. As a stock printer it's a four-colour model, although an optional 6-colour photo cartridge is also available. The onboard optical scanner works at a resolution of up to 600x1200 dpi, which is decent but not spectacular for this level of home/SOHO MFC, and the fax is a 33.6Kbps model. Lexmark rates the X5470's print speed at up to 25 pages per minute in draft black and 18 pages per minute in draft colour; colour levels beyond that see the rated speeds drop to 15 and 5 pages per minute respectively.
From a connectivity viewpoint, the X5470 uses a USB type B connector for straight PC connection, and is capable of using the optional wired or wireless ethernet adaptors, although Lexmark will slug you extra for those. It's PictBridge compatible, and comes with photo card slots for CF, SD/MMC, xD and Memory stick media cards.
On the software side, the X5470 ships with a driver CD that also includes simple photo editing and scanning software; as with most MFCs in this price range it's functionally capable software, but anyone wanting anything but simple solutions would be better served with any of a number of consumer-level image editing software options, such as the recently released Photoshop Elements 5 or Paint Shop Pro PHOTO XI.
Setting up the X5470 was suitably simple; it's been quite a long time since we've seen a printer that didn't come with straightforward installation instructions, and the software install is likewise quite straightforward. Once we got into printing, we found that the X5470 did very well on straight black prints, which it delivered with a solid level of quality and at quite a nice speed. There's always a disconnect between the real world and claimed speeds of printers, if only because the average consumer rarely spends all day just printing reference documents in draft mode. In our tests we found it capable of around 10ppm for full coverage black, which is acceptably close to the stated 15ppm. Likewise, draft black printing revealed an average page speed of around 20ppm, within a tolerable grasp of the stated 25ppm speed. Colour pages can vary even more widely, especially as consumer colour coverage can vary from a simple colour letterhead to full-on colour and photo pages. Again, we came within tolerable levels of the claimed page rates, where we managed around 2.5ppm in full colour coverage for a A4-sized picture print on plain paper. We didn't have access to the optional photo cartridge for our tests, so we can't comment on photo printing speeds.
We only hit one quirk with the X5470 during our test period, and that was one that's all too common in consumer-level printers. Whenever the paper tray was loaded with more than just a couple of sheets of paper, we'd find that it was prone to paper jams, which became more prevalent the more paper we loaded into the tray. As noted, this is hardly a unique problem, and generally the printer itself would warn us before we had to drastically unkink any paper, but it's a worthwhile matter to note.
Lexmark covers the X5470 with a one-year, next business day replacement policy for customers on the eastern seaboard of Australia; those living in slightly more westbound or obscure directions still get the one year but may have to wait a little longer for replacement units according to company representatives.