The Lexmark P4350 is definitely an improvement on previous efforts with a refreshing aesthetic change as well as an improvement in useability. However, this offering still isn't without its flaws and ommissions; namely the lack of fax and an automatic document feeder and uneven print and scan quality.
- Design and Aesthetics, Intuitive Menu System with LCD Screen, Card and PictBridge Support
- Build Quality, Print and Scanning Quality, Print Speeds, Cartridge Issues
The P4350 is an improvement on previous Lexmark models, but there are still some concerns over its print and scanning quality. For the price though, it does combine all the multifunction features into a pretty good looking and easy to use printer.
Price$ 179.00 (AUD)
Undoubtedly the best improvement in the new Lexmark range is the design and aesthetics of the units. Previous models such as the X8350 were bulky, grey and largely dull. The P4350's white and silver colour scheme is a style which is definitely suited to Macintosh PCs, but overall, the device would not look out of place on any desk, nor in combination with any PC. The build quality left us less than impressed though; in particular the scanning lid feels weak and flimsy when opened. Disappointingly there is no automatic document feeder, which is usually a standard feature on these devices.
The P4350 includes a card reader (with support for CompactFlash, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, MMC, SD, SmartMedia, Microdrive, and xD cards) and a PictBridge port, which is located at the front of the device. Where Lexmark has really improved though is the P4350's interface and control system. Conveniently, the front panel houses an easy to use interface with one large button to switch between Copy, Scan and Photo Card Functions, and a blue LED displaying which mode is currently selected. There are also keys for Rotate, Page Preview, Resize, Menu and Select amongst others.
Lexmark has made it as easy as possible to print photos without the aid of a PC thanks to this intuitive menu system and a bright and vivid colour LCD. This screen displays ink levels, previews photos, lets you rotate and crop pictures and even shows you how to fit and align a new cartridge when you open the lid. It's a very nifty feature, although we experienced problems effectively cropping our images straight from an SD card. Our first prints were borderless on one side and bordered on the other, but after some fine tuning, we corrected the issue. Our advice would be to make sure you check all the settings before you dive in and start printing off your entire digital photo album collection.
Included in the package is Lexmark's Photo Editor software. Although it lacks some advanced editing features, if you're a basic user it should offer everything you require. For most people though, you'll find that the P4350's on-board controls and interface means you will rarely be using this software anyway.
Printing is easy with the P4350 and scanning is just as effortless. Lexmark has once again focused on usability with the scanning function, thanks to the addition of some excellent features. The best of these is a convenient blue LED light when you open the scanning lid; basically a guide in the left corner of the scanning glass which shows you where to place the edge your original document. This helps you achieve the best and most complete scan possible. When you select the Scan function on the front panel of the P4350, the unit allows you to send the scan to a number of sources via the LCD screen including Acrobat Reader, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Paint, NotePad, WordPad, Lexmark Photo Edit, Fax, File, Email and Clipboard.
The ease of use is an advantage, but we were dissapointed to learn that scanning quality was below average. Contrast wasn't well represented and blurring was a common theme in our test scans. Solid colour regions weren't accurately reproduced (although this was a minor problem) and plenty of detail was missed. Slight banding was also a sore point, even if it isn't as poor as it could have been.
Sadly, the P4350's print quality was slightly below par as well. Both photos and standard text documents are lacking in detail and on the standard quality setting (Normal), graphics were poor and jagged edges were common amongst all our test prints. Visible grains (especially in solid colour areas), poor resolution and slight colour banding were also noted problems. On the higher quality settings things improved, although the prints didn't have the detail of some other brands that we've seen. Text printing was solid, although jagged edges were a slight problem.
Photo prints were a much better story though and we noticed a significant improvement when we switched to the photo setting on the Lexmark print drivers. However our test prints still had trouble with curved lines. Colour reproduction was fairly noteworthy, but overall the photo prints produced by the P4350 lack the detail that we've seen in models from Epson, Hewlett-Packard and Canon.
Printing a 4 x 6 inch photo from our SD card took just over three minutes. Scanning a full page colour shot took a sluggish three minutes at optimum settings and printing a full A4 photo took just over six minutes. Full text documents on Economy mode were somewhat more pleasing; about 12 seconds using the included colour cartridge to print monochrome. It's definitely not the quickest printer on the market but for its price, the P4350 does a fair job.
The P4350 ships with two ink cartridges, one of which is specifically for graphics and text prints (Number 33 Cartridge: $36.99 RRP) and the other for photos (Number 31 Cartridge: $41.99 RRP). A disadvantage of this system is that if you want to print large amounts of text documents using economy mode to save ink, you'll need to purchase a black-ink cartridge (Number 32 Cartridge: $32.99 RRP). As there are only two cartridge slots inside the P4350, you'll need to swap the black and photo inks when you change your printing habits. A storage compartment for a spare cartridge is provided underneath the lid, but this is still an unnecessary hassle.
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